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I'll Tell Ya, There's Nothing Like A Good Old Fashioned Celtics Collapse

New Orleans Pelicans v Boston Celtics

Well that was extremely frustrating. After another long wait to see our beloved Celtics hit the hardwood, they reminded us just how frustrating they can be. Now before we go on it’s important to step back and realize they are still 34-11 with a sizable lead as the top spot in the East. They still have the best defense in the NBA and are loaded with young promising talent. Let’s not forget that. At the same time, last night was some absolute bullshit. The way the Celtics closed out this game haunted me of their past where they seemed to blow games every other day due to poor late game execution. I’m fully aware of how dominant Anthony Davis is, but let’s not act like this game wasn’t one in which the Celtics should have won.

They blew it, we can call a spade a spade.

So while I was happy that the Celtics are finally back in our lives, I had forgotten about their ability to keep me up until all hours of the night tossing and turning playing poor possession after poor possession over and over in my head. Maybe you felt the same way, so let’s talk about it.

The Good

– We’ll start today with Jaylen because honestly he was the one guy who I felt played a pretty complete game. He finished with 16/4/5 on 7-14 shooting in his 31 minutes, and looked good doing it

Is he a certified crazy person for flexing on Boogie? You damn right and I love every bit of it. I don’t get why so many out there would trade Jaylen in a heartbeat. As far as I’m concerned both him and Tatum should be essentially off the table. This league is moving towards versatile wings who can guard multiple positions so why exactly would we want to get rid of Brown?

The reason for Brown’s success last night isn’t all the surprising when you look at where he shot it from. Almost everything was at the rim and his two made threes came from each corner. That’s the formula you have to use with Jaylen. Then factoring in his defense (97.9 Drtg) helped Jaylen have the best overall net rating of anyone who played more than 6 minutes at +13. Maybe most surprising was how he moved the ball. Did you know he had an assist% of 23.8, which was only outdone by Horford and Smart? Jaylen isn’t really known as a passer, but I really liked how he made plays for others last night.

– Pretty high on the frustration meter was the lack of involvement of Al Horford. I don’t know how many more times we need to see it, when this team moves away from him offensively, they struggle. When he has under 10 FGA, that is not OK, especially when he made almost all his shots! He finished with 14/9/6, but took just 9 FGA. Gross.

Maybe part of it is Horford needs to be more demanding, but when your big man is 4-5 from deep, everyone should be focused on getting him more of those shots. Especially on a night where the offense was struggling, why not spend a few more possessions going to the one guy who was feeling it offensively? His 12% usage rate was 7th on the team last night. That’s a problem. For example, he did not take a shot in the 4th quarter and had just 1 FGA in OT. When has that ever been a good idea?

– Everything I just said with Horford can be said for Tatum. We NEED more Tatum. He had just 6 FGA, and even in those limited attempts we still had magic

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10/5 in 26 minutes with 50/50% splits. Seems like another guy who we should probably not forget about for long stretches in a game where nobody else could score but I dunno I’m just spitballing.

– While I think this was probably the second worst game Kyrie has played as a Celtic, he did have 27 and a big layup late, and I’m no monster, we can enjoy those highlights together

He did have his moments like that big pass to Theis for three and things of that nature, and that third quarter was some electric stuff.

– Here’s a surprise. Heading into this game I was expecting the Celtics to get absolutely crushed on the glass. Well, at the end of the day they kept things close. NO won the battle, but it was 55-53. Offensive rebounding was close too, with NO winning 13-12. The Celtics actually had MORE second chance points with 22 to 19. While NO’s rebounding comes from two guys, the Celtics as a team were solid with seven players with at least 5 rebounds. They didn’t do many things well, but you can’t get on them for their work on the glass. They stepped up to that challenge.

– We should be used to it by now, but I can’t stop being impressed with the resiliency of this team. Down double digits in the fourth quarter, this should not have been a close game let alone gone to OT, but this team fights. I don’t know how else to say it, but it’s as if they don’t feel comfortable unless they are down big. That’s an extremely dangerous way to go about playing basketball, but also is a relief to know that no matter how much they are down they’re probably going to come back.

– This is why Marcus Smart makes no sense. You see he had 15/6/6 and looked good doing it

but then you also realize he was also a team worst -19. Don’t ask me to explain it.

– He only had 7 points and 3 rebounds in 20 minutes, but they were a LOUD 7 points and 3 rebounds for Daniel Theis. His energy is a real asset and he continues to show why he may be the steal of the summer for Ainge. Brad trusted him in that fourth quarter and I really didn’t have a problem with it. Given how he was playing, he deserved to be out there. That’s pretty wild to think that Daniel Theis was playing crunch time fourth quarter minutes, but I thought he played great.

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– With 27 assists on 40 baskets (67%), the ball moved pretty well for the most part outside of Kyrie. Three players with at least 5 assists and outside of Baynes, if you played you had at least 2. You don’t need me to tell you that this team is at it’s best when the ball moves.

The Bad

– I suppose we can start with the shooting, mostly because it was pretty bad. Ending the night with 39.6/38.0% splits certainly isn’t ideal and if you remember this also sneaky happened against PHI in London. I could understand games in the first half where they struggled with their shot due to some tired legs, but, they hadn’t played in forever. So if we can’t factor in being tired, why the struggles? Well, if you ask me the answer is their approach.

The Celtics took 101 FGA last night. Of those, 50 of them were from behind the arc. You may not know this, but 3PA aren’t the most efficient shot you can take. When this team is struggling offensively, they hold the ball. When they hold the ball they then get forced to take a bad shot at the end of the shot clock, usually from 20+ft. That very rarely works.

– It had been a while since the second unit really hurt the Celts, but last night with Rozier/Smart/Morris combining for 13-38, that stings. Rozier especially struggled, and it was odd that he played so much in the fourth (10 minutes) over guys like Tatum who played just 44 seconds.

– Which brings me to my next point, and that’s Brad Stevens. He doesn’t find himself in this section often, but there are a couple things I didn’t love.

First, his rotations. Like I said Tatum played just 44 seconds in the fourth and like 1 minute in OT. Is he hurt? Perhaps that had something to do with it, but it felt like he rode his bench unit just a taddddd too long.

Second, did we ever get an explanation as to why he didn’t call a timeout on that final possession? Down 3 in the closing seconds, it felt really really odd that he let Kyrie just take it all himself. I’m pretty sure they had a TO right? Why not call a TO and run an actual play because if I know this team struggles in last second isolation threes then Brad has to know that too right?

– All Celtics guards had a really tough time with Jrue Holiday and his size. He bullied Kyrie at will late, getting to wherever he wanted, and he finished 23/4/7 with 56/60% splits.

The same could be said with the second unit trying to contain Ian Clark. His 15 points were the most he’s scored since 12/23 and tied for the second most he’s scored all year, so that’s pretty goddamn annoying.

– I don’t know if this belongs in the Bad section because it’s not exactly news, but jesus did the Celtics have no answer for Anthony Davis. Horford couldn’t stop him, neither could Morris or Baynes or Smart or whoever the Celtics threw at him. For those who want to blow up this entire team to trade for AD, you have some ammo. Personally I think that would be silly, but facts are facts. He owned the Celtics plain and simple.

– Let’s talk about shot selection shall we? You can’t have a collapse without bad shot selection and boy was this game FULL of it. What was your favorite, the contested three from Smart late with a full shot clock, or the missed 30 footer from Kyrie with a minute left in a tie game? I guess you can understand Kyrie taking that shot given that he is a good three point shooter, but that Smart three legit made me throw up in my mouth. We should have seen it coming since he made his shot prior, but that wasn’t a good shot either.

– I know it’s been a long time, but my brain will never accept seeing Rondo in another uniform. I’m weird like that. It just looks wrong.

The Ugly

– OK, let’s address the elephant in the room, and that’s the play of Kyrie. This game was one he’ll want to forget, because it was filled with bad habits. First, his 8.0 assist% is a problem. The ball stuck with Kyrie which brought on his second bad habit. This team is not at his best when Kyrie is taking the overwhelming majority of the FGA when playing with the starters. If you look at their 11 losses, you’re going to see a lot of games that look like this

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Screen Shot 2018-01-17 at 7.40.27 AM

This team needs balance. You can still be “The Man” and get your teammates involved. But ignore all that and just focus on the most important times of the game. Kyrie prides himself on being a clutch player, we’ve seen it from him in the past, well last night he failed the Celtics in that regard. In that fourth quarter, he went 2-6 (1-4), and in the OT 1-4. Call me crazy but 3-10 is not going to cut it, especially when you also finish with 1 assist and 2 TOs in both those frames.

This was the type of hero ball that time after time has gotten this team into trouble, and honestly his entire January has been pretty fucking brutal. He’s fighting things right now offensively with 35/29% splits while taking 19 FGA a game. I have no problem with how often he’s shooting, but I have a ton of problems with his offensive approach.

– Up 5 with 2 minutes to go and the ball, here were the Celtics next few possessions

Kyrie TO

Smart TO

Kyrie missed 30 footer

Kyrie goes 1/2 from the line

Kyrie missed layup

Kyrie made layup

That’s a long way of saying they blew a lead up 5 with 2 minutes left and the ball. That is inexcusable. You can’t have the sort of talent/coaching this team does, and close a game like that. But that’s what happen when this team decides to shit their pants and dribble for 15-20 seconds and just go isolation. It. Never. Works.

– Then let’s look at how they closed OT. The Celtics had a 113-110 lead with 2:11 to go. Here’s how their next few possessions looked

Smart missed 27 ft step back

Jaylen Brown TO

Morris missed 28 footer

Kyrie missed 27 footer

All while this was going on you had Jrue Holiday getting into the paint and converting on back to back 11 and 13ft shots. Some would say late in a close game this was the better approach. The results speak for themselves.

So for a team that is loaded with experienced verteran talent, they closed this game like a team filled with rookies. Guys tried to do it by themselves as opposed to as a team. Everything about how they closed regulation and OT is the exact opposite of what you want to see your team do. The Basketball Gods don’t fuck around and will make you pay for playing like that. Blame goes on the players, but also Brad. Everybody fell apart late and that’s what makes it so frustrating.

But again, it’s just one game. The Celts play PHI tomorrow who they’re 3-0 against, so chances are things get back on track relatively quickly. The sky is not falling because they lost one game, even if that game was extremely goddamn frustrating. This team needs Kyrie to be better, they need to remember they have Horford/Tatum on the floor, and they need to be better in late game execution. That I think we can all agree on.

Now, say it with me

PHI