3/4/2015: Game 59

Boston 85 Utah 84

This was one of the worst offensive performances I’ve ever witnessed. The Celtics were up 34-33 at halftime. Shots started falling in the second half for both teams, but just barely.

In the final seconds, Gordon Hayward got Tyler Zeller to follow him off a pick-and-roll. He stepped back and hit a beautiful fadeaway jumper, stunning the crowd and leaving the Cs only 1.7 seconds to respond.

Here’s what Brad drew up:

The key is this: 7’2 Rudy Gobert, who boasts an outrageous 9’7 standing reach, was tasked with guarding the inbound pass. Smart was undeterred and fired a beauty to Zeller, conveniently facing the hoop.

When he made it, Hayward’s shot had been a dagger. The odds were not in the Cs’ favor to follow-up.

But Gigi Datome reminded Zeller before the play, 1.7 seconds is enough time for an up-fake. It worked, and as a result, the Cs grab the W on the second night of a back-to-back and avoid a second consecutive tough loss.

The Celtics were 33/88 (37.5%) from the field, 8/27 (29.6%) from Three, and 11/20 (55%) from the line. They literally did themselves no favors, except for one thing: they turned the ball over three times, and allowed 0 Points off of Turnovers. And oh, by the way, those are franchise records.

Once again, Isaiah and Crowder led the team coming off the bench. Crowder had 18 Points on 8/17 shooting, 4 Rebounds, 2 Assists and a Block. He missed four free throws, but his efficiency trumps that one caveat. Isaiah had 21 Points (6/12; 2/5), 7 Assists, 3 Rebounds and a Steal in 26 Minutes. That’s right, 21 Points in twenty-six minutes.

The Celtics couldn’t hit the ocean from a boat, but Isaiah and Crowder could. The whole team definitely looked tired from playing the night before, and from flying round-trip within the same day. But now they have just under 48 hours to rest before getting back to it on Friday.

Also, Olynyk played a forgettable 7 Minutes, going 0/3 as he shakes the rust off after missing 18 games. Allow him this one. He’ll be better next time.

This was a win they needed to have. Coming off a 30-point drubbing, the only thing that mattered was responding. They did just that, keeping the coals burning. The Celtics are 11-8 in their last nineteen.

Just keeping playing ball.

Interesting matchup: New Orleans on Friday.

Homer Johnsen is a freelance writer and Celtics voodoo practitioner. He decapitates a chicken before every Celtics game. His Celtics reactions and Voodoo writings are available right here on HeresTheDealLikeShaquille.

3/3/2015: Game 58

Cleveland 110 Boston 79

Yes, that was the final score. After dropping two games in a row, Cleveland had their way with the Cs. Other than out-shooting Boston (48.3% – 35.2%), they also finished with 10 Steals and 52 Rebounds as a team, the other two most glaring statistical victories. They made timely shots and were crackling with defensive energy. Boston was no match.

LeBron reminded everyone why he’s the best in the world. He was moving at half pace, feeling out the game as it unfolded. He had a vested interest in this one after missing two free throws in the final seconds of a game on Sunday. When he was on the floor, surrounded by the Cavs’ quality depth and talent, Cleveland looked like Eastern Conference Champions. If you’re still thinking playoffs for the Cs, think about this game in the first round. Four times.

The Celtics were dreadful. They were 31/88 from the field, and Brandon Bass had team highs with 15 Points and 5 Rebounds. Isaiah was the only other player in double-figures, with 11 Points on 4/13 shooting.

Boston was up 9-5 early in the first. Eventually, Cleveland pulled ahead, slowly but steadily building a lead. All the while, LeBron was zen-like, tip-toeing around the lines and artistically swishing every shot with grace. Once Cleveland got up by 20, the concerned faces started to show on Celtics players. LeBron finished a ridiculous +35 in PER. Whenever he stepped on the court, he was Goliath bullying five Davids without slingshots.

The Celtics’ performance was so bad that there really isn’t much of a takeaway. To keep it PG, let’s just say Brad is “displeased” with the effort:

At halftime, CSN reporter Abby Chin echoed my thoughts when she asked Brad how the Cs would adjust to LeBron, “playing slow.” Brad angrily blinked several times before deadpanning, “Does slow mean good?”

After the game, Jae Crowder, aware that the Celtics will play tomorrow night, sounded ready to turn things around. They’ll be up against a Utah Jazz team that they’ve beaten before. They’ll also be in Boston for that one.

This loss kills all the buzz from their recent wins, but redemption can be had quickly if they seize the opportunity.

Utah on Wednesday.

Homer Johnsen is a freelance writer. He is currently working on a  profile of a third-shift baker for Whole Foods Market. His Celtics analyses and service industry essays are available right here on HeresTheDealLikeShaquille. 

3/1/2015: Game 57

Golden State 106 Boston 101

Tough loss. Boston was up 65-49 at halftime and led by as many as 26, but Golden State willed their way back into the game. After a desperation three-point attempt by Isaiah led to a foul and free throws, the game was over.

Nine players saw minutes tonight, but it was the starters, Isaiah, and Jae that did the heavy lifting. Despite 109 shot attempts and an efficient first half, the Cs finished the game 36.7% from the field. All the starters scored in double-figures, but only Bass (6/12) and Zeller (7/13) shot at an efficient clip. Isaiah led the team with 20 Points, albeit on an 8/21 performance. Jae was an abysmal 4/17, but grabbed 17 Rebounds. From an individual standpoint, Bass had the best performance, finishing with 15 Points and 12 Rebounds.

For Golden State, Steph Curry was simply unstoppable, finishing with 37 Points, 5 Assists, 4 Rebounds, and a Steal. He was 14/22 from the field, 5/8 from Three, 4/4 from the line.

Despite being down 26, Golden State found a way to win the game. They deserve credit for their focus and determination. At the same time, though, they were quick to credit the Celtics’ progress since their last meeting. After the game, Boston players and writers alike were generously throwing around the term “playoff atmosphere.” The Cs lost a big lead and ultimately the game, but they can hang with the best. We’ve known this since they beat Atlanta, and that was the old lineup. With Isaiah in the fold, it’s a little different.

Talking playoffs is a little tricky. For one, the Cs are in a massive hunt with Brooklyn, Indiana, Chicago, Detroit, Charlotte, and Miami (and maybe Milwaukee soon) for the final two spots. There are so many extenuating circumstances that it makes just following the day-to-day progress a major commitment.

I have no problem talking playoffs. These guys are leaps and bounds better than last year, and the first half of this year. But the Cs can’t be squandering 26-Point leads, no matter the opponent. That’s the difference between .500 teams and losing teams. Everything is gelling, the guys are playing consistently competitive basketball, and Olynyk should be back either Tuesday or Wednesday. This loss hurts, but the buzz from the recent wins is still resonating. Brad dropped this quotable in his postgame presser: “The biggest thing I take away: disappointing loss, but I really like the guys in our locker room.”

The sky is the limit.

LeBron and the Cavs on Tuesday.

Homer Johnsen is a freelance writer and artist. His finger-painting exhibit, “Yoda Hands” is currently on display at the Chazan Gallery at the Wheeler School in Providence, Rhode Island. His Celtics Analyses and finger-painting archive are accessible right here on HeresTheDealLikeShaquille. 

2/27/2015: Game 56

Boston 106 Charlotte 98

At the start of the second half, Charlotte went on a 25-1 run and led by as many as 16. In the end, though, Boston stayed poised, dug, and came away with a hard-earned win.

It was a continuation of immediate trends; the bench was dynamite. Isaiah led Boston with 28 Points (9/22), continuously taking it to the basket at will. Jerebko continues turning heads, going 6/9 (3/4 from Three) for 16 Points and 10 Rebounds. Crowder was 5/11 (4/8 from Three) for 14 Points and 6 Rebounds. As for the starters, Avery and Marcus were the only ones in double-figures, with 19 (8/18; 3/5) and 10 (4/9; 2/6) respectively.

I often harp on Boston’s resilience in late-in-the-game situations. Considering their records last year and this year, it’s been one of the easier facets to notice. Now, having won 7 of their last 10, it’s clear they’re maximizing their potential in said situations, with much greater poise and frequency. They are turning a very important corner at the intersection of “Losers” and “Winners” (pardon the cheesiness). Until Olynyk returns to action, the deadline deals have done nothing, if not strengthened team chemistry. Jerebko is simultaneously picking up Sully’s production and playing himself into a lucrative deal this summer. And, given all of this recent talk about Sully’s conditioning and weight issues, it puts the onus on him to get in shape fast, or Jerebko could end up being the mainstay in Boston. Not that I want Sully gone or anything. I’m just a firm believer in competition bringing out the best in players.

Every time Isaiah plays like this, I shed a single tear and rhetorically thank Danny Ainge for such a highway robbery of a trade. Marcus Thornton barely sees the court in Phoenix, and that Cavs pick in 2016 is going to be in the late-20s, if not #30. Barring any major changes, the backcourt for at least the next three years in Boston is Bradley, Smart, and Thomas. Well done, Danny.

The most obvious key to the Celtics’ productivity, though, has been the bench play. Thomas and Crowder are really holding down the second unit, and if Jerebko keeps playing the way he has been, that’s a third angle of attack. Again, Olynyk will be back soon, so that is certainly going to shake things up a bit. But his return is far from a detriment to recent successes. It’s easy to think that way, but at the end of the day, Brad distributes the minutes, and he’s going to find a way to make it work. Having a deep roster is nothing new to him.

Big one on Sunday. Golden State.

Homer Johnsen is a freelance writer and independent Celtics ticket broker. He amassed his fortune during the team’s miracle postseason run of 2002. His Celtics analyses and ticket information are available right here on HeresTheDealLikeShaquille. 

2/25/2015: Game 55

Boston 115 New York 94

At one point during the 4th Quarter, the Cs got a steal and ran out on transition. Avery ended up getting a wide open look at a 3 from the right elbow, but instead, he kicked it over to Isaiah on the left side, who drilled the shot with supreme confidence. Knicks coach Derek Fisher called a timeout, sulking in devastation. The garden was screaming. Isaiah, stone-faced, crossed the court and met Avery. They hugged before going back to the bench.

I closed my eyes and held a first in the air. The Cs were crackling with energy. And then the network talking head who was back at the studio mentioned the Rondo/Coach Carlisle spat, which was the cherry on top. Things are looking the Cs’ way.

The Celtics outscored the Knicks 67-45 in the second half, easily grabbing their fourth consecutive win at home. But it wasn’t a wash in the first half. There were 19 lead changes and 10 ties when the Celtics took a 73-72 lead. After that, they proceeded to score 20 unanswered.

The offense was absolutely sizzling tonight. Especially from distance. Everyone was getting it in.

It’s hard to pick where to start, so here’s the quick-and-dirty abbreviation:

  • E.T. had a triple-double, the first of his career (10 Points, 10 Assists, 12 Rebounds).
  • Jerebko had 20 Points off the bench. He was an unconscious 4/6 from distance.
  • Crowder had 18 and was 3/5 from Three.
  • Isaiah had 19 Points, 7 Assists and 6 Rebounds. He was only 3/10 from the field, but 11/11 from the Free Throw line. As Mike Gorman noted, Thomas made more Free Throws in his first two games as a Celtic than Rondo did in his final 20.
  • Marcus had 16 Points on 6/9 Shooting (3/5 from Three). Really great to see him shoot it above-average tonight. His FG% has taken a dive recently, so he deserves the praise.

Twenty Points from Jerebko is pretty absurd, and I think it would be wise not to expect that kind of productivity on a nightly basis. Save for the rebounding, though, he was an excellent replacement for Sullinger, with the scoring and defense (he had 1 Steal). He looked like Ray Allen out there, pulling up at will and burying 3s over and over again. He was a most pleasant surprise.

Evan’s triple-double was also a big moment. He had come close on numerous occasions, so to see him finally get one was gratifying. He’s got to feel good, and it no doubt had a cumulative effect. The Cs were lights out all night, shooting 50% from the field and 45% from Three (14/31). Turner’s ball movement can be attributed to some of those easy looks the Celtics got. The assist that clinched Evan’s triple-double came with him slowly cutting towards the hoop before handing it off to a backdoor-cutting Marcus Smart for an easy bunny. Team ball movement enabled great shooting.

Isaiah also deserves praise for his 11/11 Free Throw-line performance. He’s a way more efficient shooter than 3/10 from the field, but the aggression that earns a player 11 Free Throw attempts is found in very few.

I’m a little worried about Marcus, though. The Tacoma Backcourt obviously loves playing together, and they’ve been playing great ball thus far. Smart is only a rookie, but he was one of the top prospects in the draft. He needs to continue to be developed as the Point Guard of the future. One way or another, something is going to have to give, I just don’t want to see any bitterness or sour feelings. They are both team-first guys, but they still want to be the best that they can be. That means starting. But we’ll wait and see.

If I’ve said it before I’ve said it a thousand times: the Knicks suck. This was a great win for the Cs, but the Knicks really held their own before the 20-0 run. If the Cs want to build upon this two-game win streak they’re currently on, they’ll need to correct the errors that enabled the Knicks to hang around for so long.

Overall, a great win for the team. Spirits have got to be sky high.

Charlotte on Friday.

Homer Johnsen is a freelance writer and Celtics Encyclopedia archiver. He has been noting hockey assists in every game for future use by the NBA, should they decide to introduce the metric. His Celtics reactions and hockey assist data are available right here on HeresTheDealLikeShaquille.

2/23/2015: Game 54

Boston 115 Phoenix 110

Phoenix just can’t catch a break. After surprising everyone last year with their playoff push and an equally hot start this season, things are falling apart fast. At the deadline, they moved Goran Dragic, Tyler Ennis and Isaiah Thomas, starting from scratch with the roster of Point Guards already in place. Luckily for Boston, Thomas is now in green, and has scored 21 Points in two games.

This win was a great morale-boosting win for the Cs. Isaiah was a beast, with 21 Points and 7 Assists 27 minutes off the bench. With the Suns making a late push with just over a minute to play, Isaiah nailed a three-pointer while getting fouled, sealing the 4-Point play at the line. On the next Suns possession, he grabbed a Steal, getting the team out in transition. He trailed behind, caught a pass at the top of the key, burned some clock, and then slashed to the hoop for a devastating reverse layup.

On both plays, he endeared himself to Boston fans, staring down his former teammates:

Though Thomas has played great in two games as a Celtic, his teammates were able to help out . Avery had a monster night, with 23 Points, 4 Rebounds, 3 Assists and a crazy 6 Steals. He shot a blistering 8/14 from the field, and 3/4 from distance. Bass maintained his torrential output as a starter, dropping 18 Points, 6 Rebounds, 3 Assists and 2 Steals. Zeller and Crowder each had 12 Points, and Crowder also contributed 7 Rebounds, 4 Assists and 2 Steals. E.T. had 10 Points, 8 Rebound and 4 Assists. My boy James Young managed 8 Points and 5 Rebounds in 19 minutes.

Marcus Smart continues to struggle offensively, finishing with 8 Points on 2/7 shooting in a mere 24 Minutes. I’m optimistic though, because Isaiah should be prove to be a useful teacher for the young guy. He plays the way Smart should be playing. I’m not too concerned for Marcus, because he’s a rookie so there is plenty of time to adjust. Also, Thomas is skilled at driving to the hoop. With Smart’s ever-developing three-point shot, Thomas can help teach him the rest of what he needs to know.

The team production in this win was excellent. Boston didn’t shoot the lights out, but they had six players in double figures and two with 8 Points. They’re sharing and everyone is contributing. With their next two games against the Knicks and the Hornets, they have a chance to start building some momentum off of this big win.

New York on Wednesday.

Homer Johnsen is a freelance writer and ukulele maker. His instruments are exclusively used by the sumo wrestlers of La Jolla, California. His Celtics analysis and wood carving tips are available right here on HeresTheDealLikeShaquille.

2/22/2015: Game 53

Los Angeles 118 Boston 111

Isaiah Thomas had quite the coming out party as a Celtic. The new guy was 6/13– 3/7 from distance– and finished with 21 Points, 5 Rebounds, 3 Assists and 2 Steals in just 25 Minutes. After getting called for traveling with five minutes remaining in the 4th Quarter, Thomas spiked the ball in frustration, catching it before it bounced up and away. He got T’d up. He then took the Lord’s name in vain, and then rolled the ball to another referee, which subsequently got him ejected.

The Cs rallied from a 10-point deficit after Thomas’ ejection and forced OT on another clutch shot by Avery. But they couldn’t hang on and lost a winnable one, falling to 20-33.

In the second game after the All-Star break, the Cs did everything right except shoot the ball efficiently. Thomas had himself a game, and Jae Crowder was the unsuspecting high scorer with 22 Points off the bench on 8/14 shooting. Evan Turner had 12 Points and 12 Assists running the point, but shot an abysmal 5/19 shooting. One would think that somehwere around 5/15 he might stick to just passing. Bradley had 20 Points, his second consecutive game with 20-something points. Marcus Smart had 11 Points on 3/9 shooting before fouling after 31 Minutes of floor time.

But that’s it.

The Cs were 42/98 (42.9%) as a team. The Lakers finished 43/84 (51.2%). The Cs are able to hang around in these games because of the stellar pace they play with, but if the shots aren’t falling, then they aren’t doing themselves any favors. Isaiah will alleviate some of these inconsistencies going forward, but he’s going to need all the help he can get. We can’t get used to games like Crowder had, just because that’s unrealistic. And Avery needs to continue asserting himself as an offensive leader.

Sullinger is out for the season. Olynyk is still out. Those are two big offensive contributors that aren’t contributing. Olynyk’s return will be huge, and less problematic given Sully’s absence and the difficulty with finding floor-time for both of them, Bass, Zeller and the new guy, Jerebko.

After building great cohesion before the break, the Cs roster has been shaken up via trades and a fairly major injury. Playoffs are probably out of the equation , but any long-term concerns can be corrected on the floor, in due time.

Phoenix on Monday.

Homer Johnsen is a freelance writer and mixtape rapper. His most recent single, “Never Been Clearer,” off his most recent Lucid Showers tape is out now. His Celtics reactions and mixtape discography are available right here on HeresTheDealLikeShaquille.