It was a hard loss but not a bad loss to the LA Clippers last night. Along with many of the fellow members of Celtics Nation, I stayed up to the wee hours in the morning to watch our guys battle it out in LaLa Land. I’m sure I wasn’t alone in my anger when Steven’s coaches challenge did not over turn the foul against Jaylen which resulted in Paul George scoring one point at the line (which would not much later haunt us), and then watch with baited breath as Jayson Tatum threw up the three point shot which allowed us to go into OT. The multiple lead changes, and remarkable plays and everything else about this game should once and for all hush the doubters and nay-sayers that the Boston Celtics aren’t real contenders.
DEFENSE WAS HIGH
There was never a clear point advantage by either team at any time in the game. The Celtics defense was strong, which definitely helped with the slow offensive start. Much of that defensive edge is credited to Marcus Smart, who held the mighty Kawhi to three points, 1-7 FG, and forced him to turn the ball over in the time Smart was guarding him. All together the Celtics forced 23 turnovers and gained 17 fast break points because of them. The Clippers caused the Celtics to turn the ball over 17 times, but scored a mere eight fast break points. There were a few moments in the third quarter where the C's let up defensively, but remedied it in the fourth. As the Celtics continue to develop, and as Hayward returns, they will continue to prove the are a force to be reckoned with.
OFFENSE WAS SLOW, BUT SHOWED UP
Once again the Celtics fell victim to a slow offensive start. Why this is I couldn’t say. The majority of the time guys like Kemba, Tatum and Brown are getting open looks, but the ball just doesn’t want to go in. If the Celtics have one frustrating weakness, this would be it. The guys have got to find a way to start strong and create a lead that is difficult for their opponents to recover from.
Overall, it’s hard to criticize a team’s shooting when all it’s starters are regularly in double digits. And I’d certainly be remiss if I didn’t mention Tatum’s 30 point game! I also want to acknowledge how Brad Wanamaker is quickly becoming a huge jolt off the bench. Last night he brought 14 points, which was the highest of any of our role players. Initially I had concerns about Brad because he was showing signs of ISO play. I’m pleased to see that he is now moving the ball more and facilitating plays as well. With the elimination of hero ball, Wanamaker's stat lines continue to improve.
The Celtics have been much stronger in the paint as the season progresses, which has resulted in more free throws. That’s a huge improvement from last season where the team seemed too timid to attack the rim and forced many three point bricks. As the lit aggressiveness continues we’ll see those stronger starts and all those good looks will translate into buckets.
REBOUNDING IS BECOMING A THING
It’s no secret the Celtics are not the best rebounding team in the NBA. But with the return of Enes Kanter has come the increase of second chance points. Kanter is an excellent offensive rebounder, and will often be in the right spot to grab the offensive boards and turn them into points in the scoreboard.
I would like to see the Celtics as a whole aggressively going after every rebound. Lessening our opponents 2nd chance shots even by 25% would set our offense to become much more efficient.
BANNER 18 IS IN SIGHT
We are beginning to hear the skepticism die down and words like, “contenders,” “strong,” and “leaders,” coming from the mouths of sports analysts and announcers when referring to the Boston Celtics. And it’s not just in Boston either, across the league they are getting the recognition they deserve.
Even before the Clipper match up, I was fully confident in this team. Now that they faced the PG/Kawhi duo and held their ground, I’m completely expecting a run for the title and see Banner 18 hanging in the Garden very soon!
I love this group of guys and I will. As always, #bleedgreen
Featured Image via Hardwood Houdini