Venting My Anxieties Before the Draft

Apologies for abandoning post during the playoffs. I have a romantic notion of my departure as a Howard Hughes type of bender, seeking to immerse myself in the intensity of the first round. That’s basically what happened, but the series ended in a 4-2 loss, which felt worse than just a punch to the gut. Isaiah got double-teamed on every pick-n-roll, and no one was able to step up as a #2 option.

The Cs got exposed.

This, coupled with the Cavaliers-Warriors Finals, teaches us all a valuable lesson about how the Celtics need to proceed. I’ll say it for the umpteenth time, “The foundation is in place.” All they have to do is move/acquire a few pieces.

The draft is in two days. Are we keeping the #3 pick, let alone 16, 23, 31, 35, 45, 51 and 58? We need more established talent now, and no one in this draft can provide that. Dragan Bender could be the next star out of Europe, but needs at least a year to develop. Kris Dunn has All-Star potential, but won’t be drafted by the Cs unless he, or Avery/Marcus/Terry is subsequently traded. Same goes for Jamal Murray and Buddy Hield.

We’re better off trading the pick for a player. Names have ranged all over, from Jahlil Okafor to Jimmy Butler. Butler, of course, is the ideal acquisition. He played like an MVP for a couple months last year, before settling down as just an All-Star caliber player. To get him, though, would require everything plus the kitchen sink. Say, #3 and #16, Avery, Terry and Jonas. And that’s just a start.

On the other hand, reports are surfacing about how Jahlil Okafor and Nerlens Noel aren’t as valuable as Philly thought they were. If Boston can get rid of #3 for either of them straight up (or with the right player or two), that’s a quality move.

Having the #3 pick is a luxury most teams would love to have. Unfortunately for the Cs, it just isn’t the most appealing asset in 2016. Plus no one wants to trade with Danny after all of his recent heists. If Charlotte wouldn’t take five picks for the #9 last year, can you imagine the luck he’s been having this time around?

I have faith Danny will trade the pick. If he does, the Cs are better immediately. If he doesn’t, we’ll land a quality prospect, and may or may not feel ripple effects within the roster. One way or another, the first domino falls on Thursday.

 

4/16/2016: Round 1 Game 1 – Cs Take a Tough L in Their Playoff Opener

Atlanta 102 Boston 101

So many things went wrong for the Cs, it’s a miracle the game ended as close as it did. They repeated recent mistakes that are simply inexcusable, namely, playing soft in the first half. Atlanta won the first quarter 30-19, and the second quarter 21-15.

But then Boston came surging back, chipping a 19-Point deficit down to a tie. They took the lead right after on an Isaiah drive-and-kick to Jae for a corner three. 83-80.

But just as quick, A.B. fell to the floor grabbing his left hamstring in anguish. He tried to walk off the court under his own power but succumbed to the pain. From that point on, the writing was on the wall for the Cs.

Both teams traded barbs all the way down to the end, but Boston was fighting against the momentum. First, it was Avery. Then, Kelly’s absence started to stand out like a sore thumb. Or– in his case– shoulder. The bigs couldn’t stretch on offense, and Amir got exposed trying to guard Al Horford on the wing. Paul Millsap had his way with everyone who tried to guard him. Even Jeff Teague was beating the bigs to the hoop and finishing easy layups.

Save for their big run, the Cs didn’t do much of anything to help their cause. It starts with not allowing the opposition to have carte blanche in the first half. The Miami run was great, and if A.B. doesn’t get injured, maybe they run away with the win on Saturday. But at the end of the day, they need to play with greater urgency for the full 48 Minutes.

With Avery out, Marcus gets the start. Kelly’s shoulder is still bothering him, so even if he plays, E.T. has to play like the Sixth Man of the Year candidate that he is. And then someone, whether it’s Terry, R.J. or anyone else, needs to chip in. A.B.’s absence greatly deters our defense, and we can’t count on Marcus to do it all without fouling too much.

Every playoff game is a must-win, though Tuesday carries a particular gravity. Let’s get it.

Atlanta tonight.

Homer Johnsen is a freelance writer and Hydration Specialist for the Boston Celtics. He provides players with his own formula that guarantees lessened anxiety. His Celtics analyses and other dehydration remedies are available right here at HeresTheDealLikeShaquille.

4/16/2016: Game 82 – Cs Finish the Season on the Highest Possible Note

Boston 98 Miami 88

It was Legends Week at the Garden, with members of the ’66, ’76, and ’86 Celtics Championship teams in town to commemorate their respective anniversaries. Sitting courtside were Bill Russell, Kevin McHale and Bill Walton, among many others. It was a special evening for the players and the fans to have so much Celtic star power in the same room. Unfortunately, the game didn’t start the way it was supposed to.

Miami came out blazing, winning the first quarter 35-13. By halftime, Boston trailed by 24 and got showered with boos by the embarrassed home crowd. According to Jae and I.T., Brad sat down and spoke softly, but bluntly:

“Who do we want to be? There are guys sitting around this building that hung banners. Like, how do you want to play? How do we want to feel about ourselves?”

According to Abby Chin of CSNNE, Brad also reportedly called their first half effort, “Embarrassing.”

Whatever he may have said, he was probably saving it all year for this moment. Boston held Miami to 5 Points in the third quarter. They cut the lead to 4, and ran away with the momentum in the 4th after a scuffle between Smart, Turner and Goran Dragic. When it was apparent the comeback was complete, Cs fans stood and cheered, and the legends gave smiling looks of approval. Isaiah even mustered up the courage to sit down next to Bill Russell for a handshake after the final buzzer.

Bottom line, this was a big win. Huge win. The Golden State shocker had been the game of the year, but there’s no way this one can’t be it. Boston surmounted a 24-Point deficit with defense and an insatiable will to never give up. They grinded this one out, showing what they’re all about. They really couldn’t have asked for a better way to enter the playoffs, with this much momentum  behind them.

Isaiah led the way with 21 Points, but on a gross 4/15 from the field. But, he was flanked by Avery, Jae, E.T. and Kelly, who all turned in strong offensive performances of their own. Those four all need to be the main offensive contributors in the postseason. Especially E.T. and Kelly, who can facilitate and stretch the floor respectively.

Anyways, this season has nearly met all of my lofty expectations. As a selfish fan, I was dead set on 50 wins, but 48 is nothing to sneeze at either, especially when three other Eastern Conference teams finished with the same record. Boston finally asserted themselves as a legitimate force, and are poised to make noise in the playoffs and beyond. Stay tuned.

Game 1 on Saturday.

Homer Johnsen is a freelance writer and Assistant to the Director of Communications for the Boston Celtics. He proofreads the daily memos and designs the watermarks. His Celtics analyses and gallery of watermarks are accessible right here at HeresTheDealLikeShaquille. 

4/10/2016 – 4/12/2016: Games 80 & 81: Cs Drop Two Big Games with Little to Show

Atlanta 118 Boston 107

Charlotte 114 Boston 100

Uncharacteristic, to say the very least.

The Boston Celtics, a proven success this season, seem to have taken steps backwards ahead of the playoffs. Once fighting for the Third Seed, they’re now fighting for homecourt advantage. More troubling, though, is how they’ve played in these last two games.

Well, let me be long-winded for a minute: they played their best first half of basketball this season against Atlanta. Both teams shot over 50%, AND played great defense. Two clubs all about execution and ball movement.

But that first half was the Cs’ only moment in the sun. Atlanta caught momentum midway through the third quarter before pulling firmly ahead and running away with it in the fourth.

Their chance for redemption was another tough matchup (Charlotte), a home game. It didn’t take long for the wheels to fall off either. Charlotte went on a 31-3 run in the second quarter, which they ultimately won 39-13. The lead got down to 14 Points, but never got any lower.

The consistent flaw in each game is the Cs’ inability to break out of a shooting slump. A snowball effect usually follows, revealing itself in frustrated body language, and then, of course, stupid mistakes. Against Charlotte, Isaiah was the victim of a bad call, and tossed it back at the ref not aggressively, but with a palpable “F*ck You,” to it. Brad quickly subbed him out and sat him for the remainder of the night. Needless to say, there was a meeting, of which there are no particulars. There’s no doubt though, that Brad is cracking down on body language. The Cs’ open frustration is too obvious at this point, and it’s wearing them down.

This rough patch isn’t insurmountable. It can’t be. Not with this, their final game of the season against their inevitable playoff matchup, the Miami Heat.

Wednesday.

Homer Johnsen is a freelance writer and One-Liner comedian for the Boston Celtics. After their tough loss to Charlotte, Homer quipped: “This one stings.” His Celtics analyses and list of other NBA one-liners are available right here at HeresTheDealLikeShaquille. 

 

4/6/2016 – 4/8/2016: Games 78 & 79 – Cs Continue Winning As Playoffs Approach

Boston 104 New Orleans 97

Boston 124 Milwaukee 109

After five in a row out West, the Cs got to enjoy two at home against sub .500 teams. New Orleans had none of their starters but still put up a good fight, while Milwaukee came out roaring but couldn’t keep the pace.

Both wins put one of the Celtics’ key traits on display: determination.

It manifested itself in different ways. Against New Orleans, Boston started the night ice-cold from the field; 10 for their first 30. Everyone knew they were supposed to be blowing out the Pelicans and they weren’t. But they stayed focused and undeterred, and kept their small lead until the very end.

Against Milwaukee, they fell into a hole quickly. Giannis was giving Boston a taste of just how dominant he’ll inevitably be, and the Bucks were running and scoring in transition. They led by ten in the first quarter before Brad was able to get the guys focused again. The Cs’ systematic dismantling of the Bucks began in the fourth quarter, with a gradual chipping at the lead until they were comfortably ahead and building.

Isaiah’s streak of 17 games as the Celtics’ leading scorer ended at the hands of Tyler Zeller (really?!) who dropped 26 on 9/15, and added 4 Blocks. I.T. did have 20 Points on a remarkable 7/9 shooting. Brad’s favorite stat of the night, though (I’m assuming), would be Smart and E.T. coming off the bench with 9 Assists each. The Cs finished the game with 35, which is really an astounding number. Granted this Bucks team isn’t a playoff contender, but the Cs are looking locked in ahead of the postseason.

I shouldn’t let us get ahead of ourselves, though. Big one tonight: Atlanta.

Homer Johnsen is a freelance writer and documentary film maker, employed by the Boston Celtics. He’s currently working on a feature about Isaiah Thomas, and how he channels his Napoleonic rage through the medium of basketball. His Celtics analyses and link to his IMDB profile are available right here at HeresTheDealLikeShaquille.

3/26/2016 – 4/3/2016: Games 73 -77: Cs Win Their West Coast Roadtrip, Ready for Playoffs

Please forgive my uncharacteristically tardy reactions for the last five games. Instead of following the regular routine, I thought it might be more fun to cover the entire roadtrip all at once. In any case, you should’ve been forewarned, and for not doing so, I apologize.

Let’s get down to it, shall we?

The Cs ended the whole shebang with a 3-2 record, starting cold and ending hot. They beat Phoenix, but not without some unexpected difficulty. Then they got embarrassed by the Clippers. It wasn’t even close.

Game 3 was a tough one to watch against Portland. The Cs played well in the first half and parts of the third quarter before the Trail Blazers caught on fire in the 4th. It stung a little more than usual, since the Cs had to trek into Oakland to face the undefeated-at-home Golden State Warriors. All on the second night of a back-to-back.

Amazingly, they showed up and handled their business. Avery kept Steph Curry in check for much of the night, Isaiah led the way offensively, and the entire team pulled off a major upset, shocking the league. Naturally, spirits were high, and the Celtics finished the roadtrip winning by a nose against Kobe and the recently disarrayed Lakers back at the Staples Center.

Some observations:

Jae made his triumphant return against Portland and played well. He logged 35 Minutes, 13 Points (5/11; 2/8), 10 Rebounds, 2 Assists and 2 Steals. What makes the victory over Golden State even more miraculous is that they did it without Jae. He did return to action against the Lakers, and finished with 22 (6/18; 2/8), 5 Rebounds, 4 Assists and monster 5 Steals. With three more days’ rest under his belt, Jae should be almost completely healed, just in time for the playoffs.

Unfortunately, health is not a universal strength for the team at the moment. In the final twenty seconds of the Lakers game, Julius Randle inadvertently elbowed E.T. in the eye. From what Ed Lacerte and consulting eye doctors are saying, it could’ve been much worse, but obviously these kinds of injuries are always scary. For now, E.T. is out and listed as day-to-day. We’ll probably see him in goggles when he returns (best case scenario would be Friday).

Isaiah played so well in the month of March that he was candidate for Player of the Month, but lost to LeBron, whose been nothing short of sensational. First, I.T. set the new Celtics record for the most consecutive games as the leading scorer, and that number is still rising until further notice. He scored at least 20 Points in every game in March, and is playing with an outward confidence and swagger. When the going gets tough, it’s Isaiah who hits the clutch shot or scores in transition. Simply put, he’s unconscious.

The win against Golden State is the early highlight of the Celtics’ season. It came with five games remaining before the playoffs, and highlighted all of their best attributes: grit, toughness, resilience, and the “never give up” mentality. They’re playing for each other, evidenced in stifling team defense and excellent ball movement. Here’s hoping for a strong finish to the season!

New Orleans on Wednesday.

Homer Johnsen is a freelance writer and Lead Meteorologist for the Boston Celtics. He reports weather patterns to team doctors, who then treat arthritis  before approaching cold fronts arrive. His Celtics analyses and Celtics hand-warmers are available and for sale right here at HeresTheDealLikeShaquille.   

 

3/21/2016 – 3/23/2016: Games 71 & 72 – Cs Continue Their Winning Ways at Home

Boston 107 Orlando 96

Boston 91 Toronto 79

Ten games remain in the regular season, and the Celtics are heading into the playoffs regenerated after the loss of Jae Crowder. They’re back to winning the games that should be won, and spreading duties amongst the entire team. Evan, in particular, has stepped in and made an impact, as I’d hoped.

But the onus is never on one particular player. The Celtics preach team basketball, evidenced in their rapid ball movement and tough defense. And both have been on display during this little three-game winning streak.

Against Orlando, the Tacoma backcourt exploded for a combined 50 points on 18/33. Off the bench, Kelly joined in on the fun, scoring 22 Points in 21 Minutes, enjoying easily his finest outing in months.

Two nights later, the Raptors came to town, but opted to rest Kyle Lowry, making things a little less daunting for the Cs. Isaiah led a well-balanced offensive attack, with 23 Points, while E.T. played to his full potential, finishing with 17 Points, 7 Assists, 4 Rebounds, 2 Steals and 2 Blocks. He even hit a three-pointer, which for Cs fans is not unlike a Bigfoot sighting.

The real hero, though, was Amir, who finished with 11 Points, 14 Rebounds, 5 Assists, a Steal and 2 Blocks in a whopping 34 Minutes of action. The big fella was 5/6 from the field, and kept Raptors bigs at bay all night. When Brad gives him the minutes, Amir makes the most of them.

The Cs are about to begin a five-game West Coast roadtrip, with a couple tough matchups against Los Angeles and Golden State. According to recent tips from Brad and the Cs’ Med Staff, Jae could potentially return to action some time in the next five. We do know for sure that he joined the team on their flight to Phoenix. So now, it’s just a matter of when, not if.

If the Cs can stay healthy and integrate Jae back into the swing of things come playoffs time, they’ll be looking very strong for the first round and beyond. But in the meantime, they’ve got their work cut out for them as the season turns its final corner.

Phoenix on Saturday.

Homer Johnsen is a freelance writer and Lead Ticket Investigator for the Boston Celtics. He reviews claims filed by customers who have been sold faulty tickets via third party distributors. He sues StubHub on a weekly basis. His Celtics analyses and list of preferred ticket brokers are available right here at HeresTheDealLikeShaquille.