IN A NUTSHELL
Soooooo…I wrote a lot of the first draft of this thinking the Boston Celtics would enjoy THE SWEET TASTE OF RIVAL BLOOD for the first time this season against the Los Angeles Lakers.
This was cocky, and dumb as hell. I jinxed it. Although LeBron James and his superagent/buddy Rich Paul most definitely tried to sell the entire goddamn Lakers farm to the New Orleans Pelicans for Anthony Davis (and failed to do so), he must’ve done some pretty damn good pep talkin’ to the L.A. youngsters this afternoon to get their confidence up. After a mostly dominant first half on Boston’s part, L.A. punched back hard in the game’s third quarter on pinpoint three-point shooting, and while the Celtics eventually woke up and retook the lead, the contest ended in agonizing fashion: on a desperation jumper at the buzzer by Rajon Rondo, who brought down his former team in a 129-128 loss.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
I don’t doubt that a fair amount of the NBA media and casual fanbase believes the Celtics’ young blue-chip talent might be (or should be) the centerpiece of a trade for Davis. Tonight, performances by the team’s youth—all of them, pretty much—made pretty solid arguments in their favor. Let’s go to the list:
- Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown played excellent two-way games, ending the night with respective lines of 22-10-5 and a steal and 18-2-1 plus a steal and a block.
- Terry Rozier brought dominant offense to the second unit with a 19-4-6 (plus a steal) line that included five made treys on seven attempts.
- Last but hardly least, Daniel Theis—rarely a showy player even when making meaningful contributions to Celtics wins—came to friggin’ play tonight. He gave life to otherwise moribund stretches of the game, wreaked havoc on Laker players with no regard for accruing fouls, and ended his night with 20-6-2 and two blocks.
It was the vets who underperformed. Kyrie Irving ended the night with 24 points, but almost half of those were at the line: he shot a ghastly 29 percent. Mook Morris made exactly one trey. Al Horford did all right (and almost had a game-saving block), but it wasn’t enough.
This Celtics squad’s depth is why opposing teams were leery of them before the season began, and why they’re leery again now that much of the uncertainty and confusion has dissipated and Boston is approaching its true potential. Regardless of tonight’s result, the team’s display of the powers inherent in its depth is immensely promising. For me, that’s the heart of Celtics basketball.
WHAT WENT WRONG
L.A. went on a smackdown 10-0 run near the end of the second quarter while Hayward was at the small forward spot substituting for Tatum. I’m not saying GH was to blame for this, but I’m not not saying it either.
The problems in the third quarter, meanwhile, were everyone’s fault, far too broad in scope to lampoon. It was a fiasco in every possible way, despite the Celtics keeping it close after the Lakers took and held the lead.
It seemed like they were overthinking things. Instead of making the extra pass to keep the Brad Stevens motion offense going, they made extra extra passes, often leading to bad shots or turnovers. On the other end, they had a horrible knack for leaving Lakers shooters open: Kyle Kuzma and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope are chuckers, not snipers, but if you leave ’em wide the fuck open the way Celtics defenders were, those dudes are gonna make a bunch of shots. It’s simple law-of-averages stuff. Boston missed so many seemingly easy close-out moves and blew various other coverages. Despite the shooting defense issue being more of an aberration than some serious problem the Celtics need to address—the squad’s statistics regarding three-point defense show that it generally isn’t—it was still incredibly disheartening to see play out tonight.
WHAT THE HELL
Dave Portnoy was at the Garden tonight—naturally, as a Celts-Lakers game the week following a Patriots championship is prime exposure opportunity for the consummate Boston sports frontrunner.
Also, Dave Portnoy’s Twitter name is literally “shit president.” That is all.
GREEN FIRE HIGHLIGHTS
THEIS SEE RIM THEIS SMASH:
Coordination between the Jays: