I’m not gonna lie, I was not a big fan of the latest Boston Celtics game, which they lost in agonizing fashion to the Oklahoma City Thunder. That wasn’t good. Let’s just get into the main factors behind what happened:
The agony of the final minute(s)
Someone tell me the location of Brad Stevens right now. I just want to talk.
For those choosing not to click through, Al Pacino says a lot of furious, immensely profane things about people whose decisions he questions.
Imagine that, except it’s me (and/or like about eight million other Celtics fans; feel free to substitute yourself), asking Stevens why he didn’t use the final timeout just after OKC had turned the ball over by knocking the ball out of bounds, before Kemba Walker even had control of the ball (and, ergo, the ability to turn it over).
As I’ve stated before, I trust Stevens’s coaching far more often than not. He is not quite a capital-G Great Coach just yet, but he’s certainly a very good one capable of brilliant decisions, adjustments and ATO plays that lead to great Celtics victories. Yet every so often there will be some sort of bollocking like this, that comes out of nowhere and frustratingly validate the dipsticks who think Stevens is a paper tiger or, at the very least, seem fixated on poking holes in the adulation he’s received. (Nick Wright and his incredibly obvious toupee are undoubtedly gonna have a field day with this on FS1 sometime today, possibly before the time of this publication.)
All that said, if there hadn’t been mistakes before that final minute, errors that had nothing to do with timeouts or Kemba, the team wouldn’t have been in that position to begin with.
Kemba had a bad night, but the team lost as a whole
So many things shouldn’t have happened before that horrid final stretch of the fourth quarter. The Celtics shouldn’t have been in the bonus with about six minutes left to play, devolving the game’s final eighth into a series of stop-and-go possessions that had all the rhythm of Joe Biden in a jitterbug contest* until that fateful last minute. Sure, OKC had made the same mistake, but…what, does that make it less bad? Of course not.
I digress. Yes, Walker had a bad night, one made to look even more unfortunate because of its last scene. But consider Jay King’s observation from the postgame media scrum:
Gordo is correct. If the Celtics had a key weakness for OKC to exploit on paper, it would be size, and though Stevenadamwhodrink69beers didn’t actually play that well (and hasn’t for some time), he had Nerlens Noel as backup and that tandem made life difficult for Boston’s bigs. (Kanter was almost unplayable; his stats reflect that.) The wings, moreover, should’ve been all over Dennis Schroder the second he started to get hot, and the absence of Jaylen Brown from the rotation shouldn’t have left them that short on the wing. They should’ve been baiting Chris Paul so his inevitable “I should be able to do whatever I want on the court with impunity” attitude would make him do something stupid and get in foul trouble. What I’m saying is there were oodles of missed opportunities, and almost everyone who saw the floor missed them at one point or another, with most of those points coming in the second half.
The D.E.N.N.I.S. S.U.C.K.S. System
I’ll say it now; I don’t like the cut of Dennis Schroder’s jib or that damn blond streak. The dude legit helped sink the Atlanta Hawks from a playoff contender to a lottery squad due to his limitations; it’s why he’s a second-unit guy again now. And while ATL is probably better off building from the ground up around Trae Young…well…Isaiah Thomas had a noteworthy beef with him, and damn it, right now that’s more than enough for me. (There’s a reason why I called this one “irrational thoughts,” much like Chuck M. did when discussing the hellscape in Brooklyn.)
So-so shooting didn’t matter…until it did
Because the Celtics spent a fair amount of this game with a lead or something close to it, the general shooting weakness of the team wasn’t really noticeable until after the fact—aside from the aforementioned Walker, who had one of those clunkers he’s just gonna have once in a while. Hayward was the only Celtics player to eclipse 45% from the floor (47.4%), while Smart managed 41.2% and Tatum was at 36.4% (8 for 22 there; yikes).
What this boils down to is that almost everyone had been missing both easy and tough shots up to and including Tatum’s final attempt over Chris Paul. Again, no one person is to blame.
Some strong contributions from the bench
I suppose we can bow out on a positive note. Robert Williams filled every category on the stat sheet in under 14 minutes (6-5-1-1-1) and brought his energy rather than his gaffes, while Romeo Langford and Grant Williams made similarly galvanizing contributions:
*This is an old-person joke, not a political statement one way or the other.