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.
As Hayward rose and fired, the entire Celtics bench was on its feet. Jaylen Brown turned and ran back on defense before the ball reached the rim. Tatum raised one hand with three fingers extended over his head.
The shot splashed through. One play later, Tatum isolated against Steven Adams and blew by the big man, finishing with a massive one-handed dunk at the rim. The Celtics bench celebrated wildly.
For the first time in a while, the Celtics looked like they were having fun.
“I don’t think it’s about offense or defense,” Brad Stevens said, after Boston’s 101-95 victory. “I think it’s about enjoying playing together”
“It’s basketball at the end of the day,” Tatum added. “We get paid a lot of money to do what we love, and just get back to having fun.”
Ah, Brad Stevens. He’s definitely getting the hang of this whole ‘coaching’ business. Why, give him another year or two and he might actually be good at it.
Tuesday I compared the Celtics to a race car, and some wag dinged me for it in the comments because he thought we were getting too cute with the analogies–and spending too much time explaining them. Pfft, buddy, this job requires content every day, and sometimes you don’t have a lot of material to work with. I’m not Kellogg’s. I can’t guarantee you two scoops of raisins in every box (shoot, I suppose that qualifies as a too-cute analogy).
Anyway, he’s right–all these analogies only go so far. The Celtics are not, in fact, a race car. They’re a collection of guys who hit a slick spot in the road and overcorrected and, aw crap, there I go with the car analogies again. Sorry, random internet dude!
Bottom line, the Celtics needed to relax in order to play better. Almost a year ago, when the Celtics were in the middle of their 16 game winning streak, Stevens was sounding a note of caution–the team was getting a bit too cavalier, enjoying themselves just a bit too much–and Stevens was right there to point out that the Celtics were not as good as their record.
This time around, though, after an opening night win against the Sixers that, perhaps, felt like a bigger win than it really was (because the Sixers, I’m here to tell you, are neither all that, nor are they even a bag of chips), the Celtics looked more like a team with a lot of undefined roles and a lot of rust (psst: is ‘rust’ a car analogy? asking for a friend.)
The Celtics, right up to the second half of last night’s game, seemed to be trying to bull their way through their various struggles, and sort of force themselves into better shape; of course, that didn’t really work, and the more it didn’t work, the more they pressed, with predictable results.
But in the second half of last night’s game things changed. The Celtics loosened up. They found the right balance, and–if they can hold on to that balance for another game or two–I think they’re about ready to go on a tear.
Also, the above article is worth reading if for no other reason than it features Tom Westerholm making an underpants gnome reference without a stitch of context. If you don’t know the connection between “???” and “Profit”, the middle third of Tom’s article is going to be so confusing.
Page 2: Where Danny Ainge breaks out a golf analogy
“There’s a lot of good things that are going on,” said the Celtics president of basketball operations. “We’re just not playing our best. And making shots covers up for a lot of mistakes. We’ve just been missing our 4-foot putts. We’ve got to make some putts.”
Just when I thought was out of the analogy business, they pull me back in (BTW: This is all in good fun, internet commenting guy).
Anyway, Ainge goes on to elaborate:
“But at this time of the season as I’m watching all of the NBA games, it’s like making shots covers up for a lot of mistakes. So you’ve got to make shots, of course, but, you know, when you’re not making shots, your defense has to be almost perfect. Our defense was pretty good but not good enough.”
Ainge with the bird’s eye view of the Celtics season–it’s all about where the horizon is. For players, it’s the next game–and during the game, it’s the next possession, the next shot, the next pass. Coaches can’t get hung up on all those little details–they’ve got to trust their players enough to give them freedom to work. And the GM, well, if he’s making long-term decisions on the basis of short-term shooting trends, well, sooner or later he’s probably going to end up working for the Kings. Or the Magic. Or some other bastion of institutional ineptitude, like, oh, I know, the New York Knicks.
The rest of the links
MassLive: ‘We’ve got to set the tone’: Boston Celtics’ Kyrie Irving told Al Horford the vets needed to take over vs. OKC | Boston Celtics rally, beat Oklahoma City Thunder 101-95: Jayson Tatum shines, plus 10 things we learned
Boston Herald: Celtics storm back late, beat winless Thunder
Providence Journal: Celtics 101, Thunder 95: Boston rallies from 16 down to stun Oklahoma City