Even The Wins Are Stressful Lately

Boston Celtics v Memphis Grizzlies

If you’re looking to lose a little weight for the holidays, look no further than watching a Boston Celtics game. They are either going to make you A) vomit B) so stressed out you can’t eat or C) sweat out wins late that all the shaking your leg will do is probably burning thousands of calories.

In a game coming off a B2B, a game in which the Celtics should have been able to get off to a good start and just ride it out considering MEM has just 2 wins in their last 19 games, of course that’s not how things went. Well they did get off to a great start, but from then on it was stressful as hell. Why can’t this team just blow out the worst teams in the NBA? CHI, UTA, MEM, ATL, PHX, this is not just a one time thing. For whatever reason, the Celtics play these bottom of the league teams and it’s almost as like being on the same court with them makes them look like those same teams. It is incredibly frustrating to watch, especially knowing the kind of talent that this team has this season.

But at the end of the day, the Celtics didn’t blow it. They held on for their league leading 25th win, and most importantly they avoided what would have been a complete disaster. Thank you Jesus.

The Good

– We start with the bounce back effort from Jayson Tatum. We all can admit he was pretty bad in the loss to UTA, a game in which he definitely looked like a 19 year old rookie. Well the beauty of the NBA is you often get an immediate chance to redeem yourself, and boy did he ever

19/9/1/2/2 on 7-13 shooting (2-2 from deep). For all those experts out there who said Tatum’s early shooting wasn’t sustainable and he was going to come crashing back down to earth, he now sits at 50/51% splits with over 3 3PA a night. In other word, it does not look like he’s going to come crashing down anytime soon. What I love about Tatum is this seems to be a pattern. In the rare event that he has a poor night, it never, ever turns into a two consecutive game thing. Here’s what I mean

GM2: 8/9 on 3-7 shooting

GM3: 15/8 on 3-8 shooting

GM7: 7/11 on 2-7 shooting

GM8: 12/4 on 4-7 shooting

GM29: 4/10 on 1-7 shooting

GM30: 15/4 on 6-9 shooting

GM31: 7/4 on 1-6 shooting

GM32: 19/9 on 7-13 shooting

In every instance so far this season, he has immediately bounced back. There is something to that with a rookie, and I think Al Horford said it best

Watching him last night, his development off the pick and roll is legit starting to be a real weapon. I did not expect him to have the ability to knock down those type of shots until he was at least 20, so to be getting them at 19 is a great surprise. Between that, and that iso move that gave us a glimpse into our future and how dominant it’s going to be, I can’t go on without talking about his defense. Tatum’s Drtg last night was the lowest on the team at 87.7. No other starter was below 104. The type of defense that Tatum is showing so early is maybe the biggest surprise of the year for me. I did not think he could rebound/defend this well this early, and when you add it on how NBA ready his offense already is, it’s no surprise he’s having this type of success. What a player.

– When the game got tight, and the Celtics needed someone to turn to, it was Al Horford that really stepped up and changed the momentum of this game.

I would even go so far to say that it was his fourth quarter that saved the game for the Celtics. In his 8 minutes, he went 3-5 had 6 points 3 rebounds and 4 assists. We all know about that 14-0 run to start the quarter which really put the game away, well it was Horford that either scored or assisted on 10 of the 14 points on that run, really setting the tone. As the quarter went on, there was more Horford, every time it seemed like the Celtics needed a big bucket or big play, he delivered. To me, a lot of that success has to do with where Al went to work in the final 12 minutes

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It may not seem like much, but this tells me Brad made the adjustment to put Horford more on the block and run the offense through him there, as opposed to running a series of high screens and things of that nature. Giving Al the ball on the block, letting him turn and face and either make a move or find a cutter is when this Celtics offense is at it’s best, and it saved them big time in this game.

– Speaking of Brad, how about the choice to play a lineup in this crucial fourth quarter that had never played together so far this season? That takes some brass balls, but Brad wanted to see some energy, and Shane Larkin and Rozier answered the bell. A team that had trouble playing defense for most of this game suddenly was flying around everywhere, holding MEM to their first FG with 6:26 left in the game. I mean look at this dominance, this is the fourth quarter defense

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That is utter insanity.

– Things feel so much better when the ball moves, and it certainly moved better last night. Three player with at least 5 assists, and as you can imagine it was the usual suspects of Horford, Kyrie, and Smart. I thought Kyrie did a good job of moving the ball on a night where his shot wasn’t falling, and I’m becoming more and more in love with Smart’s ability to read the P&R and find the open roll man for an alley-oop.

– Honest question. What on this earth can’t Aron Baynes do? The honest answer: Nothing. There is nothing he cannot do

You want to drive and kick and have him hit some 12-15 footers? Ok no problem. You want to drive to the rim, draw his defender and lob it to him? He would love to oblige by dunking it on everyone’s face (or that thing where he like throws it in without touching the rim which he seems to ALWAYS do). You want him to rebound? Gladly, as he had the second highest reb% on the team.

Is anyone surprised that Baynes plays 27 minutes and the Celtics win the rebounding battle 42-38? Something they literally have never been able to do when Baynes only plays like 13 minutes? Me neither.

– It took a while, but the bench finally, finally gave the Celtics some sort of production. They had 26 of the 102, but they were a timely 26 points, with 20 of them coming in the second half, and 10 of them coming in the fourth quarter. I think this is the Smart/Rozier we always expected

I thought in addition to his scoring Rozier was absolutely nails on the defensive glass when he was on the floor, and Marcus did a little bit of everything. He had his offensive moments where he made you want to pull yuour hair out, he had his moments where you see his offensive potential, and he moved the ball well. All in all, in a game that you need your role players to step up and actually give you something, at least they responded.

– I’ll say this about Kyrie. The guy can make a “Fuck You” three with the best of em. Several times when the game could have gone either way, he came down and hit a gigantic three. He went 4-9 from behind the arc, and honestly it’s a compliment that in a game in which he struggled from the floor going 7-17, he still finished with 20/6 and was a +20.

I thought he settled down on defense as the game went on too. Tyreke Evans was giving him all sorts of problems early with 15 points in the first half, but he was essentially a non factor after that. This was a nice bounce back effort for Kyrie on that end, after really struggling with DEN/UTA’s guards.

– I don’t know if we should really celebrate this because it is MEM who is legit god awful, but the Celtics finally got back to holding an opponent under 100 points and guess what, they won!

The Bad

– We also saw the downside of Marcus Smart in this game, and what I mean by that is he clearly let his emotions get the best of him, and it directly impacted his play in a negative way. He went full on meltdown in that third quarter, and while I’m sure he was getting fouled on some of those possessions, they didn’t go his way and it took him completely out of the game. He was more focused on arguing about not getting calls than playing the right way, and instead forced a bunch of shit that didn’t work out and if anything sparked the MEM run.

Smart has to know by now, that when things don’t go your way, the worst thing you can do is get all in a refs face about it, and then on the next possession go out of control and expect that same ref to bail you out. It was clear Brad should have called a timeout to calm Smart down, because this is where his passion and fire and sometimes hurt you. He becomes blind with rage and it gets him away from what was working earlier in the game.

– I asked very nicely after the Celtics went up 31-12 to not fuck it up so we all could enjoy some quality Yabu minutes. They then took that request and shat right down my throat. So rude.

– It’s pretty clear that Jaylen is at his best when he gets to take over 10 FGA, and you can just look at December as an example. Aside from PHX, because they aren’t a real NBA team, Jaylen has 4 games this month where he has under 10 FGA, and has been in single digits in 3 of them. But 12/10-12/13 games in which he took 10 or more shots, the offense came with it, with a 16.5 point average over that stretch. Well in his last two he’s back to under 10, and back to barely scoring.

This isn’t a situation where he’s not taking shots because his FG% sucks either. He’s having a great year with 46/39% splits. It just feels like the offense moves away from him at times, and I get that he’s like the 3rd-ish option, but he needs to live in the 10-15 FGA range if the Celtics truly want to get the most out of him.

– I didn’t exactly love the decision by Kyrie that on an offensive rebound with a 97-91 score with 1:51 left, he took that corner three in the first like 2 seconds of the shot clock. At that point the clock is on your side, and who knows, that miss could have sparked a run. It didn’t thank god, but this wasn’t the best situational awareness we’ve ever seen.

The Ugly

– OK seriously, what the hell is going on with these second quarters. Right after they lost a game to UTA because they turned in one of their worst quarters of the year, this time it was all about blowing their 19 point lead. They finished with 17 points, but don’t let that number fool you, they struggled BIG TIME. At this point it’s a situation where as fans we cannot enjoy any lead whatsoever in the first quarter, because we all know they are going to blow it as soon as the scoreboard changes. The Celtics are legit one of if not the worst second quarter teams in the NBA, and last night showed why.

31/33% splits, 12 of their 19 FGA came from behind the arc, and they had 4 TOs. I know people will want to talk about the bench, but guys like Horford, Jaylen, and Kyrie all played at least 6 minutes, so it’s really everyone. They get into this quarter and they completely shit their pants and honestly it is taking years off my life.

– I dunno, maybe try and guard Marc Gasol, he seems good

Of course the Celtics would blow their 21 point lead and trail heading into the fourth quarter. Of course it would come against a team that is without major contributors. Mental lapses like you read about combined with poor effort on the defensive end spells trouble every single time.

But at the end of the day, a win is a goddamn win, and with CLE doing their thing and TOR not slowing down either, the Celtics need to win these games to stay where they are atop the East. With IND/NYK/CHI/MIA their stretch heading into a Christmas showdown with WSH the Celtics need to capitalize on the rest of this month, because things get no easier once the calendar turns to January. In the meantime, gather round and say it with me

25 down 29 to go.