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The Celtics Avoided Disaster In A Much Needed OT Win

NBA-Boston Celtics at Washington Wizards

After getting completely worked the game before in TOR, the Celtics needed a bounce back win in a building that has given them big time trouble recently. There were hopes that the Celts/Wizards would become a legit rivarly after their second round series last year, but then the Celtics changed their team and the Wizards never really got all that better. Granted this was without John Wall who if you remember plays a pretty important role when these two teams matchup, but even without him WSH had been playing well and was 17-9 at home heading into this game. Basically, the Celtics could not afford to play with the same type of energy and strategy they showed in TOR if they wanted to come away with their East leading 19th road win.

To me, this is where the importance of Brad Stevens comes into play. This team very well could have felt sorry for themselves after getting blown out, and totally let WSH run all over them. I mean we’ve seen it from them before in this building. Instead, Brad had them ready to play and got a much needed balanced effort from his players. It wasn’t always pretty, few Celtics wins are, but when it came time to make a play, they got it done.

It’s Friday you don’t want to work, so let’s talk about it.

The Good

– The Celtics needed their star player to show up in this game, and show up he did.

The final line was nice as you can expect, with 28/5/6 on 9-19 shooting, but that’s not what I loved most about Kyrie’s night. I loved his approach. The biggest difference in my opinion was how frequently me made the decision to get into the paint. If you remember, when Kyrie first arrived, the one area which he weirdly struggled in was in the paint shooting. I’m not talking about at the rim, but in the paint. His floater/jumpers just seemed off, and he hovered around 41% from that area, something that is very very low for him. Well, he now sits at 46.2%, taking 3.1 FGA in the non restricted area, which leads the team. His floater/jumper from this area is now a billion times better, probably because he feels more comfortable, and it was absolutely a weapon in this game. Kyrie knew he could get to his sweet spot whenever he felt like it, and he attacked that same area all night long

Screen Shot 2018-02-09 at 8.24.43 AM

His midrange game was on point, and they came at big moments down the stretch which you have to love. Sure he fell victim to a few momentum changing 3PA, but that’s fine based on his overall approach. Combine that with how he got his teammates involved and hit the glass, it was great to see Kyrie step up in a game this team desperately needed. Scoring what, 8 straight points to end regulation and OT, as well as closing out the win are exactly why he’s here. Oh and the fact that he did it by making FTs was extra nice to me.

Having said that, my favorite part of Kyrie’s night had nothing to do with his offense. Not only did he save the game on offense, but it was his defense on the Beal’s last shot that impressed me most

There is so much to love about this defensive possession. First, Kyrie and Rozier show great communication on that switch at the top of the key. You can tell this is where the Wizards thought they could get the Celtics to mess up and Kyrie switched PERFECTLY. Then, Kyrie stays with Beal as he makes his way to the basket, we get two more rotations, one from Horford, and a great rotation from the opposite block from Jaylen to cut off the angle. Now Beal has to pull up, and Kyrie has a GREAT recovery off the spin move to still contest the shot without fouling. This my friends, was perfect defense (not to mention Beal travelled but whatever).

– Speaking of Jaylen, try to not be excited. You can’t.

Right from the jump, you could tell Jaylen was playing with a different level of energy. He was active, he was aggressive, he was a monster in transition, and he finished with 18/4/3 on 7-16, so he actually created for others as well. Not to mention he was tasked with staying with Beal most of the night, and he finished 7-27 so credit goes to Jaylen there as well.

Obviously the big play of the game was the stepback three from the corner. What a beautiful shot, and obviously not the first time we’ve seen Jaylen end a game from that corner.

Personally, I wasn’t the least bit shocked he made this three. People need to remember, Jaylen shoots 43.8% from this corner, which is way better than the league average of 38.6%. This is Jaylen’s area. Now the fact that it was a stepback makes it a little tougher, but I am more than confident at my point of a game that Jaylen decides to shoot from that corner. He’s proven to me he can make it when the stakes are highest.

Also, what do we always say with Jaylen. Attack early to get the confidence, and it’ll open up his outside shot. Well…..Screen Shot 2018-02-09 at 8.37.30 AM

– After a pretty even first half, the Celtics needed to come out and really change things up. WSH really got whatever they wanted in the first 24 minutes, scoring 51 points and had 23 rebounds on 47/53% splits. We all know the formula for a Cs win is to focus on rebounding and defense, and in the second half they won the rebounding battle, and held WSH to 39.5% shooting. Then in OT they held WSH to just 2-12 shooting.

Defense defense defense. I can’t stress it enough.

– In the battle of Morris brothers, I think it’s safe to say our Morris won

A nice bounce back second half from Mook, who was 1-8 after the first 24 and finished 5-14. His 15/8 led the bench and was very much needed, especially his little run where he was pulling off beautiful turnaround jumpers. This game is basically a microcosm of what it’s like to watch Morris. Right when you’re ready to kill him because of his shot selection and inability to pass, he comes out and is a major reason the team wins. Honestly, it’s very Marcus Smart like, only his jumper is more acceptable.

– I really want to believe Rozier isn’t just hitting a peak and will come back down to earth. I want this Rozier to be the Rozier we always have because if it is, this type of player coming off the bench is HUGE

You know Terry is feeling good because he isn’t even hitting the rim. His confidence is at an all time high and he’s shooting the ball better than he ever has in his career it feels like.

Over his last 5 games he’s up to 17.8/6.2/4.4 with 45/57% splits while making 3.2 3PM a night. THREE MADE THREES A NIGHT AVERAGE?!?!?!?! Look at his entire season, when Rozier is on a stretch like this, the Celtics almost never lose. It’s the dropping back into a valley that usually gives them trouble, but man Rozier is going to be a Celtic for life playing like this, Danny Ainge will make sure of it.

– For a guy that only took 2 shots in the first half, Horford was a big reason the third quarter went so well, and he finished with 12/7/2 on 5-8 shooting

The haters and losers will probably say things like “oh wow 12 points for 30M…what a deal!”. But like always, you have to actually watch to see how much Horford impacted this game. In that third quarter where he made his biggest impact, not only did he score the ball but he had a Drtg of 79.7. On the night, Horford contested a team leading 16 shots, the next closest was Kyrie with 9.

Considering the fact that 6 other players had a higher usage rate than Al, he made the most of his touches. I really liked that of his 54 touches, he passed the ball 41 other times. Never did it feel like despite not being featured in the offense, that Horford decided to just force things every time he got it. Only Terry Rozier had more passes last night.

– Overall, I gave Monroe’s Celtics a debut a solid 84.7/100

This was about as good as you can expect from a guy who hasn’t really played recently coming into a whole new situation and really being asked to make an impact right away. There were a few things I really liked from his 19:44 of time

1. Once he gets in game shape, his post offense is 100% going to help that second unit when they need a bucket. We all hoped that would be the case, but now that we’ve seen it, it’s going to give Brad all types of options and lineup choices.

2. It’s no secret this team needs all the rebounders they can get. Especially on the defensive glass. Well, not only did Monroe had 6 rebounds, but look at how he protected the defensive glass. Aron Baynes, a noted beast on the defensive glass, held opponents to a 25.0% offensive rebound rate which led the team. Greg Monroe? Right behind him with 26.1%. That’s exactly what I need from Monroe in his minutes. I don’t need him to drop 50, I just need him to prevent second chance points and be a safety net in the post on offense. That’s it.

3. For a guy who was probably looking to make a good first impression, seeing him dive on the floor for loose balls to start a break is exactly how you win Tommy Heinsohn’s heart, and if you have Tommy’s heart, you have my heart.

– The lineup of Monroe/Theis/Morris didn’t look all that bad, and it gives you a little glimpse to how Ainge and Brad probably saw Morris when they first traded for him. A guy who can play the 3, play the 4, and still be productive based on the lineup. We don’t see the Celtics go big very often, so while it was weird to see, it surprisingly worked.

– I’m always interested to see how a young player responds when his shot isn’t falling, and last night was that opportunity for Jayson Tatum. He shot just 3-9, but what I liked was instead of letting that mentally fuck him, he locked down on the defensive end. Tatum’s defense is by far the biggest surprise of his season for me, and he had a 81.1 Drtg in 36 minutes, which was good for second best on the team.

The Bad

– For whatever reason, the Celtics cannot stop Otto Porter Jr. Every time they play it seems like he has games like last night, where he finished with 27 points on 9-18 shooting and 3-5 from deep. It’s almost as if his agents only showed the Wizards highlights of him facing the Celtics, and that’s why he got his max contract.

– I’m not sure if the officials were overly sensitive or what, but three techs? Rozier’s coming on a dead ball to start the fourth? What could they have possibly said? And how dare the Celts go with the strategy of accumulating all these techs and Brad decides to sit it out? May as well throw some “gosh darns” out there to help build a bond with his players.

– Also to no one’s surprise, the Wizards feasted on the offensive glass. Celts gave up 17 OREB which isn’t great, and of course it’s always fucking Gortat who seems to be the biggest culprit. Why are the Celtics so afraid to box Gortat out? Does he smell or something? I could see his 10/10/4 coming from a MILE away.

Then Ian Mahinmi came in and it was the same story, 4 OREB for him as well. This is why Monroe is going to be so important moving forward.

– For the second night in a row, the Celts didn’t do a great job defending the three point line. WSH finished 12-26 which is 46%, and while I’m not panicking, I am taking note. I need Marcus Smart back quickly, because I’m not sure anyone else is willing to actually play perimeter defense.

– Speaking of perimeter defense, what on earth was this angle by Terry?

The Ugly

– For the life of me, all I want is this team to figure out how to close out games without giving me a heart attack. Naturally, up 10 with 5:23 in the fourth, it was a 3 point game just 2 minutes later, at 3:23 after that layup you just watched.

It then took just a minute and change for that 3 point lead to become a 1 point deficit. A combination of bad turnovers, unnecessary Kyrie iso, and poor defense is the exact opposite of how I want this team to close games. This is not really a one time thing either. The Celtics have been poor at closing games for quite some time now, and honestly it’s really surprising given the talent and veterans on this team.

– I can’t imagine where else I would put the 23-34 performance from the FT line. They went 11-16 in the fourth quarter. Infuriating stuff considering it was all good shooters who were missing. Granted Kyrie made up for it at the end, but WOOF.

– You want to know why the Wizards will probably never get over the hump? They love to blame others

I dunno, look at the header photo of this blog, looks like a foul, and both on Morris were definitely fouls sooooo maybe the refs weren’t the ones that cost you this game. Maybe mental mistakes were the reason but I dunno just spitballing here.

There’s no time off as the Celts are right back at it tonight against IND to face a Pacers team that is 30-25 and 11-14 on the road. They’re a little rested since their game against NO was postponed, but the Celts have won both meetings so far so I expect more of the same. Oladipo didn’t play against WSH on 2/5, but I bet he plays tonight so we’ll have to see the same sort of energy we saw last night in order to keep some distance from TOR who also won last night.

Either way, I’ll take the much needed road win.

40 down 14 to go.