Sunday, November 11, 2018

The Sun has set in the West - Thanks to Kyrie


Well, the game against the Phoenix Suns was a roller coaster of a game. It was a game of High's and Low's. Essentially, the first three and a half quarters were all low's, shooting eighteen and twenty percent in the first half collectively, being down some 22-points until something clicked in the fourth quarter with about 3-minutes left in the final frame.

Kyrie Irving's line was rather impressive 39-points, 7-rebounds and 6-assists over 43-minutes. However, his most impressive stat might have been his smallest number, 6-assists. Three of them in particular and two of them within the last 10-seconds of the game.

In the fury of Kyrie putting the team on his back, he made all the right decisions. In the fourth, with less than 10-seconds in the game, drove to the hoop and dumped it off to Jaylen Brown to get the team within one. Then again, with less than 3-seconds, recognizing the double team, passed to the wide open Marcus Morris, who scored the tying trey, leaving a measly 00.3 left of the clock all but insuring another 5-minutes of ball.

Kyrie was still not done. In overtime, with the game tied at 106, passed out of the double team to Al Horford, who scored the go ahead three.


Thoughts going forward

I am not worried about the Celtics, despite some people's lamenting their 7-5 record. I do think they are talented and definitely deep enough despite some inconsistent play by both the first and second teams.

Gordon Hayward

Once Gordon Hayward stops thinking, he will become an undeniable force. Anyone who has ever played a sport and had an injury, knows there will be that time where he just goes to the rim without any thought of his ankle, makes the play and realizes, "Hey, that didn't hurt. I'm back!"

He has been hesitant on anything to the rim, which I believe limits the options for the Celtics offensively. This isn't a knock, just a realization.

Free Throws, Field Goals and Turnovers

It is not a coincidence the Celtics are 7-5. They are 28th in Free Throw Attempts, 29th in Field Goal Percentage and 5th in the league in turnovers.

Once again, like last year, they are not taking advantage of being in the bonus or pushing the issue by driving more to the rim settling for too many jumpers. Yes, I am aware we live by the three as evident by being 4th in the league with 447 attempts through twelve games, but there are times where we become jump shot happy. Not only could we help ourselves at the charity stripe - we need the practice but maybe it will help our offensive rhythm.

Switch Happy

We need to find a way to NOT switch on everything. Their was a play, most notably in the Suns game where Aron Baynes switched out to a perimeter player leaving Irving and I believe Semi Ojeyele on DeAndre Ayton. Yes, our defensive efficiency is leading the league but we can only comeback from so many deficits.

I understand when switching can be useful but I think we over use the tactic through the first 12 games.

Miscellaneous

What's your thought of Baynes and the headband look? I could only think of Bill Walton from the 70's.





 

Monday, October 1, 2018

Game II - Deja Vu game with the Hornets


It was Deja Vu in a few ways. Jayson Tatum had a tough time finishing in the opening quarter. Gordon Hayward still didn't look super comfortable to start the game - heck he had 5 personal fouls before the end of the half.

The Celtics scored 60+ for the half in as many games. However, besides being a home and home, where you're like, didn't I just watch this team? That was the end of Deja Vu.

Although, before I get into some of the exciting things that took place, I need to remark in both games, a fan has to be really encouraged with the swarming after the defensive rebounds.

Okay, when the 2nd Quarter started, with Marcus Smart, Marcus Morris, Terry Rozier and Tatum, on the floor, things got fun. It opened with this:
 And from there the Celtics went on to score 21-points in the first five minutes of the second quarter, 13-points from Tatum in a 3-minute stretch to complete a 40-point second quarter.

I would be remiss to mention that Marcus Smart, who played after a day off to attend personal matters, showed why the Celtics were willing to pay him just south of $13 Million per year. His energy was infectious. Their defense just rose to another level. (I'll post soon on why I believe the $13 Million/year was a good investment for the C's)

Second Half

The starting lineup of Hayward, Baynes, Irving, Tatum and Brown started the second half. It made me think less of it being a pre-season game except for the fact there is no way Brad Stevens would have allowed Hayward to get 5 personal fouls in the first half, nor started him in the third with as many.

Well, Hayward didn't let the five fouls make him play any less aggressive as shown by the Hayward Swat!

The end of the third quarter was finished by a vintage Marcus Smart steal and bucket that was later waived.

The fourth quarter saw some time for Smart, Theis, Wanamaker, Yabusele and Ojeleye. While it wasn't overly pretty, its worth noting these guys, speficially Smart, Theis and Ojeleye need to get their reps in.

Fun Fact: Last year the Celtics were 18-1 when Theis recorded 6 or more rebounds in a game.

The waning moments showed another highlight including Robert Williams getting a game winning stop. He just continues to grind defensively.

Thoughts and Observations

Tatum and Brown, for as good as they were last year, look to shine even brighter.

 It was good to see Baynes get some time. Baynes has uncanny nack of going straight up defensively, a lost art in protecting the paint. Having him backup Horford shouldn't be overlooked. Nor having a depth at center with Theis.

I do think B.W.A shirts will be coming to a retailer near you. Smart, Baynes, Morris, Rozier, and semi together on the floor bring energy, speed, toughness and offense that most 2nd units will have difficulty matching. And if Tatum bridges the units, having him spend time with the second unit at the end of quarters makes them difficult to guard.

Next game: Tomorrow at 8PM against the Cleveland Cavaliers. No LeBron but Tristan Thompson still thinks they're the team to beat. Well, not if we have anything to say about it.









Saturday, September 29, 2018

Game I - Celtics hit the Hardwood for the first time.


I don't know about you, but I have been jonesing for some Celtic basketball ever since the game 7 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Red Sox and their 107 wins thus far have done a good job placating me.  But I am focusing on Banner 18, and it's time to get to work.

Here we are at the beginning of the fall season and the original five we be playing their first game since October 17th of 2017. So, how did they and the rest of this championship contending team look in their first public exhibition game of the 2018-19 season against the Charlotte Hornets.


I won't lie, I spent the better part of the first quarter watching Gordon Hayward's ankles and hoping he landed safely after every shot, jump pass or block attempt. He seemed comfortable in the offense in the respect he knows where to be. However, minus the follow up of Jayson Tatum's missed layup, he showed the normal rust you would suspect after being out for a year, but still managed a quiet 10-points in 23 minutes.

Kyrie Irving, Jaylen Brown and Tatum looked they are ready to play right now. Although, it bothered me early when Tatum had another hard layup, one of the things I wanted him to work on, which I wrote about in July.

It is going to be interesting to see how the offense will transform with Al Horford and Hayward on the court with Irving, Brown and Tatum. Horford and Hayward seemed to play identically (top of the key) but I have confidence that they will be one smooth unit come opening night. It wasn't as if the Celtics had difficulty scoring. They had 60-points at the half.

One thing I noticed was the lack of pick and roll played with the first team, for any unit for that matter. I hope we see some of that in the second pre-season game.

The Bench

The second unit of Aron Baynes, Terry Rozier, Marcus Morris, Semi Ojeleye and Guerschon Yabusele who played no doubt in place of Marcus Smart who was away from the team due to personal reasons, played well. 

I did like Yabusele using his big body in the paint. Actually, I think a lot of the guys looked like they put some muscle on, notably Jayson Tatum. 

I can definitely embrace Morris' self titled second unit moniker B.W.A (Bench with Attitude). Replace the Dancing Bear with Marcus and you got a ferocious second unit. Depth, barring injury will definitely be an asset with this team.

We also saw a number of other guys such as Daniel Theis, Robert Williams, Walter Lemon, P.J. Dozier, and Brad Wanamaker.

Theis is coming off injury so I imagine it will take him some time to get comfortable. I was encouraged with what I saw from Williams. He has quick feet and hands for a big guy noted by his steal in the fourth quarter. There is no doubting his athleticism and paint presence. 

Overall Thoughts and Observations

Did anyone notice that Morris' jersey read Morris Sr.?

Although it is pre-season, it bothered me once again that a Celtics huge lead was overcome. This was something that plagued them last year. Either they gave up a huge lead and made their workload harder then it needed to be or the would build up a lead and slowly watch it erode. I hope they can be more consistent. 

Four turnovers and 60-points in a half will spell a lot of W's if they can play a total 4 quarters.

The Celtics have a plethora of ball handlers that can bring the ball up encouraging transition basketball.

I will be watching closely who will fill the spot, which I believe will left open, by Jabari Bird. I think this may be between Lemon and Wanamaker. 

Next game is tomorrow, Sunday, September 30th, against the Hornets. Deja Vu.



Friday, July 6, 2018

Jayson Tatum - What can he improve?



It's Summer time, the Celtics are busy combing the Free Agent market and conjuring up trades (This Celtics fan is not looking for a trade but Danny is not one to leave any stone unturned). 

The Summer League commences tonight, where we will get our first glimpse of this year’s 27th draft pick, Robert Williams as well as a few others, notably Semi Ojeleye and The Dancing Bear, Guerschon Yabusele, who are looking to improve their skills and their games.

While we watch the youngsters hone their skills and improve on their weaknesses, I wanted to talk about a youngster who grew leaps and bounds in his rookie year. Yes, Jayson Tatum.  He did some amazing things last year such as ranking eighth in shooting percentage from beyond the arc (.434) and seventh in Defensive Win Shares (4.0) in the league, not among rookies, but among the league.

He showed us his maturity throughout the playoffs, where his points per game rose to 18.5, his free-throw percentage increased as well as his assists and steals. He put an exclamation on his season with an emphatic dunk over LeBron James in the fourth quarter of game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals, putting the Celtics within two.

The kid is for real. However, with all of his sensational plays, impressive defense and composure, Tatum's ceiling is high but there a number of things I would like to see him improve on.

Things to Improve On

It has been shown on social media Tatum working on his three's. However, there are other areas of his game that could use work.

Finishing. It is clear Tatum has a quick first step, just ask J.R. Smith. Although, there were a number of instances where Tatum couldn't finish the brilliant move, often hitting the backboard too hard. He needs to work on his touch finishing to the rim. 

Drawing Contact. He has drawn a lot of comparison to Paul Pierce. One thing Pierce did well was draw contact for the foul, while still getting his shot off with the step back. Tatum has shown his moves to get to the bucket and creating space for his shot. However, I felt too often he didn't draw the contact, which he could have easily done, getting him to the line. I look for his own-patented step back to emerge this season.

Strength. Tatum, by all accounts has been in the gym creating muscle. I would love to see him bulk up a little. This will serve him and the Celtics well, allowing him to increase his versatility to defend the 4. 

Free Throws. Maybe I am nitpicking, as he did shoot 82.6% for the season and 84.5% in the playoffs but he has a beautiful stroke and I would like to see him closer to 88% next year. He is going to be a go-to guy in the fourth along with Kyrie Irving next year and getting to the charity stripe should be commonplace. 

Jayson Tatum undoubtedly exceeded everyone's expectations last year. If he improves in the four above items, he will become an elite player even sooner than even the Celtics will have anticipated.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Did the Celtics Advance too Far?


When Gordon Hayward went down mere seconds into the season, the Celtics title shot took a serious hit. Sure, you still had Kyrie Irving and the kid Tatum as improvements over the team that made it to the Eastern Conference Finals last year. But, was that going to be enough? It certainly wasn’t going to be as easy as it should have been. 

Then the season went along, and things started to look pretty good. Tatum advanced faster than anyone not name Ainge could have expected. You had to wonder if having Hayward on the team might have actually hurt his development. Things were pretty exciting.

Then, just when you started to think this team might actually be OK, Kyrie went down for the season. That settled it. The team would now be lucky to make a series out of the first round.

But, things went even better. Tatum, it turns out, is someone who can carry a team. He started drawing comparisons to a young Magic Johnson putting a team on his back in the playoffs. And, he almost did it. He brought the Celtics to a game seven in the Eastern Conference Finals before the team finally faltered.

Things suddenly started to swirl in your mind. Somewhere between disappointment and excitement. Clearly, if this team still had Kyrie and Hayward, they would have been better than the Cavs. Heck, obviously just one of them probably would have been enough. (You know Kyrie would have drained a few threes in game seven, right?) Next year, with both of them, this really will be a cake walk.

Unless the role players have advanced too far?

I always thought the sheer genius of the 2008 Celtics was the way they all fit together. The team already had Paul Pierce. So, I always felt that adding a star like, say, Kobe Bryant would have been disastrous. Two guys who can create their own shot, who can drive the lane, who can control the ball, may have created some issues. Only one can shoot, after all. But the Celts didn’t do that. They brought in KG, who was happy to just clog the lane and let Paul do his thing. They also brought in Ray Allen. Yes, he needed to give up some of the luster on his star, but as the most lethal three pointer in history, he was the perfect complement to a guy who could drive the lane and kick back out behind the arc. It was beautiful.

So, what happens next year? The starting line-up will be something like Kyrie-Tatum- Brown-Hayward-Horford, right? So, where does Tatum now fit in? Is his role diminished? Is he too good for that to happen? Can Hayward step back a bit compared to what he’s used to? Will Kyrie shed some of the points for Tatum to collect? Because Tatum knows he can be the man, now. It’s going to be hard for him to look to feed the other guys like he might have this year. What about Brown? Does he go from second banana to fifth option? Sixth? 

Sure, it could all work out. Maybe Kyrie figures out how to divvy up the ball to keep everyone happy. Maybe everyone finds a role, whether it’s down on the box, or floating around the arc. 

But I can’t help but wonder if it would have been easier if the kids didn’t know just how good they are.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

What If

The Celtics find themselves in a pretty good position.

OK. A really really good position.

After dropping their first two games of the season, they have rattled off a 15 game winning streak. They haven't lost a game in a month, and own the best record in the NBA.

What could be better?

Of course, most Celtics fans are imagining that it could be better. After all, this team is supposed to have Gordon Hayward in the starting line-up. It wouldn't be a stretch to think that with a healthy Hayward, the Celtics don't lose that first game in Cleveland. After all, they almost pulled it off after overcoming the shock of losing their star player to a gruesome injury. So, if he played the way he was supposed to, that should have been an easy victory. Same, really, goes for the second game. The team was still figuring out what to do with the hole in the line-up. They had to redistribute all their efforts, and they didn't have time to even practice their new roles. So, it's not the world's biggest leap to think they might have won that game too.

So, should the Celtics be 17-0 with a healthy Hayward?

I wonder.

I wonder about the kids. 

I'm not sure if anyone knew that Brown and Tatum would be as good as they are this early. I also wonder if they would have been as good if Hayward were still here.

Right now, both of those kids are in the starting line-up. They are getting regular minutes. They are being counted on to succeed. 

But, not like a top pic is usually counted on. Neither of them have to carry the team on their backs. Neither has to make the big shot. They have Irving to do that for them. But, they're given every chance to succeed. They've taken that opportunity and run with it.

But, what if they had to share the ball with another all-star? What if they had to shave off some of their points? Would they have gotten into the same flow of the game? Would they be in the starting line-up? Would they be energy off the bench? Whatever the role ended up being, it would be a different one. For both of them.

In the end, this could help the Celtics in the future. No, it's not a good thing they lost an all-star for the season. But, the silver lining is definitely the ability to see what these kids really are. Let them learn on the fly.

Reminds me of when Xander Bogaerts arrived on the scene a bit earlier than might have been expected. Suddenly the veteran holding his spot became the veteran clogging his spot. Same this seems to have happened here. While I would never say Hayward was clogging a spot...it doesn't look like he needs to hold it anymore either.

Going forward, this will give the Celtics more options in building their roster. They know what they have with these two. (Or, at least as much as you can know after a month.) They can build around this now. They can figure out how they'll fit in around Hayward.

And maybe next year they'll start 17-0.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Insult and Injury

The worst part for fans (or me, at least) about the gut wrenching Gordon Hayward injury is that we've all been there before. An injury at the start of the season that changes the entire outlook of the year.

The first one I remember is the Nomar Garciaparra wrist injury during spring training in 2001. That was supposed to be the Red Sox year. They had the best pitcher in the history of baseball. Nomar was the two-time defending batting champ, and the Sox added Manny Ramirez, the best power hitter out there, during the offseason. This was going to be the year they finally won! Then, a single injury crushed the season.

Same thing happened to the Patriots in 2008. They were coming off an undefeated regular season, and had some unfinished business to take care of. That was looking to be a pretty special season. But, then Tom Brady was lost for the season during the first series of the year, and everything changed. Suddenly they weren't battling for a perfect season, they were battling for a playoff spot. A battle they eventually lost.

Incredibly, it happened again to the Patriots this very season. They  were once again starting a season with talks of perfection in the air. This team was loaded and ready to do something special. Then, Julian Edelman went down during training camp. Out for the season. Suddenly, something very special turned into something very good. Sure, they're still probably favored to with the title. But, this was going to be historically good. And now it's not.

So, maybe it's the back to back that makes the Hayward injury sting so much. Maybe it's the fact that the season was altered once again for a Boston team. Suddenly a team the had a trip to the Eastern Conference Finals as a base expectation with a decent shot at the finals lowers that bar a bit. Making the ECF is suddenly a little trickier. Advancing to the finals would be pretty long odds. The whole character of the team has changed. Before it really even got started. I can't help but feel cheated. Like I missed the opportunity to have a very special season. I feel like I missed a golden opportunity.

Again.

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