5 rational thoughts about the Celtics’ latest uninspired performance

NBA: Oklahoma City Thunder at Boston Celtics

Fully aware that the less said about this game, the better, so we’ll keep this short.

1. Some Celtics came to play

With Tatum, Kemba and Timelord out, some fans on Twitter were saying Jaylen Brown needed to drop a 40-piece. He nearly did: 39 points on 13 of 26 shooting, plus 11 rebounds and 4 steals. It was the kind of performance we expect from an All-Star.

Payton Pritchard set a new career high with 28 points in 33 minutes off the bench. He should start whenever Kemba sits out. Let’s see who Brad Stevens goes with tonight.

And Luke Kornet was a bright spot, with 10 points, 7 boards, 4 assists and 3 blocks in 20 minutes. Far more effective than Tristan Thompson last night.

2. Youngbloods

The Celtics lost to essentially a college team, or at best, a G League squad.

Let’s also get this straight: the Thunder might be tanking for a better draft pick, but that’s management’s strategy. Players and coaches don’t tank – they desperately wanted to break a 14-game losing streak. The Celtics didn’t match their intensity, and paid the price just as they have so many times this season. (Looks back fondly at the overachieving IT Celtics.)

3. Shorthanded shouldn’t matter this much

A few facts about the Celtics missing three starters (still no excuse for losing to OKC).

4. Smart’s threes: just don’t

Marcus Smart isn’t as good a three-point shooter as he might think he is. His last five games from the arc, he went 3-11, 1-5, 2-10, 3-7, and last night 1-10. That adds up to 10-43 for 23.3%. Ghastly.

For his career, Smart is a 32.1% shooter from the arc (on 1.5 of 4.7 per game). That’s not great, but we know he can get hot. Last season he broke the franchise record for threes in a game by making 11 (22 attempts) vs. Phoenix. But the Celtics lost that game.

And therein lies the problem. The more Marcus shoots, the harder it is to win. This season:

  • Smart has played in 42 games, and the Cs are 22-20.
  • In the 22 wins, Smart has overall averaged 4.0 makes on 9.3 shots (43.1%), and on threes he is 2.2 of 5.5 (40.2%).
  • In the 20 losses, Smart has averaged 4.8 of 12.5 (38.2%) overall and 1.8 of 6.5 (27.7%) on threes.

Those are the stats. Switching to the eye test, it seems like Marcus believes that if scorers are not able to play (like last night without Tatum and Walker), then he needs to shoot more and score more. In fact, he needs to facilitate more. In wins, he averages 6.3 assists; in losses, 4.6.

Last night, Smart missed his first nine threes, then finally made attempt no. 10. I give Smart credit for having the balls to take – and make – that final shot. But when the defense keeps leaving you open and you’re 0 of 9, shouldn’t that tell you something?

5. Tough spot for Fournier

He’s just back from Covid and probably wasn’t ready to play 35 minutes, but with all the injuries, Evan Fournier got his first start as a Celtic. He struggled. His first attempt was an airball three, then he missed a dunk. Fans had his back, however.

Fournier did hit two straight threes in the third quarter to spark a 20-6 surge that gave the Celtics a lead.

With just under a minute left, Fournier made a nifty steal and layup to cut the deficit to 5, but he missed a three in the final seconds that Boston simply had to have. He finished 4 of 14, 11 points, 7 rebounds and 5 steals. Once he gets his conditioning in order and restores his confidence by seeing some shots go in, Fournier should become a valuable contributor.

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