11/24/2015: Game 14 -Welcome to Atlanta Where the Players Play

Atlanta 121 Boston 97

The final score says it all. Boston was outmatched and hardly stood a chance against the Hawks. The Cs were down five at the end of the first, and then nine at halftime. Once the 4th Quarter rolled around, the Hawks were on fire, and ran away with an easy win.

Thanks to Avery’s red hot (4/8) three-point shooting, the Cs finished shooting 42.9% from long distance, but just 41.5% from the field. Avery had 25 Points on 10/17 shooting. Isaiah managed only 14 Points on 3/11, and off the bench, R.J. had 12 Points, 2 Rebounds, 2 Assists and 2 Steals in 21 Minutes. D-Lee added 10 Points, 6 Rebounds, 3 Assists and 2 Steals in 25 Minutes. The rest of the team were duds.

Having now lost two consecutive games against opponents they’ve already played, not having Marcus is becoming painfully evident. Atlanta had seven players in double-figures, and shot 56.4% from the field and 50% from Three. They had their way with Boston’s paltry D and lack of offense.

Brad was pissed, and rightfully so: “We’ve got to be a team. And I think that’s first and foremost. It’s very subjective and it’s hard to pinpoint, but I know this: When your defense is a sieve, you’re not a team.”

Boston’s lack of D shouldn’t fall solely on the absence of a 21 year-old, but that seems to be the convenient excuse at the moment. When they played Atlanta last time, Smart essentially made Korver a non-factor, which forced them to put the ball on the floor. That leads to steals, by way of active hands in the lanes. But there was none of that on Tuesday night. Just sharp-shooting and easy buckets.

At the moment, Marcus isn’t walking through that door, so the rest of the guys are going to have to kick it up a notch. At least to cover the sieve.

Philadelphia on Wednesday.

Homer Johnsen is a freelance writer and weight room attendant for the Boston Celtics. He spots players benching, and keep a buzzer on hand to call for help if the players find themselves in a compromising position. His Celtics analyses and spotting techniques graphic are available right here on HeresTheDealLikeShaquille. 

11/22/2015: Game 13 – So Nice if They’d Done it Twice

Brooklyn 111 Boston 101

The absence of Marcus is already being felt by the Cs. With Avery elevated to the starting spot opposite Isaiah, the lack of offense off the bench and defense in general were apparent in Boston’s loss to Brooklyn on Sunday.

Avery and Isaiah each scored 27 Points, Avery on a remarkable 7/14 from long distance. The bulk of Isaiah’s points came from the free-throw line, where he finished 9/11. Unfortunately for the Cs, E.T. was the only other player in double-figures with 13, though he did add 7 Rebounds, 3 Assists and 2 Steals.

Brooklyn shot 50.6% from the floor (40/79), and grabbed 45 Rebounds, 35 more than Boston, and attempted 12 more free-throws too. It was the kind of pivotal bounce-back game the Nets needed, while they’re still trying to prove to the rest of the league that they aren’t as bad as their record suggests.

Brad’s answer for no Marcus has been to spread minutes around, namely with Jerebko picking up most of the slack. For once in my life, I’m at odds with Brad here. I don’t doubt Jonas’ hustle, nor the impact he can have on a ballgame. But Marcus is undeniably one of the best defenders in the league. Jonas is not; he hustles his ass off, can score 20 once in a blue moon, and can rebound, but he can’t impact a game like Marcus can. I’m of the firm belief that Rozier should be picking up more minutes, if only for defense. He’s no Marcus, but he can keep up with opposing point guards.

The Cs are undoubtedly going to have their hands full against Atlanta without Marcus. The Hawks are one of the best passing teams in the league, and the way they move the ball around is inspirational for this Cs team. Boston had their way with the Hawks last time out, but this next one will be more of an offensive grudge match. Look for Avery to keep asserting himself as a go-to offensive option.

Atlanta on Tuesday.

Homer Johnsen is a freelance writer and Locker Room Receptionist for the Boston Celtics. He receives food deliveries on the players’ behalf. His Celtics analyses and TD Garden drop-off instructions are available right here on HeresTheDealLikeShaquille.


11/20/2015: Game 12 – Brooklyn, WE Go Hard

Boston 120 Brooklyn 95

Nice confidence-boosting win after the tough Dallas loss. Boston shot a blistering 58.6% (51/87) en route to their seventh win of this young season.

The Cs blew the game open in the second quarter when they outscored the nets by 20 Points (43-23). From there, it was just coasting to the finish line.

Avery led the way off the bench with 21 Points (10/13) and 2 Steals. Jae had his best offensive performance of 2015, finishing with 19 Points (8/12; 3/6) 5 Rebounds, 2 Assists and 3 Steals. Isaiah had 18 Points (7/15; 4/9) and 9 Assists after starting the game just 1/6. E.T. chipped in 12 Points, 7 Assists and 5 Rebounds off the bench, while D-Lee had 11 Points, 3 Rebounds, 3 Assists, a Steal and a Block in 17 Minutes.

Late in the game, Marcus Smart hurt his knee and retreated to the locker room. As of today (Sunday 11/22), word is that the injury isn’t too severe. Nevertheless, knees are always concerning injuries, so hopefully he’s back soon. According to the team, he’ll miss at least the next two contests.

The Cs were totally in control, though after watching them squander a nineteen-point lead in their previous match, I found myself on edge whenever the lead shrunk to 20. However, it looks like they’re doing a better job of responding to adversity. This Nets team flat out sucks, but they have some talent and never threw in the towel (like the Rockets did, and continue to do). And because the Knicks playing some pretty good basketball, the Atlantic Division is going to get more and more exciting to watch as the season moves along.

With Smart out for the next two, Terry Rozier and James Young have been recalled from Portland to fill in the void. My hope is that Rozier can provide some lockdown defense. We’re not exactly counting on Marcus to score a whole lot, so perhaps Brad will start Turner and keep bringing Avery off the bench. That’s my hope anyway. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Brooklyn again on Sunday.

Homer Johnsen is a freelance writer and locker room renovator for the Boston Celtics. Every season, he redesigns player lockers and facilities to better establish feng shui and ambiance. His Celtics analyses and TD Garden locker room blueprints by year are available right here on HeresTheDealLikeShaquille.

11/18/2015: Game 11 -Learning to Keep the Foot on the Gas

Dallas 106 Boston 102

At the end of the first quarter, Boston was up 31-16, and looked dominant. The D was cranked up, and they were scoring and stealing in bunches. Avery came off the bench yet again, and was 5/6.

Then, all of a sudden, Dallas woke up and took over the game. They cut Boston’s lead to nine at halftime, and by the fourth quarter they had taken the lead. Avery finished the night 7/17. Isaiah got pressed, and couldn’t seem to find much daylight, finishing 7/16 with 19 Points. Marcus mustered 2 Points on 1/7 shooting, and his FG% is now down to 33%.

Dirk was masterful, Deron Williams, who hasn’t been Deron Williams in three years, was suddenly Deron Williams again. The whole pregame talk was about how Wesley Matthews hasn’t lived up to expectations this year. And yes, he was only 4/12 from the field, but he was 7/7 at the line, and finished with 18 Points. Zaza Pachulia looked like Dwight Howard, finishing with 14 and 12.

After some late game heroics, by way of a clutch Evan Turner Steal on an inbound pass, and a quick Sully layup, Boston was down two. They fouled Raymond Felton and he missed both free throws. Then, for some unknown reason, Isaiah grabbed the rebound and sprinted up the floor (even though he still had plenty of time). And perhaps thinking that the whole previous sequence of events was too good to be true, he lost his handle, and the ball went out of bounds. That’s when the Mavs hit two free throws to put the game away for good.

If I’m Brad, I’m pissed at the boys for not keeping the pressure on Dallas. Boston squandered a nineteen point lead and had plenty of chances to stay ahead. Unfortunately, this just wasn’t their night.

The good news for all of us, though, is that I’m not Brad. He kept his composure throughout the night, even at the postgame presser, when he spoke of the many positives he hopes the team can bottle up for future contests. I love that guy.

If there is any silver lining to this loss, it’s that it was the Mavs, who’ve now won five in a row and look red-hot out there. If the Cs can keep their composure and confidence, they’ll be fine in their next one…

Brooklyn on Friday.

Homer Johnsen is a freelance writer and floor polisher for the Boston Celtics games. After Bruins games, when the hardwood goes back down, he polishes every square inch with his own saliva and a rag. His Celtics analyses and hydration tips are available right here on HeresTheDealLikeShaquille. 

11/16/2015: Game 10 – Houston, We Have a Huge Problem…

Boston 111 Houston 95

As the first half came to a close, Trevor Ariza scored on a tough, twisting baseline layup to tie the score at 55. Boston had just rattled off a small run after being down by 15 points, so I was happy that they’d come back like that. Little did I know, the second half was going to be a completely different ballgame.

In the third quarter, Boston outscored Houston 32-13, and led by as many as 29. By the start of the fourth, everyone in the Toyota Center knew the game was over. Boston’s defense was the best it’s been during this young season, deflecting passes, poking balls away in the lanes. Hell, Marcus Smart straight up ripped the ball out of different players’ hands THREE times. And the best part? They were subsequently scoring in transition, adding insult to injury against this floundering Rockets team.

Smart was the passionate leader of the night. He totaled just 4 Points on a paltry 1/11 shooting, but his 5 Steals, 6 Assists, and 9 Rebounds equated to a +30 PER, best on the team. Quite simply, his defense was a revelation, and others fed off of it:

  • James Harden mustered just 16 Points in 30 Minutes.
  • Boston ended the night with 16 Steals as a team. Amir added three of his own.
  • Offensively, the Cs shot 47.3% (44/93).

Isaiah is now solidly on fire after his streak of dismal shooting. He was a scorching 9/12, and finished with 23 Points, 6 Assists, 3 Rebounds and 2 Steals. He and Marcus are starting to look like the backcourt of the future in Boston. Especially since Avery, in his new bench role, had 21 Points on 8/14, and played suffocating D for his full 20 Minutes.

There were several moments when I knew I was watching the Celtics team I’d been expecting sine the offseason. The highlights don’t fully portray the effort and dominance displayed by the Cs, but  watch the tape, especially (1:22):

Marcus’ Steal and fullcourt touchdown pass to Avery was the cherry on top of that 23-2 Celtic run. What you didn’t see was the ball zipping around the arc on halfcourt sets, or Avery’s back-to-back Threes that permanently established momentum, or how deflated the Rockets were getting as time went on. Poor Kevin McHale made no effort to conceal his exasperated body language. Something is wrong with the Rockets.

The Cs topped their previous best performance, just one night later on the second night of a back-to-back. They’re playing like we’d hoped they would, and they’re exuding confidence while beating tough teams. The real test, though, will be to not get caught staring at the schedule, building expectations. I already caught myself doing that last night, but the mantra must always be “One game at a time.”

Dallas on Wednesday.

Homer Johnsen is a freelacne writer and Players’ Event Coordinator for the Boston Celtics. With the help of team members, he plans, budgets, and coordinates player birthday parties. His Celtics analyses and e-book, “Green Again?!” And Other Birthday Stories, are accessible right here on HeresTheDealLikeShaquille. 


11/15/2015: Game 9 – Marcus Outsmarts Russell Westbrook

Boston 100 Oklahoma City 85

Now we’re getting somewhere.

Boston rolled into Oklahoma City on Sunday and proudly took care of business. Russ Westbrook and company built a double-digit lead and were ahead for much of the game, but the Cs were undeterred, and powered through the adversity with top notch defense and timely baskets to come away with the best win of the season thus far.

Last year, Marcus Smart’s career high 25 Points came in a losing contest against OKC. Last night, he upped that number to 26 Points, again under the roof of the Chesapeake Energy Arena. Smart was 9/14 and 3/5 from Three, and also tallied 8 Rebounds, 3 Assists, a Steal and a Block against MVP candidate Westbrook, who notched 27 Points, 4 Rebounds, 5 Assists, 3 Steals and 2 Blocks. Whether it was playing in the same state where he went to college, matching up with the type of player he’s projected to be, or some combination of the two, Smart brought his best to the table, and carried the Cs to victory, albeit with a little help from his friends.

Isaiah’s starting to find his efficient stroke again, finishing with 20 Points and 8 Assists on 8/17 shooting. Thomas and Smart were the starting backcourt, while Avery came off the bench, tallying 14 Points (6/12), 4 Assists, 2 Rebounds and a Steal in 26 Minutes. Whether or not Brad is thinking about going forward with this rotation, I already like what I see. Smart and Isaiah strike a nice balance between offense and defense, and if Avery can score efficiently off the bench, his shooting and on-ball D will be a welcome package deal for a 6th Man.

Sully missed his fourth straight double-double by just two points, but he did haul in 15 Rebounds and grab 4 Steals while finishing with 8 Points. Kelly had 7 Points and 7 Boards, along with 3 Steals and a Block off the bench. Amir had 3 big Blocks as the starting big man opposite Sully.

Aside from Smart’s hyper-efficient scoring, his defense set the tone. At one point in particular, he forced Russ into an obvious offensive foul, and in the 4th quarter had a massive block on a breakaway layup attempt by D.J. Augustin. And speaking of the 4th Quarter, the Cs limited the Thunder to just 11 Points. You really can’t play better defense than that.

Now, the Thunder were playing without Kevin Durant, so while we’re certainly allowed to get excited about this victory, it’ll only be tougher next time around. But for now, here’s to a great performance by the Cs.

Houston on Monday.

Homer Johnsen is a freelance writer and professional House Sitter for the Boston Celtics. He takes in the mail, walks the dogs, and rummages the refrigerators of players’ homes when family members are out of town. His Celtics analyses and Price-Per-Square Foot house-sitting spreadsheet are accessible right here on HeresTheDealLikeShaquille.