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Last Night Was A Tough Pill To Swallow

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I thought maybe when I sat down to write this blog this morning I would be over it. There’s still plenty of reasons to be optimistic I told myself at about 330am this morning when I was doing nothing but staring at the ceiling, but I can’t lie, I’m not over it. The Celtics were 7.5 seconds away from a spot in the Eastern Conference Finals, and now it all comes down to a Game 7 in which absolutely anything can happen. Talk about wave of emotions.

There are a couple ways you could look at this loss, and believe me I ran through all the scenarios last night. On one hand, it took a semi-prayer shot to beat the Celtics on a night where they got absolutely nothing from their bench, that probably doesn’t happen at home. There’s also the way of thinking that this was just par for the course in this series, the home team wins when these two teams play. Period. So that’s encouraging for Monday as well. But I’m sorry, I can’t help but feel that the Celtics blew this game, and perhaps their season (ok a little overdramatic maybe but I think that’s allowed today). This sort of reminded me of that late game collapse in PHX where the Suns scored 5 points in 7 seconds. A bad Isaiah turnover leading to a prayer three at the buzzer, absolutely brutal.

So much like they’ve done the entire season, the Celtics are not making things easy. They’ll give you the highest of highs and then the next second kick you right in the fucking dick. At least they’re consistent in that regard. Some say the best words in sports are “Game 7″ but frankly all that makes me want to do is puke.

There’s a lot to get to, so let’s get started

The Good

– I thought it was clear from the very beginning that there was one player who came to play right away, and that was Avery Bradley. After never scoring more than 25 points in a playoff game in his career, he’s now done it in back to back nights. For that, we begin with him. Enjoy.

What I loved about Avery’s offensive approach is that he was aggressive. At a time when the Celtics were doing nothing but shooting and missing threes, it was Avery to attacked the basket, exposed the baseline, and actually put pressure on the WSH defense. Once he does that, the rest of his offense opens up. All of the sudden he’s taking his jumpers with more confidence, his threes start falling, and things are great. Unlike the beginning of this series, you can tell Avery is shooting with a much better rhythym. How many times in this game did Avery hit a big shot? Probably four or five and the best part is, it wasn’t as if everything came in the first half like Game 5. Avery has a history of fading as the game goes on, but this wasn’t the case last night.

Defensively, Avery was his normal self, which is reassuring. He had 4 of the Celtics 5 steals, did a great job defending bigger players in the post, and really made John Wall work. It’s very rare that the Celtics get this type of game from Avery and still lose, which is why this whole thing is so fucking annoying.

– I think part of what makes this loss so hard to take, is the Celts had big time makes from all their key guys, and it still wasn’t enough. It will always bother me when they waste these type of performances, especially when guys like Al Horford continue to give you this kind of production. Here is a player who basically hasn’t missed all series, and followed up his great Game 5 with a 20/6/3 on 8-12 shooting (2-4 from deep) including what very well should have been the game winner. The guy who everyone says disappears and isn’t worth the money came through.

For the second straight game I thought Horford did a great job of mixing up his inside/outside game. He had 5 of his 8 makes come from the FT line or below, and it should come as no surprise that when he gets the ball in these type of spots, good things tend to happen.

My problem is the Celtics have a player on such a roll, yet he barely touched the ball. Him having just 12 FGA is not ideal, and he took just 2 FGA in 9 fourth quarter minutes. That is a damn shame. Come Monday, I want to see Horford in the 18-20 FGA range.

– The Brad Stevens ATOs in this game were a thing of absolute basketball beauty. When the Celtics desperately needed a bucket, there was Brad with the perfect play. There were about five separate occasions in which the Celtics scored right after a timeout, at all stages of the game. I also thought Brad was much better with this timeouts in a sense that he didn’t let this balloon like they had in previous games on the road in this series.

– He couldn’t make shit all night, but you can’t ever count him out when he can do things like this. All for nothing. This hurt, but what a fucking shot.

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The Bad

– OK let’s get this out of the way early. It not only is a horrible look to show up in all black and then not win the game, but it’s an even worse look how every Celtic tried to deny that it was an intentional planned thing. Just fucking own it. Isaiah denied it, Avery denied it, we aren’t stupid. Finally Jae Crowder admitted it

but how the whole team tried to play it off like it was just a coincidence was even more lame than dressing up in all black in the first place.

Now did it help WSH? That’s tough to say. I think if it was going ot give the Wizards any spark, it would have been early in the game and that didn’t really happen. Remember, the Celts were up 5 with 1:26 to go, so I think it’s a stretch to say what they wore pregame had any major impact, but that doesn’t make it any less stupid. Just play basketball.

– Isaiah showed up in the fourth and had 27/7. He hit two gigantic baskets late in this game that felt like it sealed the deal. However, this wasn’t the best night for him. In fact, I was a bit disappointed in how he approached this game. It felt as if he was forcing everything on the offensive end, going for knockout 30 ft threes early instead of just making the correct basketball play. That is annoying as hell. He shot 8-24 (5-13) which isn’t great, and the Celtics were lucky Wall started out just as poor or this could have been a disaster early.

While it’s true that Isaiah has earned the right to essentially take any shot he wants, he needs to be smarter with his shot selection. I think it’s worth pointing out that we are seeing Isaiah attack the basket less frequently recently, and instead he’s settling and things are short. Isaiah is at his best when he lets the game come to him, and find the weakness in the defense and exploits it. This offensive performance felt more like he was more focused on quieting the crowd than anything else, and I don’t exactly love that.

Add in his 5 TOs which accounted for half of the team’s total, he now has 15 TOs in the last three games and the Celts are 1-2. In the first three games, he had a total of 6 and the Celts were 2-1. If the Celtics are going to win a Game 7, Isaiah Thomas cannot turn the ball over at this rate.

– The Celtics were able to come back from an early deficit in this game because they kept the rebounding close. It’s no surprise that when the difference is five or less they win, and when its not they lose. Sometimes it can be that simple. Well, this game finished 46-37. Add in the 16-5 second chance point difference, and the 48-26 points in the paint difference, and there’s your ballgame.

The most frustrating part was when the Celtics couldn’t even get a rebound on a missed FT which gave the Wizards an extra possession and a Beal bucket to give them a 77-75 lead. That is beyond inexcusable.

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– Speaking of Gortat, what is it going to take for him to be called for an illegal screen? I’m not sitting here and saying it doesn’t happen both ways, but Gortat’s are REALLY bad. For example, watch him on Wall’s game winning shot. You tell me, moving or not moving?

– And I’m sorry, but Tony Brothers getting big time playoff games is a goddamn joke. The officiating in this game was HORRIFIC, and really for both teams. Since we only care about the Celtics, I find it crazy that this was not called a goaltend

then you had that charge on Wall that Smart drew that Tony Brothers initially called a blocking fouyl, even though he was set and about 5 miles outside the restricted area. Thankfully they went and reviewed it and overturned it, but that doesn’t excuse the initial call.

Speaking of reviewing, has anybody given an explanation why the end of the game clock wasn’t reviewed when WSH fouled Olynyk?

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2.6 is a little different from 1.7 if you ask me. Now it’s no guarantee the Celtics score even with the correct amount of time, but why wasn’t this reviewed? Again, shame on the Celtics for even being in this position, and this is IN NO WAY THE REASON THEY LOST, but come on. Be better NBA.

– This was now the second game that the Celtics lost where John Wall got off to a horrific start. That’s what makes me nervous about Game 7. I don’t think we are going to see Wall go 1-12 again in a half, so the fact that the Celtics couldn’t capitalize is where most of my frustration comes from.

– WARNING: The following tweets are going to make you vomit/cry/scream/break something/cry again

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God. Dammit.

The Ugly

– We may as well start this section off with the biggest sequence of the night. Up 5, with the ball, and then

Unreal. I’m not sure I even know who Isaiah was passing to if we’re being honest. Even if this was intended for Smart, Otto Porter was right there and probably steals it. What I would have liked to see is Isaiah just call a time out, but it all happened so quick. You would have liked Marcus to you know, actually make contact on his screen attempt, but don’t get it twisted, this was 100000% on Isaiah. You cannot commit a turnover in this situation, and then once Beal lined it up you knew he was going to make it. The Basketball Gods do not reward careless late fourth quarter play.

But then on the very next possession, again Isaiah was at the center of it all, but not in a good way

This is what I mean when I say it felt like Isaiah was forcing things all night. On this play though, my problem is more with Brad. It was clear with about 8 seconds left on the shot clock that the offense had stalled. Call a fucking timeout. Holding the ball and forcing a three is exactly what WSH wanted you to do. The Celtics ATOs had been working all night, and yet, they didn’t call one and instead a 5 point lead was gone in about 40 seconds. Those three plays, the turnover, the missed shot, and the foul, were basically the game. So while the Celtics don’t have a late lead without Isaiah, his late game execution cost them dearly.

– The Celtics bench had 5 points on 2-15 shooting (0-8 from deep). The Wizards, who are supposed to have a worse bench, shot 6-13. The Celtics starters did their job and outperformed WSH’s starting five, and the bench let them down. Had they gotten ANY sort of production out of their bench, this game is entirely different. Luckily role players play better at home, but what was supposed to be a strength for the Celtics was anything but in this game. Ugly, ugly shit.

– I’m sorry I can’t get over it. 7.5 seconds away. Unbelievable.

Some might say this series was destined to go seven games, but I’m not so sure. It’s going seven in my opinion because the Wizards dropped a game they should have won in BOS, and the Celtics just returned the favor last night. I don’t care about how the Wizards play on the road, I don’t care that the Celtics just blew them out at home, Game 7s are completely and utterly unpredictable. We are a cold shooting night from Jae/Avery or career night from Wall/Beal from the season being over. The Celts have lost Game 7s where a team’s best player goes 6-25. I hate everything about it and it’s why dropping this game stings so much. All time the Celtics are 21-9 in this situation, and obviously playing it at home instead of on the road should help, but that doesn’t mean this is a lock by any stretch of the imagination. I’m already sick over it and they don’t play for another two days.

At the end of the day the Celtics had this game won and they blew it. Late game mental toughness an execution has been the story of this entire series, and last night they didn’t have it. It sucks, but it’s over. You know the rules. Turn the page and move on.

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