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Avery Bradley Hits Another Game Winner In Cleveland To Get The Celtics On The Board

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Just like that, the Celtics are on the board. The Celtics shocked the basketball world last night to be frank, and they did it through toughness, energy, and for the first time in what seems like months, defense. Oh and a little luck too, but sometimes you need a little luck when you’re on the road down by 21 with 6:30 left in the third quarter. After what happened on Friday night, the fact that it was the worst loss in NBA history by a #1 seed, the Celtics went out and did something that by definition, is very Celtics like.

Worst loss in NBA playoff history to the biggest upset in NBA history the next night. If that doesn’t sum up the 2016-17 Boston Celtics, nothing will. Consistently inconsistent, that is this team’s calling card, and how many other teams can you say you aren’t surprised if they get blown out, but also not surprised if they come away with a huge unexpected win? They did this shit all the time. Remember losing to SAC but then beating GS on the road? Or getting blown out by ATL and then beating CLE at home? An inconsistency so consistent you almost have to respect it.

Which brings us to last night. I, like many of you was hopeful the Celtics could keep it under 50, but playing without Isaiah it was understandable to think the Celtics wouldn’t have the firepower (more on this later, promise). Give Dave his credit, he called his shot

and honestly after 100% being a jinx to start this series, I’m glad he came through for us last night. #GoPresGo indeed. Instead, this team showed some fucking BALLS and for the first time all series showed some actual MENTAL TOUGHNESS. All of their calling cards, heart, fight, togetherness, execution, etc showed up when it absolutely had to, and that’s the sign of a resilient team. This was the type of fight that was lacking to start this series. The Celtics talked a lot about how they aren’t afraid of CLE, well, last night they finally played like it.

So no, there will not be a sweep. All of the sudden CLE has to go through a couple day period of everyone not sucking their dick. Lebron caved like it was 2010, for the first time in years. A home team is yet to win a game this series, and I don’t want to get too carried away, but remember the last series a home team couldn’t win a game?

OK, let’s get started, there is fun to get to

The Good

– Previously on Avery Bradley comes into CLE and stomps on Lebron & Co’s stupid heart

In the days leading up to this game, I probably watched this clip a thousand times. That team wasn’t supposed to win in CLE either. I am not ashamed to admit it took my brain to dangerous places

Well, when you do the exact same thing, this time in an ECF, we start with you. Those are the rules. Avery Bradley, currently the longest tenured Celtic has two game winners in his life. Both are in CLE. Enjoy.

In Isaiah’s absence it was critical that his Tacoma Twin show up on the offensive end. He got off to a solid start (10 points 4-8 shooting) and despite being 1-6 in the fourth quarter before that game winner, shot that ball with the utmost confidence. The strip on Kyrie with around 7 minutes left was typical Avery. Kyrie for the most part had his best game of the entire series, but when it came to nut checking time, Avery’s defense was the difference. What’s crazy is Avery went just 3-12 in the second half of this game, but the two threes he made could not have been bigger.

Performances like this are a big reason why many Celtics fans don’t want to see Avery leave. I get the injury history and all that, but he can truly impact the game on BOTH ends. His offense has been getting better every year in the league, his defense is already elite, and he’s just 26. One of my biggest fears is the Celtics move on from Avery, and he ends up on the Spurs. I don’t know why, but I feel like that’s what would happen.

– But make no mistake, there isn’t a game winner for Avery to take without the performance from Marcus Smart. A starter high +8, there goes that trend of the Celtics winning whenever Marcus has a positive +/-. In all honesty, we could have started this section off with Marcus. His 27/5/7/2/1 on 8-14 shooting (7-10 from deep) and just 2 TOs in 41 minutes is the biggest story of the night for me, despite Avery’s heroics. After all the talk about how the Celtics have quit, that sure as hell didn’t look like a player who quit, even when the Celts were getting their shit pushed in early. The best way I can describe what happened last night with Marcus was that he imposed his will more than any other player on the court, and the Celtics fed of that. Marcus clearly isn’t afraid, and as ridiculous as it is that 7 of his 8 makes were threes, there were also other areas of Marcus’ night that aren’t all that shocking.

For example, this play early in the fourth quarter.

We’ve talked for a long time about how much better Marcus is when he doesn’t force his offense and instead assumes the role of Marcus The Creator. Obviously Marcus knew he had the advantage over Kyrie in the post. Kyrie is no where close to strong enough to prevent Smart from getting to the rim if he so chooses. But what I liked was given the situation, he knew the Celtics needed a good possession and a good shot. After a good solid screen by Jerebko, Avery had the sense to cut to the basket and Marcus used the eyes in the back of his head to find him for a wide open easy layup. That’s solid development by Marcus.

Which brings us to the hottest take on Twitter after this game, and that’s Isaiah Thomas. Isn’t it sad that even when a player has a career night, we still have to talk about Isaiah. Well, first things first. When the news came out that Isaiah was out for the playoffs, I sent this tweet

Well, last night it looked pretty good. I can man up and say that I was wrong here. But it’s a little complicated. For example, not ONE of us could have foreseen a 7/10 shooting performance from Marcus. Not one. It took that, combined with an off night from Lebron, and 2-17 shooting from deep in the second half by CLE to win on a buzzer beating shot. That’s not to take away from what the Celtics did, but I think it’s dangerous to take this one game and say “LOOK THIS IS WHY THEY SHOULDN’T KEEP ISAIAH”.

I can admit I was wrong about how this offense would look last night, but it’s also true that last night was a situation where the Celtics FINALLY hit open shots. They shot 46% from the field and made 18-40 threes. That wasn’t all because Isaiah wasn’t in the lineup, sometimes guys hit shots. Hell, Olynyk and Jonas combined to go 9-12 (3-5 from deep). But that doesn’t mean that other things can’t be true either.

For example, defensively, the Celtics are obviously a better matchup against CLE. Didn’t we know that already though? Like it shouldn’t now be a surprise that going from Isaiah to Marcus is going to effect your defense. That is the clear advantage of playing Smart. Now when you combine that defense with his outrageous shooting, that is a whole different discussion. But is this level of shooting sustainable? I think we can agree it isn’t.

It’s also true that based on this specific matchup, the lineup we saw last night has potential to work. That doesn’t mean the Celtics are better without Thomas, it just means in this specific series, the #depth of the Celtics gives them other options to still be successful. Now I get it, if the whole point of the rebuild is to beat CLE, and you do it without Isaiah, then why do you need him? Well for me, because it isn’t that simple. If you’re saying you are going to get this offensive production from Marcus, then sure you don’t need Isaiah. But let’s not forget, the Celtics probably aren’t even IN the ECF without him, so again I think it’s a little aggressive to just assume they are better without him moving forward.

Again, I was wrong about how they would look last night without Isaiah. I can admit it. But I just wonder why we are allowed to form one game conclusions based off games Isaiah misses, and not one game conclusions based off when he goes off for 53, or has 29/12 in a Game 7 against John Wall? This was a great team win that was a result of big time contributions from multiple players on the roster. Why can’t we just enjoy that?

– Remember when Brad Stevens was “on the hot seat”? Lol. Not only did he pull all the right strings, but time after time after time he came through in big ATO moments, including obviously the game winner. Playing Jonas out of NOWHERE 12 minutes came with a 10 point on 4-4 shooting result. He clearly has his team ready to play. After a first half in which the Celtics probably played their best offensive half of the series, they were still down 16. Their defense again gave up 60+ points. We probably got Angry Brad at halftime. The result? 42 total points on 31/11% shooting for CLE.

In what was his best play of the night, I want to take a little time to look back on that game winner.

First thing that stands out. Brad kept the paint wide open. This is important because of how this play quickly developed. As Smart had the ball at the top of the key, we see Avery run down and give Jae a down screen, which puts JR in a tough spot. Since Jae has a step on Shumpert, JR is now forced to help on a cutting Jae (who is utilizing that open space to start the set). The genius of this play is that Crowder is nothing more than a decoy, but given the situation, CLE overreacts and sends TWO guys with him. While this is going on we see Horford just has to create space (shouts Gortat) on Tristan Thompson and Avery is wide open for the in rhythm three, which he made. That right there is why Brad Stevens fucking rules.

– Despite the 46-38 rebounding difference, the Celtics finished this game with more points in the paint, more second chance points, and more fastbreak points. They actually matched CLE offensive rebound total, which seems downright impossible, but it’s true. These tell me the effort was there, and that’s really all you want.

– How is it possible that a team won a game in which the FT difference was 36-12? Tristan Thompson MADE more FTs than the entire Celtics team even attempted. This felt like such a vintage Lebron game at home in the playoffs it made me sick. This was a night where the Celtics didn’t REALLY settle for threes either. They took 40 to CLEs 39. The FT total in this series is a respectable 94-35. The Cavs have TWO games this series in which they’ve taken more FTs than the Celtics have all SERIES. That is wild man. To still come out and win on the road despite this difference is as shocking as anything else.

– It sure helps when you don’t turn the ball over, and the Celtics were much better in this area with only 9. The Cavs had 16 that led to 14 big points. Good defense and taking care of the ball will win you games on the road pretty frequently.

– Congrats to Horford for FINALLY beating a Lebron James team in the playoffs. His little jump hook with under a minute to go was gigantic to say the least, and the monkey is officially off his back. Maybe he never loses again? Time will tell.

– Lebron was 1-8 in the second half. Maybe this roster DOES have a Lebron stopper?

The Bad

– Even though they won, doesn’t make this a perfect game. Far from it. The defense was nowhere to be found for the first 24 minutes, especially this decision to repeatedly leave Kevin Love. Yes, he did make tough contested shots, but Jesus Christ why are the Celtics continuing to rotate off him? Newsflash, he is shooting the ball pretty well at the moment. It sure looked like it was going to be a long night based on the way the Cavs came out and shot the ball, and to me that was surprising considering the Celtics didn’t have their biggest defensive liability on the floor.

– Well, this was not the performance from Jaylen I think we all expected. It appears there IS a difference between blowout and nonblowout playoff basketball. He didn’t make a shot in his 12 minutes, had 3 fouls and was a -7. With the emergence of Jonas, I fear for what this might mean for Jaylen’s minutes moving forward.

– We should just accept the fact that the Celtics will never be able to do anything about Tristan Thompson right? What is this like the 10th game in a row where he continues to shake his dick all over their faces? He’s even rubbing salt on the wound by basically hitting all his FTs. He had 7 more OREB last night, which is the same amount as the entire starting Celtics unit. That seems problematic.

– There are two things I really want to see happen this summer. I want to see Terry work on his open court ball handling/decision making/finishing, and I want to see Marcus develop a nice little floater. Terry is so fucking fast with the ball, it’s almost as if he arrives at the rim quicker than he thought, and then he doesn’t know what to do, and either misses or turns it over. I’d like to see him be more like his 2K player and just dunk everything.

The Ugly

– Come on, this was just the biggest upset in NBA history, we can give this section a night off for once this series. Lord knows they deserve it.

Now will this just be a one game blip on what is a quick 5 game series, or could there possibly be more? Chances are Lebron doesn’t play like that again, but chances are the Cavs also don’t start like 10-12 from three again either. The Russian is cut. He is in fact human, and remember the Celtics were the best road team in the East this year. They’ve shown they can win in CLE, and sure maybe this is 99% the Kool Aid talking, but I’m getting closer by the second to seeing this thing tied 2-2 heading back to Boston for Game 5. Long shot? Absolutely. Possibility? Perhaps.

So gather ’round and say it with me….

9 down 7 to go.