Boos filled the arena. Confused looks on our faces formed. I had to wake up this morning and ask myself, what the hell happened last night? A lot of things happened last night, and honestly, 95% of it sucked. The Celtics were coming off a few days rest, while the Nuggets were coming off a back-to-back, and still managed to scrape us. The game wasn’t even close at all, excluding the first few minutes of the game. I understand having no Al Horford, Jae Crowder, or Kelly Olynyk hurts us, but being blown out by the Nuggets at home is no excuse. I still have so many questions about last night, but let’s observe the good and bad of what occurred last night. Just a heads up; there will be a lot more bad than good.
- Isaiah Thomas seemed to be the only player on the court that played with heart last night (not including Avery, we’ll get to him). When nobody was scoring in the first quarter on Boston’s end, Isaiah found his way to the rim and kept fighting for buckets. Finishing with 30 points (9-17 shooting) and five assists, he seemed to be one of the few players that could find their shooting touch last night. Isaiah is the leader and face of this Celtics’ team, and he showed that last night. He tried to lead the charge and get everybody going with attacking the rim and getting fouls when nobody else seemed to. At the end of the game, Isaiah sounded off on the Celtics, which he rightfully should have. He’s the leader and needs to voice his frustrations with the team, especially when it’s this early in the season.
- Avery Bradley continued to impress all of us with another double-double with points and rebounds. He finished off with 14 points, 11 rebounds, and six assists. Avery is one of the best all-around players in the league, hands down. He’s also the best rebounder on this team, unfortunately. I say unfortunately because it’s a shame that our shooting guard is the one that grabs all the rebounds and not our big men. This statistic is in no way bashing Bradley, though. His rebounding ability is incredible for his position. As of right now Russell Westbrook is the only guard in the league averaging more rebounds than AB. I pray Avery keeps this up, and hopefully the rest of the team follows.
- As the game went on and all hopes of a comeback went right out the window, Brad Stevens gave minutes to the young guys. Demetrius Jackson made his Celtics’ debut and finished with eight points, three rebounds, and two assists in 11 minutes. James Young got nine minutes. Jordan Mickey had a solid 19 minutes of playing time. Brad Stevens experimenting with different players led to experimenting with different lineups. At one point, the four-guard lineup of Isaiah Thomas, Demetrius Jackson, Avery Bradley, and Marcus Smart took the floor. You would not see that lineup in a close game I can promise you that. Brad got a look at guys that usually don’t play much and can decide where to go from here with them. One of the only bright spots of the game is the young guys getting a chance to show they can play.
- Emmanuel “Celtic Killer” Mudiay was an absolute problem. Here’s a summary of what he did to us in the first quarter alone: He outscored us in the first quarter (24-23), he hit three straight well-contested three-pointers in our damn faces, and was hitting fades on DPOY-to-be Avery Bradley like he was MJ. It was a nightmare. He finished the game with only 30, shockingly, but his 24 points in the first quarter is what separated the Nuggets from the C’s for the remainder of the game. Going into the game Emmanuel Mudiay didn’t have the best shooting percentages (27.1% from field/20% from three), but that doesn’t mean you lay off the man. All it takes is one shot to get going, and he got going. He hit one crazy three, and the rest is history. The Celtics can’t go into games thinking they’ll be okay laying off of somebody because he has poor shooting percentages. They have to defend any player as hard as they would defend someone like LeBron James or Steph Curry.
- Rebounding on this team absolutely sucks. Getting outrebounded by 14 is becoming the norm, and I don’t like it. The Nuggets were bigger than us at every position, so it came as no surprise we got outrebounded by that much. Missing big-name players that would help that issue hurts, but it looked like we weren’t even trying to get rebounds. We outrebounded the Nuggets by two (11-9) but giving up offensive rebounds need to stop. Those offensive rebounds we gave up led to easy second-chance points for the Nuggets, which seems to kill us every game. Hopefully, this trend of getting murdered on the boards changes once we have the whole team healthy.
- Jaylen Brown, Tyler Zeller, and Jonas Jerebko all ended the first quarter with two fouls each. The Celtics were in the bonus with four minutes left in the first, then were in the bonus again with 5:30 left in the second. We need to stop fouling so much. I believe the refs were as huge of a problem as Mudiay was for us. Whenever the C’s took it to the basket and seemed to have drawn contact, nothing was called, but everything was called at the other end of the court. When Isaiah got to the free throw line with not much time left in the second quarter, the arena filled with cheers over the fact that the refs finally called a foul on the Nuggets. I don’t know why every ref in the NBA has it out for Boston; I really don’t.
- The Nuggets attempted ten more free throws than the Celtics (31-21), but the Celtics finished with a better percentage. Out of our 21 free throw attempts, Isaiah shot 12 of those. Just another reason to say Isaiah was the only one trying to draw contact. The Nuggets shot 15-20 from the free throw line at the end of the first half. Although the refs did blow, the Celtics need to stop fouling so much and getting into the bonus so quickly. Giving up rebounds and allowing so many free throws loses us these games.
- The defense is proving to be a huge issue this season. Boston has the second worst defensive rating in the league, only in front of the Knicks.
As Isaiah said, we’re all talk at this point. Just because people say we’ll have one of the best defenses in the league doesn’t mean we don’t have to prove it. The offense is great this season, especially when everybody’s healthy, but the defense absolutely sucks. We have given up 100+ points in five out of the six games played this season. We scored 107 points last night, which is good, but allowed 123 points, which is not good. Giving up 77 points at halftime was three off of the record set in 1963 for most points allowed in a half. Not good. We allowed the Nuggets to finish the game shooting 52 percent. We can’t win games with just a great offensive attack. We need to play both ends of the court and play both ends well. If we only play well on one end of the court and not the other, it’s going to be hard winning the 50-something games we were projected to win this season. But hey, since we were projected to win all those games, we’ll still win them, right?
- The bench didn’t help one bit. The starters obviously needed our help, and the bench didn’t step up. Another game, same story. Isaiah and Avery did all the dirty work once again. This was a perfect game where somebody comes off the bench and proves their worth on this team. I’m not saying one single player comes in and single-handedly leads our team back from 25-down, but a player comes in and becomes a difference-maker. Nobody did that. Marcus had 13 off the bench, but we all know he spends more time with the starters than the second unit. Obviously, our bench will strengthen once Kelly comes back and Jaylen and Zeller are put back with the second unit, but somebody needs to step up for the time being. Isaiah and AB can’t be the only players playing with heart. Basketball is a team sport, not a two-man sport.
- Seeing Demetrius Jackson wearing number 9 is so weird. I can’t tell you how many times I saw him and thought it was Rondo. So strange.
- This hurt.
Another day, another near-death experience for Tyler Zeller. Typical.
To end this article, I’m just going to say this; If we want to be the second seed in the East, and in any way compete with Cleveland for the Eastern Conference crown, we can’t play like this and give up games like this this early in the season. When it comes down to being the best, every game counts. This game may come back and haunt us; I don’t know. Injuries hurt, I know, but we have to make do with what we have for the time being. Guys need to step up and play with heart and hustle, which is what this team is known for. I haven’t seen a lot of that so far this season. Hopefully that changes, because once again, as Isaiah said, we’re all talk.
Six down, 76 to go. On to Washington. #3-3 #AllAbout18