3/29/2015: Game 73

Los Angeles 119 Boston 106

At the end of the first quarter, L.A. was up 34-20. That set the tone for the rest of the game. Boston won a lopsided fourth quarter 27-14, but the damage had already been done. The Clips were firmly in control all night, surmounting at one point a lead as high as 25 Points.

The good news for Boston is Isaiah is getting back to normal. He finished with 19 Points and 7 Assists in 27 Minutes. He was 9/10 shooting free throws, but a paltry 4/12 from the Field. Even more surprising, the bench had three other guys in double-figures: Kelly (14), Gigi (12) and Jonas (10). The only starters in double-figures were Zeller (16) and Bass (13). Judging by these numbers, the Cs did a good job addressing the ball movement issues that have plagued them over the last two games. They even had fewer turnovers than the Clips (10 vs. 12).

But that’s about it. L.A. beasted on the boards (53-40), and made five more three-pointers than Boston. Look no further than J.J. Redick, who was a lights out 5/6 from distance. J.J. notwithstanding, the whole Clippers starting unit was on fire and dominated Boston.

After the game Isaiah suggested the Cs need to get in the habit of “punching first.” The sentiment may be right; we always hear about Boston mounting a big comeback, never crushing opponents from the get-go.

However, some of the trouble-making members of the media took the time to twist his words into a plea to start. Talking about his starting status is supposed to be avoided. One of the reasons Isaiah was dealt out of Phoenix was a supposed mounting frustration over coming off the bench. Since arriving in Boston he’s kept it cordial and is saying all the right things, but the more reporters stir the pot, the more of an issue it’s going to become.

I, for one, am not to keen on getting him into the starting lineup. He and Marcus combine for a very effective offense/defense tag-team. Not to mention, these past few games he’s been shooting quite inefficiently. Yes, he puts up 20 Points a game, but on wildly inefficient clips. Shooting 4/12 should not be rewarded with a starting spot.

The Cs are wavering down this very important final stretch. Recently, Avery has been quiet offensively and Marcus is struggling. Everyone needs to show up.

These next three games are going to have pivotal impacts on the playoff race. Stay tuned.

Charlotte on Monday.

Homer Johnsen is a freelance writer and ticket broker for the Boston Celtics players. He once secured twenty tickets for Ricky Davis’ extended family in 2006. His Celtics analyses and ticket FAQs are available right here on HeresTheDealLikeShaquille.

3/27/2015: Game 72

Boston 96 New York 92

This game was a lot closer than it should have been for no apparent reason. New York played a very decent ballgame on their home court, it just wasn’t enough to get the win. They beat the Cs in nearly every major statistical category, and their biggest victory was in Field Goals, with 87 Attempts to Boston’s 69. Boston’s saving grace? They took 43 Free Throws to the Knicks’ 14.

Isaiah is slowly getting back to normal, registering 18 Points off the bench, albeit on 4/13 Shooting. In one particular moment, he had a beautiful and-one on a made three-point attempt. Crowder continues his consistent bench play, with 17 Points and 9 Rebounds in 29 Minutes. Bass got a double-double (16 Points, 10 Rebounds) and E.T. keeps filling the statsheet, with 15 Points, 7 Rebounds, and 5 Assists.

Here’s a fun fact I learned recently: the only Celtics with at least two triple-doubles are Larry Bird, Antoine Walker, Paul Pierce, Rajon Rondo and Evan Turner.  Way to go E.T.!

The Celtics aren’t known for their tenacity around the basket, but this game was the exception. Here’s a quick glimpse at the guys who led the way in free-throw attempts:

  • Bass: 8/10
  • Isaiah: 8/9
  • Jae Crowder: 7/8
  • Turner: 5/7

Olynyk, Bradley and Smart also had trips to the charity stripe. Boston had many turnovers and the Knicks played better defense, but the Cs still found a way to win by putting themselves in the right position. They’ll need to tighten up the ball security and play with better pace, an issue that carried over from their last loss against Miami.

As Brad recently noted, the Cs have 10 games left to play, all of which are against teams either headed to the postseason or fighting for a spot. In his words, it should be “fun.” Boston sits half a game above Brooklyn for the 8th and final spot in the East. They’re going to have their hands full tonight with the Clippers, but they’ll also be in Boston. If they want to have a chance in this one, they’ll have to play leaps and bounds better than they did against the league-worst Knicks. The Clippers are playing great basketball, and the Blake Griffin/DeAndre Jordan frontcourt is going to be a nightmare.

Where there’s a will there’s a way, and Boston most certainly has a will.

Clips on Sunday.

Homer Johnsen is a freelance writer and resource specialist for the Boston Celtics. During the offseason he runs multiple dehumidifiers and filters the collected water for player consumption during practices. His Celtics reactions and water purification guide are accessible right here on HeresTheDealLikeShaquille. 

3/25/2015: Game 71

Miami 93 Boston 86

That final score doesn’t tell the whole story. Frankly, Boston was never really in this one. Consensus seems to be that they were unprepared for no apparent reason, which is disconcerting considering recent play and that they’re battling Miami for a potential playoff spot.

The Heat were up by 17 at halftime, and then by 20 going into the 4th Quarter. They were also playing without Hassan Whiteside and Dwyane Wade. That right there was reason enough for the Cs to run away with a nice victory at home.

There aren’t a lot of stats that point to Miami’s dominance. Quite simply, they just played with better pace and made timely shots. The Heat finished shooting 44.2% (34/77), as compared to Boston’s 40.6% (28/69). Neither team shot the lights out, but Miami attempted and made more shots. Boston’s bread and butter is supposed to be pace. But one never would have guessed that in this one.

Isaiah returned, but unfortunately made no impact whatsoever. He had his first underwhelming game in a Celtics uniform, registering 4 Points and 3 Turnovers on 2/7 Shooting. Jae led the way with 16 Points and 7 Rebounds. Pressey filled the statsheet with 11 Points, 6 Assists, 5 Rebounds, a Steal and a Block.

Both teams had 16 Turnovers, but Boston allowed 18 Points Off of Turnovers, while Miami only allowed 9. Their transition D was leaps and bounds ahead of the Cs’, which speaks to Boston’s inefficient shooting numbers.

After a blowout win in Brooklyn, the Cs find themselves right back where they were after losing to a poor Detroit team at home. It’s interesting how they’re losing at home and winning on the road; not exactly a great proposition.

No excuses. This was a game they were supposed to win and they didn’t. They’re going to have to right the ship before playing the laughing-stock Knicks on Friday. The implications in that one are dire.

They’ll need better play from their starters. E.T. and Avery have been beacons of consistency on the offensive end. Marcus is still playing great D; he registered 4 Steals against Miami. But he was only 1/8 from the field. The defense is there. So now Isaiah must get reincorporated into the offense and pick up where he left off before he got hurt. If they can pinpoint their deficiencies, all the wrongs can easily be righted.

New York on Friday.

Homer Johnsen is a freelance writer and press secretary for Brad Stevens. His Celtics analyses and Q+A referrals are found right here on HeresTheDealLikeShaquille.

3/23/2015: Game 70

Boston 110 Brooklyn 91

The ever-volatile Celtics were able to keep their losing to three games in-a-row before grabbing a win on the road in Brooklyn. Once again, on the second night of a back-to-back, Boston came ready to play. This is a great win, strictly from an effort standpoint.

E.T. notched his second triple-double of the year, finishing with 19 Points, 10 Rebounds and 12 Assists on a red hot 9/13 Shooting. Avery led all Boston scorers with 20 on 8/16 and 7 Rebounds to boot. After that, Zeller (9/13) and Olynyk (7/12; 3/5) each had 18 Points, Bass had 12, and Jerebko had 10. The scoring was constant, and as a team, the Cs shot 51%.

Marcus played 23 Minutes after serving a one-game suspension. Statistically, his performance was underwhelming, but his hustle and tenacity were apparent; it was the adhesive that the Cs needed to fully gel and run away with the victory. As I’ve mentioned in the past, his stellar offensive performances are exciting when they happen once in a blue moon. However, his reputation continues to precede him as a ferocious defender. The offense will come. It isn’t necessary when the rest of the team is sharing the load like they did in this one.

There’s lots to like about this win. E.T.’s triple-double is a nice footnote, but more importantly, he continues asserting himself as truly rock solid. His midrange game is as money as anybody else in the league, and he drives to the hoop readily and often. When he isn’t scoring, he’s assisting with great frequency.

Equally exciting is Kelly stepping up. He has been inconsistent since returning from a prolonged absence. He was the master of momentum control in this one, hitting big shots at all the right moments. The Cs led for the vast majority of the game, but it never really felt secure. Time after time, they responded to adversity, which is the most encouraging sign they can give.

They got the win they needed to stop the bleeding, and to keep them in playoff contention. The bigger story, though, will be Wednesday, when Isaiah is scheduled to return against Miami, the team he last played and got injured against. Let’s keep this momentum rolling.

Miami on Wednesday.

Homer Johnsen is a freelance writer and entrepreneur. His current research is focused on a a Bluetooth app that articulates thoughts through wireless speakers. His Celtics analyses and donation prospectus are accessible right here on HeresTheDealLikeShaquille.

3/22/2015: Game 69

Detroit 105 Boston 97

Bad loss. Not to be mistaken with the phrase “tough loss.” This was a bad, bad loss for the Celtics. Going into halftime they were in control. But in the 4th Quarter the wheels came off, and in OT they never stood a chance. After losing to OKC and San Antonio on the road, Detroit in Boston was supposed to be a reward.

On December 26, 2014, my family and I attended a Nets vs. Celtics game in Boston. Through the first three quarters of that one, the Celtics were firmly in control, but I had a sinking feeling that their steady lead would not hold. Lo and behold, the Nets came back in the 4th and won the game.

Call it Déjà vu, or whatever, but that exact scenario unfolded in front of my eyes in this game too. After handily winning the 2nd Quarter, the Cs kept Detroit in check in the third frame, mostly by way of Hack-A-Drummond (2-11 FTs). Calling the game alongside Mike Gorman, Globe writer Jackie MacMullan suggested that that tactic might disrupt the flow of Boston’s defense. She was right. Reggie Jackson began driving with a vengeance, and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope was hitting jumpshots.

Everything fell apart in the 4th Quarter, even the end of the game, out-of-timeout play drawn up by Brad with plenty of time and the shotclock off. E.T. merely fumbled his fadeaway attempt and that was it for regulation. Detroit won OT 17-9. A blowout.

The Cs shot 36.2% on the night. That just about sums up their game. With Smart suspended, Jae was in the starting lineup, and performed admirably with 19 Points, 7 Rebounds, 3 Assists, a Steal and a Block. Unfortunately, though, that meant bench production would take a hit. Jerebko led the way with 10 Points, albeit on 4/12. The rest of the bench combined to go 4/21.

Isaiah was out again, but should be back soon. Nevertheless, the foundation of this team’s future is the three-headed monster that is Smart, Bradley and Thomas in the backcourt. Avery was cold (4/10) and didn’t have the help he needed. Smart will be back for the next game, and Thomas should be back some time this week. What I’m trying to say is the absence of key players really messes things up.

Again, the East is so atrociously bad that the Cs are still the 8th and final seed. But it’s time to pick up the slack.

Brooklyn on Monday.

Homer Johnsen is a freelance writer and team paralegal for the Boston Celtics. He archives all spoken interactions within the Boston locker room. His Celtics reactions and paralegal C.V. are accessible right here on HeresTheDealLikeShaquille. 

3/20/2015: Game 68

San Antonio 101 Boston 89

The final score makes this game seem closer than it actually was. The fact is, Boston was never really in it. The Spurs came out red-hot, and stayed that way for the game’s entirety. The whole starting five scored in double-figures, and Kawhii Leonard led the way with 22 Points on 8/14 Shooting.

The absence of Isaiah Thomas is starting to be felt. Jae was the only Celtic off the bench in double-figures, with 14 Points on a not-so-efficient 5/14. E.T. was the leading scorer with 17 Points, and Avery was right behind with 16.

The most glaring statistical discrepancy between the two teams could be found in the Assist category. San Antonio had an incredible 31 Assists, and Boston had only 19. Both teams did an adequate job minimizing Turnovers, but the Spurs’ ball movement clearly was far superior. Of course, they also shot better from the field (46.9% vs. 39.8%).

The loss in OKC was digestible, because the Cs very nearly won the game. This one, though, was simply no contest. The point difference shrank in the 4th Quarter, after Boston depleted San Antonio’s 20-Point lead. What’s more, frustrations were boiling so high that Marcus Smart punched Matt Bonner in the groin while coming off of a screen. He’ll likely be suspended for a game or two.

There aren’t many keys to this game. The Cs looked like nothing more than a weak leak in the Eastern Conference, while the Spurs looked like the defending champions.

The Celtics’ next three games are against Detroit, Brooklyn and Miami, three teams jockeying for a playoff spot in the East. Hopefully, with Isaiah back in the fold the approach will be improved. After a loss like this one, the Cs have no choice but to respond with vengeance.

Detroit on Sunday.

Homer Johnsen is a freelance writer and team maharishi for the Boston Celtics. At this very moment, he is meditating with Marcus Smart. His Celtics analyses and group meditation techniques list are available right here on HeresTheDealLikeShaquille. 

3/18/2015: Game 67

Oklahoma City 122 Boston 118

Boston played well in the first half, carrying a lead into halftime. But in the second frame, the sleeping giant that was OKC awoke and ran away with the win. Russell Westbrook continued his legend-worthy play, dropping 35 Points, 10 Assists, 5 Rebounds, and 5 Steals. If it’s any consolation (and it sort of is, for me at least), the Cs limited him to 8/26 shooting. The game was won on the defensive end, and OKC was only slightly better to that end.

The Cs have been exhibiting nice ball security as of late, but this game was no continuation. They turned it over 20 times, including eight instances in the 1st Quarter alone. Though they were very much in it during the first half, the sloppiness carried over into the second frame, and ultimately did them in. The Thunder don’t need Kevin Durant to be a good team, and that became perfectly clear in this one.

The defensive mishaps and turnovers are disappointing considering Boston’s play in all other realms. They shot 52.4% (44/84) and had an incredible 32 Assists. But Westbrook made 19 of his (absurd) 22 Free Throw attempts. That, coupled with good defense, helped OKC run away with the W.

Kelly and Bass each had 20 Points on efficient shooting clips, but the real star was Marcus Smart. Back in Oklahoma for the first time since his college days at OSU, Smart did his best Westbrook impression, putting up 25 Points, 9 Rebounds, 5 Assists, 2 Steals and 2 Blocks in 37 Minutes. His superstar performances have been few and far between, but man, are they satisfying to watch when they do happen. Granted the bulk of his points (21) came from long distance, it’s nice to see his shooting touch getting softer and softer. He’s built very similarly to Westbrook. Once he starts taking it to the basket with reckless abandon, he’ll be a true force in this leage AND the starting Point Guard of the future that the Cs hope he can be.

With this loss, the Cs’ 5-game winning streak comes to end. It was fun while it lasted. Luckily, they retained the 8th and final playoff spot in the East. And they didn’t get blown out, further proving that they can hang with the best.

The test continues with the champion San Antonio Spurs on Friday.

Homer Johnsen is a freelance writer, and A&R for Brandon Bass the rapper. His Celtics Analyses and booking information for Bass are available right here on HeresTheDealLikeShaquille.