Every morning, we compile the links of the day and dump them here… highlighting the big story line. Because there’s nothing quite as satisfying as a good morning dump.
“That’s what the Celtics are about, playing harder on the defensive end,” Bradley said after his team’s 99-86 win. “Looking at Marcus Smart at the end of the game, and Jae (Crowder), I could tell they wanted to win this game. I told Marcus, ‘Bro, I’m going to make sure that I’m making him take tough shots every single time down.’ That was my mindset. And he told me the same thing.”
If the Celtics have played a better defensive stretch this season than they did in the fourth quarter Wednesday night, the recollection of it has escaped me. The box score revealed some stunning nuggets, like that Curry and Klay Thompson — arguably the best shooting backcourt in NBA history — combined for a single point on 0-for-4 shooting in the period. En route to a season low for points in a quarter (12), the Warriors went on two separate three-minute long scoring droughts. They racked up more turnovers (eight) than made field goals (five), missed four of their five 3-point attempts, and tallied an embarrassing offensive rating of 55.1 points per 100 possessions, according to NBA.com.
“We just made it tough on them,” Thomas said. “Those are hell of a players over there — Steph Curry, Klay Thompson — we made it tough on them. I keep saying it but those three guys — [Marcus] Smart, Avery and Jae Crowder — they should be on one or two of those all-defensive teams because they make it tough on everybody each and every night.
ESPNBoston — How IT and the Celtics owned the fourth in Oakland
Avery Bradley made a comment this pre-season (I’ve looked for it everywhere and can’t find it, so trust my paraphrasing/memory here) about this Celtics team being really tough to score on. With Bradley, Marcus Smart and Jae Crowder in the starting lineup and a bulldog like Terry Rozier on the bench, it was easy to envision a Celtics team that flat out bullied opposing ball-handlers above the three-point line with rip after smothering rip of the ball leading to run-outs for lay-ups on the other end.
Great defense isn’t always that surface-level, nor does it look that demoralizing and suffocating all of the time. It often lies in numbers that aggregate over a season reported out by beat writers. But in the fourth quarter last night, all you needed were your two eyes, and maybe a fist to pump in the air or a phone on which to text your friend or relative, (I texted my brother) “holy shit this defense is incredible!” The Cs defense that Bradley promised in October and that we all imagined before the season began was on full display for the final 12 minutes against the league’s best team.
Even before the fourth quarter, it was clear with the naked eye that Steph Curry and Klay Thompson had to work, even labor, to wriggle free of Bradley, Smart and even Isaiah Thomas on defense. Once the fourth started, though, it was that suffocating on-ball D, leading to turnovers and Celtics’ lay-ups that punctuated a defensive masterpiece.
The odds are against the Celtics going to Denver tomorrow night and putting up a similar, visceral performance on that end of the floor. Basketball, especially regular season basketball, doesn’t often work that way. However, much how Bradley’s proclamation had me picturing the Cs defense as a consistent hallmark wreaking havoc against the leagues best, last night’s performance offers hard evidence that the Celtics can beat anyone when they lock in and do what Bradley said they could do.
On page 2, in appreciation of Kelly Olynyk
Individual game plus-minus is a noisy stat, but it’s not a coincidence that Olynyk was plus-29 in this one. He finished with 17 points on 7-of-9 shooting, plus five rebounds, five assists and three steals. I have never seen him play better.
Everyone knows Olynyk is skilled with the ball in his hands, but the thing I like most about him is his efficiency of movement. He makes quick decisions, and whether he’s firing off a pass or hitting a reverse layup over a longer defender, he always seems to have perfect touch. He gave Golden State problems from all over the court.
Consistency is still an issue for Kelly Olynyk in year four in the NBA. I’ve always thought of KO the way I felt about Donkey Kong Jr. as a driver in Super Mario Kart (no, not that N64 crap, I’m talking SNES here. If you’re too young to vibe with me, skip down a paragraph). DK was a bit of an enigma as a driver. At the start of a race, other drivers would take off right by him, leaving him in a cloud of dust as he slowly got started. Once on the gas, and unencumbered by obstacles, Donkey picked up speed and all of a sudden was a pleasant surprise as a somehow controlled bowling-ball of a kart driver. All was good until DK hit a wall, or slipped up on a shell and spun-out, because that meant Donkey Kong had to stop, and thus slowly get back up to speed all over again.
Whenever Kelly Olynyk gets hurt, or is coming off a long lay-off, he becomes the DK Jr of the Celtics. Slow to get back up to speed, searching for his shooting stroke and generally looking lost on the court. Remember Kelly in November, coming off of injury? Or Kelly last spring after missing a few months with his shoulder? Most guys take a little time to get back into rhythm, but it feels like KO takes ten times more time. Once Kelly gets himself into the flow, though, he looks like one of the more skilled offensive bigs in the league. He’ll slip up every now and then –his two games in Phoenix and Los Angeles were underwhelming, and thus hurt the Cs bottom line– but Kelly in rhythm is so enjoyable to watch, even if he, like DK, often looks like a bumbling mess on his way to the hoop.
If the Celtics want to advance deep into the playoffs, Kelly Olynyk needs to be a crucial part of Brad Stevens 7 or 8 man rotation. He needs to have a few games like he did last night. Keep being that under-appreciated Mario Kart driver, Kelly, and please, don’t miss a week or two before the playoffs with an injury.
And finally, Jaylen simply got rookie treatment
The world was left wondering what, exactly, Jaylen Brown said to Steph Curry to receive such a verbal and demonstrative response after Curry’s buzzer-beating three to end the third quarter. According to Brown, it was nothing at all:
“I didn’t say a word to him,” Brown said after Boston’s 99-86 win. “I promise I didn’t say a word to him. I was just out there playing D, doing my job. He looked at me and starting doing whatever. But, I mean, they needed that energy to get them going. I’m just glad we got the win tonight.”
I guess it was Steph’s way of just saying, “please, rookie, how dare you think you can D me up!” One day, hopefully in the not-too-distant future, Jaylen will be doing the same to an unassuming youngster after putting him on the poster. Until then, welcome to the NBA, rook. Class is still in session.