Every morning, we compile the links of the day and dump them here… highlighting the big storyline. Because there’s nothing quite as satisfying as a good morning dump.
The Boston Celtics have been outscored 86-64 in first quarters of the three games Kemba Walker has missed. That includes a 26-17 first against Washington and 32-19 first against Atlanta. They actually won the first quarter against Chicago 30-28, but they were down 12 halfway through that first quarter so it still counts as a slow start.
Earlier this season, the Celtics were having problems with slow starts. Kemba Walker actually adjusted his game to help counteract that. In October and November, he averaged just over four points per first quarter. In December, he averaged 7.2. In November, he shot 3.9 shots per first quarter and hit 39.2 percent of them. In December he shot 5.3 per first quarter and made 49.3 percent. He went from a -2.8 in four October first quarters to a -0.8 in November first quarters and then to a +1.6 in December firsts.
So Kemba has gone from Mr. fourth quarter to Mr. first quarter (ok, he’s still a closer. Just work with me here), and without him the Celtics have been struggling to get going early.
When I was in high school the wrestling team practiced in this weird room that was off the back of the library. I have no idea what its original purpose was, but by the time I got to good ol’ T.F. Riggs, it was being used by the wrestlers.
During my sophomore year, one of the mats ended up as a reservoir for staph germs, and like half the wrestling team ended up getting infections on their faces from where the protective headgear rubbed their skin raw. Anyway, though it doesn’t seem to be that serious—or that disgusting—there definitely seems to be a bug working its way through Boston’s locker room.
Over the past four weeks, four Celtics have missed games due to illness. Jaylen, fortunately, was only out one game, but Marcus missed half of December, Romeo Langford has been hit by the bug, and Kemba has now missed three games with an illness, and to put that in perspective, Kemba only missed six games total over the past four years. And that’s the players that have missed games—it’s likely not an exhaustive list of players that have been sick.
The Celtics were also playing their third game in four nights, and they looked like they were. John grabbed a few clips from the game in his extended recap, and this one shows how discombobulated the C’s offense was:
John points out that the team clearly overlooked a Jaylen Brown on Isaiah Thomas mismatch. But the whole sequence is just sloppy. Gordon Hayward comes out to draw Smart’s man off him, but he doesn’t do a very good job selling it, so he doesn’t buy Smart a lot of space to work with. Theis does a pump fake that didn’t fool anybody and then tosses the ball lazily back to Smart. Smart takes a lot of threes from that approximate location, but his best percentages come from shots taken closer to the arc and closer to the sideline. If he was on his game, he’d get the pass back from Theis at that spot and he’d have a higher percentage shot.
Brown also seems sluggish. He’s got a distinct advantage against IT, but he can’t expect Theis to pass him the ball with the way he and IT are positioned when Theis has the ball. IT is on Brown’s inside and has an easy steal and fast break opportunity unless Brown works over the top of him so that he’s got a clear passing lane from Theis.
I’m not too worried, though. Last year’s team tended to compound bad losses: A bad loss was often followed by a worse one, and they tended to clump together.
This year’s team hasn’t lost more than two consecutive games, and while there was some concerning stuff in last night’s loss, this team has a demonstrated interest in working on things that need improvement.
Page 2: Where IT tried to get Stevens T’ed up
“When they trapped IT on the sideline, he lost the ball and called a timeout and the officials awarded him the timeout without the ball,” Smart said. “Brad was obviously heated about that, and IT was just egging them on and instigating for Brad to get a tech, because Brad was pretty amped up.”
Smart took matters into his own hands: Grabbing his good friend and pushing him back to the Wizards’ bench with a big grin. Even Stevens, presumably still upset about the call, was amused as Smart ushered Thomas away.
Smart & Brown have both stayed close with IT. What’s crazy about that is that none of the other Celtics have stayed close with him because they never played with him. Yep. The C’s have just two players that were on the roster when they made it to the ECF in 2017.
Before the game, Jaylen was asked about IT:
“IT is always sending messages, the public ones, but nobody sees the ones where he’s like, ‘Keep working,’” Brown said. “He’s talking to me sending me text messages like to keep working and he’s happy with my play and stuff I’ve improved, and dealing with the attention in Boston and navigating, and stuff like that. He’s definitely been a good role model in that sense.”
“Isaiah was a pillar in the community, but also he was very liked,” Brown said. “I think in Boston, he was received well, for the most part. I don’t think I’ll ever be as liked as he was, but maybe taking a few pages out of his book. I don’t know.”
And, of course, IT was asked about Jaylen:
He’s only shown a little of what he’s capable of doing. He’s got so much talent. I’m happy for him.”
Asked about where Brown has made the most progress, Thomas said, “I think it’s his confidence. Everybody has always known he’s had the talent to be a great basketball player in this league. Confidence is what takes you from being good to great, and he’s on the road to being that. He believes in himself more than anybody and that’s half the battle as well. I’m happy to see him progressing the way he should.”
“That’s like a little brother of mine,” he said of Brown. “Those guys went through a real-life situation with me with the passing of my sister. Anybody that was on that team is somebody I really truly care about. The passing of one of (Brown’s) best friends, I was there with him for that. It’s bigger than basketball when it comes to Jaylen. I really care for the guy, so I always try to make sure his head is in the right place, no matter if he’s playing great or not playing as well.”
Finally: Grant Williams, ace reporter
If Grant Williams never plays another minute of basketball, the C’s need to keep him around for stuff like this.
The rest of the links
MassLive: Boston Celtics rookie Tremont Waters impresses off the bench: ’Tremont is just a bucket getter’ | Ish Smith picks lethargic Boston Celtics apart in 99-94 Washington Wizards win | Boston Celtics trade rumors 2020: Davis Bertans has drawn inquiries from Celtics (report)
Boston Herald Celtics fall to the Wizards, 99-94