IN A NUTSHELL:
Last Saturday’s loss to the rebuilding Dallas Mavericks was a rude awakening for the Boston Celtics, revealing in excruciating fashion what happens when this squad falls asleep at the wheel. (You’d think the Knicks game would’ve done the trick in that regard, but I guess not.) Another defeat would put the Celtics below .500 for one of the first times since the second year of the Brad Stevens era.
They did not fall below .500. Playing bird-named teams seems to galvanize this team into action. (In related news, I just started a GoFundMe to name all NBA teams not already avian-monikered to be newly rechristened after birds. Please give generously.)
In one of the team’s most complete and well-executed performances of the season, the Celtics fired repeatedly with both barrels and didn’t let any mini-runs by the Pelicans—not even a virtuoso second half from Anthony Davis or a sustained attack by Nikola Mirotic—stop them. When the smoke cleared, Boston had won 124-107 to beat New Orleans at home, only the second time that’s happened thus far this season.
WHAT WENT RIGHT:
- Boston had to come out big, and did, exploding on offense and, aside from some slippage at the end of the first and second quarters and around the midpoint of the fourth frame, also locking in on defense.
- Davis was rendered largely ineffective by double teams and traps for at least half of the game, forcing Nikola Mirotic to serve as primary offensive weapon (though he earned spectacular blocks on the other end). Celtics defenders also largely pacified Jrue Holiday and tertiary threats like Julius Randle and E’Twaun Moore. As people playing last year’s Bulls learned, if Mirotic drops 30 but you still win by high single digits or more, who gives a fuck?
- Al Horford in particularly needed to rebound from a bad personal performance, and did, earning 12 of his 20 points in less than 8 minutes on the floor in Q1. He locked up AD in the first half and limited the damage in the second.
- Kyrie, who has played at an All-NBA level since the haircut even in some of these bad losses, continued his run of excellence (6 turnovers aside), with a 26-5-10-5 steal line.
- NOLA turned the ball over like Dennis Rodman drunk in practice, even when Boston wasn’t forcing them (which they often were). That helped. A lot.
- The bench was solid, but one typical bench member, Marcus Smart, moved into the starting lineup tonight and made a solid argument for staying there. (Related: The header image for this gamer is absolutely incredible, innit?)
- TIMELORD GARBAGE TIME SMASH.
WHAT WENT WRONG:
- This contest provided further circumstantial evidence for the “Cs play up/down to their competition” crowd, and, well, the crowd isn’t exactly wrong. There were still miscues that the team is clearly above making.
- TATUM MISSED WHAT COULD’VE BEEN THE MOST LIT THROWDOWN OF THE SEASON THUS FAR. (Rozier overthrew the pass a bit, but not much; the miss is on Taco Jay.)
- The Pels excel at comebacks. They certainly tried one tonight, with Davis surging past his first-half troubles on his way to 27 points. (When you’re the best player in the league aside from LeBron James, you can do them sorta things.) Davis is no longer dragging mediocrity behind his transcendence, but the Pelicans are in a slump right now, and Boston shouldn’t have allowed the wiggle room for such an attempt.
WHAT THE HELL:
- Kyle Draper may have cursed the goddamn dunk. He’s more than good enough for the booth, but should probably be the commentator with Scal on play-by-play. He’s as excitable as Tommy but without the hysterical soaked-in-Lagavulin irritation.
- Daniel Theis’s designation on the injury report should’ve read “DNP-Horrible hair.” (I’m not letting this go. It suuuuuuuuuucks.)
GREEN FIRE HIGHLIGHTS:
Here’s the dunk Tatum made, which is frickin’ great, albeit not as great as the almost-dunk noted above.
Kyrie-Al brain sharing in FULL EFFECT: