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The Celtics Deserved What Happened To Them In Game 4

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After the Celtics were unable to pull off the sweep last night, I was conflicted. Part of me was angry at them for how they played, the lack of mental composure and the sloppy effort. Part of me was mad that I was allowing myself to get mad about how they were officiated knowing everything we know about how the NBA works and who was assigned for the game. And part of me was still confident, excited that the Celts now have an opportunity to close things out in front of their own fans. But through all the emotions I felt, I kept going back to one place.

The Celtics got what they deserved.

It’s fun to joke on Twitter about how ridiculous it was that the Celtics all the sudden could not defend without fouling, but when we want to be serious about what happened in this loss, the Celts have no one to blame but themselves. I kept going back to something Brad said after the Game 3 win

I think everyone’s fear was that the Celts would go into Game 4 thinking the series was already over, and as a result wouldn’t play with the same fire and energy that got them the 3-0 lead in the first place. Well after watching last night’s game, that’s unfortunately exactly what happened. The did not respect the Sixers. They played like they had already won the series, and for the MILLIONTH time, we saw what happens when you do that against a talented team on the road in a hostile environment. Next thing you know they’ve punched you in the mouth and you weren’t ready for it. Again, as bad as the officiating was, they didn’t prevent you from boxing out, they didn’t force you to turn it over, and they didn’t make you choose your shot selection. The Celtic lost Game 4 because of self inflicted wounds and poor play. Plain and simple.

Now, just like we do when things go well, we must now talk about things when they go poorly

The Good

– Despite the shitty ending, we can all agree that Jayson Tatum is still the fucking tits

Last night was his 6th straight 20+ point outing as he finished with 20/4/4 on 7-16 shooting in 35 minutes. To be honest Tatum was really the only bright spot offensively, and personally I loved the fact that he led the team in FGA. We talked during the year about what valuable experience it was for Tatum to get Hayward’s minutes, well not only is the same true for this postseason run, but I almost think it’s more important. We’re seeing Tatum perform at the highest level on the biggest stage, while outperforming the probably ROY. He’s been the best player on the floor this series, and this doesn’t look like some fluke. You don’t play like he has for this long and not be for real. The guy is a fucking stud.

– How could it be possible to spin a loss like this? Frankly I think it’s exactly what this team needed. I think it prevents them from having the same sort of mindset that the Sixers had going into this series after basically sweeping MIA. The Celtics needed this slap in the face to bring them back down to earth. We talk all the time about the Sixers youth and how that has impacted the series, well we saw a little bit of that from the Celts last night. They approaching this game as if the Sixers were just going to mail it in, and as a result they let their guard down. I was surprised to see it given what happened in the MIL series, but I couldn’t feel any more confident for Game 5 after last night. They won’t make the same mistake twice, so boom last night was a positive. That was easy.

– Listen the entire internet wants to suck Embiid’s dick anytime he talks trash, so it was nice to see Mook give it right back to him

I saw a mixed reaction from this last night, some people loved it some thought it was weak from Morris. I don’t know how you couldn’t like it. Nobody runs their mouth more than Embiid, and to his credit Morris used nothing but factual statements at the time. Sure it didn’t help that the Celts ultimately lost it, but that’s using hindsight. At that moment, this was an A+ troll job.

– If I had to guess, we’re going to see a whole lot more Semi in Game 5. He was really the only player last night that showed any signs of actually playing defense (had a team best 85.5 Drtg), and of any Celtics player that played more than 1:12, he had the highest Net Rating of 15.9. The Celtics had trouble with guys like Saric in the post for much of this game, and that’s where I think Semi will come in. You can’t back down that monster.

The Bad

– As I said at the top of this blog, anyone who says the main reason the Celtics lost this game was because of the refs simply doesn’t want to tell the truth. Did they help? No, but the Celtics were outplayed everywhere you look. They lost the second chance points battle 18-9, they lost the points in the paint battle 52-30, and they lost the rebounding battle 53-43, and they lost the turnover battle 15-8. At what point have we ever seen the Celtics get outplayed in so many areas and win? Regardless of what the officials do, THOSE are the reasons they lost.

And I keep going back to my trusted formula. This team’s success comes down to rebounding and defense. Well you saw the rebounding difference, included in that 53 were 16 OREB. That’s not great. From a defense perspective the Sixers scored 56 points on 45.7% shooting in the second half. Also not great.

– Sure Horford finished with an efficient 10/10/3 on 4-6 shooting. A decent night for a guy who’s had a great series. Here’s the problem though. Al Horford should be taking about double the FGA he took in this game. He had ONE shot in the third quarter, and one shot in the fourth quarter. That is unacceptable on so many levels. Part of it has to be on Al, he has to demand the ball and all that crap. But that’s only half the story. The Celtics guards did a terrible job last night at keeping their head up and actually looking for al on mismatches. It would not shock me if this was a major part of the film session today and something we see immediately corrected tomorrow. Al has such a matchup advantage on anyone PHI throws at him, the Celtics cannot forget about Horford on the offensive end.

– Which brings me to one of my more frustrating problems with last night. I hated the offensive approach. Right from the opening tip the Celtics did exactly what Brad prays they don’t do. They went for the home run. If I remember correctly something like 5 of their first 8 shots were from deep. When it was all said and done 32 of their 75 FGA were threes. Look at this goddamn shot chart

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For whatever reason, their approach changed. Forget all the success they’ve had in previous games working it into the paint and attacking the rim, now that they had a chance to close the series let’s change it to nothing but contested jumpers and 3PA! So frustrating.

What we saw was hero ball, and as expected it was ugly. The ball didn’t move at all, with just 16 assists on 31 baskets, and it doesn’t surprise me that when this team doesn’t play through Al offensively, things struggle.

– Which brings me to Rozier. Safe to say he got worked by TJ McConnell. It’s OK, this is a safe space, we can admit the truth. He didn’t take him seriously and it got the best of him. Rozier started off by taking pretty tough looks, and finished with just 2 assists in his team high 39 minutes. That’s not good enough. He was a starter worst -14, and 6 of his 11 FGA came from behind the arc. If anything this was a wakeup game that Rozier needed, and he’ll have to be much more focused in Game 5 if they want to close it out.

– It’s really annoying to lose a game in which Embiid/Simmons combine to go 12-30 with 6 TOs.

– At some point Marcus Morris is going to snap out of this inefficient offense right? Right? Another 6-15 performance, this team needs him to shoot the ball better if they want to advance. Yes he finished with a bench high 17 points, but he’s still shooting 34/35% for the series. I need automatic midrange Mook to come back immediately.

The Ugly

– I’m not over the turnovers. Does it surprise anyone that in the only quarter the Celtics won, they barely turned it over? They then get into the beloved 2nd quarter and turn it over 7 times while making only 8 FGs. Then comes the third quarter where the Celts usually make their run, only it’s hard to make a run when you turn it over 4 more times. Then you get to the fourth and FINALLY don’t really turn it over, only you allow PHI to shoot 55.6%. At the end of the night the Sixers had 16 points off Celtics turnovers, while giving up just 3 points to the Celts. That’s a 13 point difference in a game the Celtics lost by 11. I’m not saying the Celtics can never turn the ball over, that would be unrealistic, but my problem was once they did turn it over, they would lose their man in transition. The NUMBER ONE THING you can’t do against this Sixers team, they did time and time again. That’s why the Basketball Gods made them pay.

– Look we all know the officiating was dogshit. I can tell you that the 28 fouls called on the Celtics were the most of any game they’ve played this entire postseason. They average the 5th fewest fouls at 20.1 a night. How someone justifies a 12-1 foul difference in a second quarter I’ll never understand. How Smart can dive for a ball, get jumped on by Simmons and still be called for a foul sure is confusing. Whether or not they knew the 3 second and goaltending rules is a legit question. Basically it could not have gone worse in that regard for the Celts, and that shit happens.

But the problem is heading into the game, everyone KNEW this was going to be the case. The fact that the final numbers were within 5 fouls and FTA were the same doesn’t tell the true story. Having to adjust how you play because your entire team is in foul trouble for 90% of the game is real, and I would imagine that if in Game 5 Embiid/Simmons/Saric get the same foul treatment the Celts just had, no Sixers fan would be happy. Even if it wasn’t truly the case of the league putting the fix in, just the optics on how poor things were aren’t great.

For the millionth time this was not why the Celts lost, and it is not an excuse as to why this series is not over. But it is OK to admit that the officiating was a part of this game, your stance on it just happens to depend on what team you root for. It brings me back to my overall point after the MIL series, that the officiating in EVERY series this whole playoffs has been a major issue, and you’re kidding yourself if you think otherwise.

– Oh, and let’s chill with the Baynes 3PA for crying out loud.

So look, this is nothing new for us Celtics fans. Name a time this season where the Celts made things easy on themselves? A sweep wouldn’t have felt right to be honest. This feeling I have in my stomach as we wait for Game 5 feels more appropriate. The Celtics are going to make us sweat this series out I have no doubt, but as we know they return to a place they have not lost so far this postseason. Allow that to provide some comfort and say it with me…

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