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Now That Was A Shitty Homestand

Orlando Magic v Boston Celtics

Before the good people of New England were blessed with another beautiful Patriots win, those who chose to kill the time in the morning were treated to an absolute dogshit effort from the Boston Celtics. Something not all that uncommon if you look of their play since they touched down in London, and frankly, it’s a tad concerning. I was willing to give the benefit of the doubt to those who said their struggles in their previous game had a lot to do with not having Kyrie Irving in the lineup. Well, they had him yesterday and he was fantastic, and they could not beat the Orlando Magic. They’ve lost three in a row, all at home, and have had the league’s worst offense during this entire month.

So what the fuck is going on?

Part of me agrees with Kyrie when he said last night that this team had to go through some adversity. For the most part after the Hayward injury, this team hasn’t really had a brutal skid. This is their first three game losing streak of the season, which is pretty crazy given that it’s January 22nd, and he’s right that this is all about the growing process. Our young kids needs to go through the struggle of the NBA season and figure out how to dig themselves out. That’s the resiliency that you want to build before heading into the playoffs where maybe things aren’t going your way. Maybe you start down 0-2 and need to rally. We saw that last year, and we’ll probably see situations like that this postseason. But for crying out loud, this team NEEDS to start beating the worst teams in the league. Period.

Of their 13 losses, 5 of them have come against teams under .500. As a point of reference, last year the Celtics finished with just 8 losses total against sub .500 teams. If you’re one of the better teams in the NBA, the Celtics play you at almost a Warriors level pace (16-8). If you stink, the Celtics will make you feel better about yourself and will give you plenty of highlights for your free agency DVD. It is beyond frustrating.

So even though most reading this blog are still riding high because of the Pats, we have to talk about this. Let’s get started.

The Good

– I felt this way last year and I felt it again yesterday. I hate more than anything wasting amazing offensive performances, and that’s exactly what Kyrie’s day was. He was fantastic and was one of the two guys that actually showed up to play yesterday. He finished with 40/7/5 on 14-23 shooting including 5-7 from deep. Probably his best offensive performance in a Celtics uniform to date

I can’t stress how important it is for this team for Kyrie to break out of his January slump. He had been pretty brutal offensively before this game, and with the gigantic West Coast trip on deck, we need Kyrie to be at his best. Now normally I would have a problem with the balance of this offense, but yesterday was different. It didn’t feel like Kyrie was keeping the ball and forcing offense, whether through isolation or ill advised threes. Yesterday, his production came within the flow of the offense because he really WAS the entire offense.

What we now know is that this team’s offensive issues don’t just magically go away once Kyrie is inserted into the lineup. Without him they probably lose by 30, but this team needs more from everyone else. I think that’s pretty clear that Kyrie can have a great, efficient, 40 point night, and the team still not break 100. He can’t do it by himself, and the Celtics are not at their best when they rely on just him to do it.

– To go with Kyrie, the only other guy who even looked like they was playing with adequate effort was Jaylen Brown. He finished with 17/7 on 7-12 shooting

What I loved about Jaylen’s day was his offensive approach. The more he does it, the more I will praise him because he’s probably reading the blog so I’m just doing my part to help put him in the best position to succeed. Why did Jaylen have some offensive success and have his 4th game in 5 tries shooting over 50%? Because look at where he is scoring from

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everything was at the rim. He played with zero hesitation and almost every time he caught the ball on the wing he immediately attacked the basket. Jaylen recognized right away that Evan Fournier couldn’t stay with him, and he used his size and athleticism to put himself in a position to succeed. That’s the Jaylen we know and love, and one that despite the team’s offensive struggles I was happy to see. There was no settling for bad threes from Jaylen yesterday, which was a nice surprise.

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The Bad

– We can be honest in this space. For the Celtics to be successful, they need more from Al Horford. Sure he did a little bit of everything with his 9/5/6, but he never found a rhythm offensively. He finished 4-11, and is now 9-22 over his last two games, both of which were pretty bad losses. Horford hasn’t been a disaster or anything like that, he’s just been good not great. We need him to be great. As a veteran and leader of this team, seeing that the Celts are in a bit of a skid right now, the young guys look to him and Kyrie to carry them out of it. Kyrie did his part, but Al hasn’t really recently.

I keep looking back to his usage, and I feel like there’s a correlation there. He took just 1 FGA in the first quarter, and 2 FGA in the second. Both he and Tatum had just 3 FGA at the half, and I’m sorry but that’s just not enough. Horford is averaging just 9.5 FGA in the month of January, which is his lowest amount since November. I thought he said it well after the game

Well for me, it starts with Al. If he brings the energy the rest will fall into line. If he’s quiet and not assertive, they will struggle. This is why I always talk about how important Horford is to this offense. Even on nights when Kyrie is goddamn ridiculous, unless this team gets the most out of Al, they will have results like yesterday.

– So how on earth did they lose to the Magic? We can start by talking about the perimeter defense. Fournier and Payton combined for 41 points on 17-35 shooting. Then for the second unit Shelvin Mack and DJ Augustine had 20 points on 8-14 shooting. Where was the lock down defense from our guards Kyrie/Jaylen/Smart/Rozier? Nowhere that’s where.

Smart was particularly poor on that end, with a Drtg of 117. That’s far too high for a guy who is also going to struggle on the offensive end. Part of it was scheme, but part of it was lazy defense. I mean what the fuck is this?

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Inexcusable is what that is.

– More on the defense. Orlando shot 46% and turned it over just 9 times. They played comfortable all night which surprised me. You’d think the Celtics would come out rested, and foaming at the mouth to right the ship given their two previous home losses. But they weren’t. They played reactionary basketball instead of inserting their will. They played like they have so often against shitty teams where they expected ORL to just fold because they are the big bad Boston Celtics. They play privileged basketball, and once again that mindset came to bite them in the ass. Cut that shit out.

The Ugly

– I suppose we can talk about that third quarter, because that’s where the game was lost. Twelve points. 12. 1-2. In a 12 minute quarter. Not only did they shoot the ball like colossol dickheads (23.5/33.3%) and turn it over 8 times, but they also were nonexistent on the defensive end, as ORL finished with 60/67% splits. It was practically a layup line, and something I certainly did NOT see coming. Do this shit in the second? That’s par for the course. But to have a lead heading into the half, and come out like that? That is horrific stuff.

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All players not named Kyrie were 1-14. What even is that!?!? Marcus Smart’s 4 TOs was some of the worst basketball I’ve seen him play this season.

– I will say though, this is why the Theory sometimes sucks. A 29 point first quarter while shooting 48%, we should have seen this coming. It’s not exactly news this is what usually happens.

– Now to the bench, they played right? Well technically they walked on to the floor, but I wouldn’t exactly say they played. I mean 8 total points on 4-19 shooting is pretty pathetic. Nobody on that second unit is feeling it more than Terry Rozier right now, who had another brutal 1-9 (0-5) performance

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When Rozier struggles like this, the Celtics make it very hard on themselves to win. We saw a stretch like this back in December and the Celts went 4-3. Whether you like it or not, Rozier is one of the straws that stir the drink. When he is locked in and actually contributing, they are extremely tough to beat. But when one of the main guys for the second unit is doing more hard than good, you get results like yesterday.

Getting outplayed so badly by the ORL second unit was not something that was expected, but a 41-8 difference is pretty disgusting. Especially when you look at the names of the ORL bench.

– Brad, maybe when your team is falling apart in the third quarter don’t wait so long to call a timeout.

– Want to know one reason that could help explain why this offense looks so bad? They aren’t getting to the line. In January, the Celtics are dead last in FTA rate, at just 0.166. This is a slight drop from where they average on the season, which is 18th in the league. That’s not exactly great either, but it certainly isn’t dead last. Say it’s the refs if you want, but for me it’s approach. Everything is a long two recently, and seeing as how this has been the worst offensive month of the season, perhaps it’s time to switch up the strategy

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Look at that FG% at the rim too. God that’s bad.

Now in LA for a little back to back at the Staples Center, the Celtics will have to fix their issues on a trip that you can almost guarantee will include some sort of wacky result. Almost all West Coast trips do. If they go through it with the same type of effort/execution that we saw at home during the last three, they won’t win a game. But, if they get back to what made them successful in the first place, defense/rebounding/balance/effort/passion etc, we’ll look back on this little roadblock as just a hiccup that every team will face over the course of the season.

At least I hope.

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