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CelticsBlog - All Posts

21 March 2023

A Boston Celtics Blog: 17 Banners and Counting
  • Boston Celtics Daily Links 3/20/23
    Sam Hauser vs Trail Blazers 3/17/23 | Photo by Cameron Browne/NBAE via Getty Images

    All the Celtics news you need in one convenient place.

    Globe Robert Williams could make his return to the Celtics lineup on Tuesday

    Time for Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla to turn to Jaylen Brown and others late when Jayson Tatum struggles

    CelticsBlog These are your Boston Celtics

    NBC Sports Boston Celtics fall to 3rd with 10 games left

    NBA playoff picture: Can Celtics benefit from 76ers’ ‘insane’ schedule?

    NESN Celtics’ Jaylen Brown Explains Challenges Of Boston Experience

    Did Danny Ainge Suggest Joe Mazzulla Hasn’t Learned From Mistakes?

    Former Celtics Coach Rumored To Be Heading Back To Big East

    Former Celtics Player Drawing Interest For College Coaching Job

    The Athletic Ten keys for floundering Celtics in the final 10 games of regular season

    NBA Power Rankings: Sixers move up; clutch-time breakdowns for all 30 teams

    Boston Sports Journal Karalis: The numbers are clear - Isolation continues to be the worst offense for Jayson Tatum and the Celtics

    Chowder and Champions Boston Celtics: Jaylen Brown heating up down the stretch

    Celtics Wire Brian Scalabrine reveals his craziest teammates on the Celtics

    Celtics history: Bird gets 33, McHale 29 to beat CHI; Gray, Kelly die

    Blake Griffin on the origin of the Celtics’ Bus 1 Boys

    Celtics come in No. 1 in H/H breakdown of 5-year team outlooks

    Celtics center Luke Kornet is focused on winning

    Mazzulla: Not playing White in 4th vs Jazz ‘probably a coaching fault’

    Hardwood Houdini Analyst: The Boston Celtics have become ‘a chore to watch’

    Boston Celtics could second guess not benching Smart for red hot reserve

    Boston Celtics could play impending free agent more in postseason

    Boston Celtics analyst has brutally bearish take on Jayson Tatum

    CLNS Media/YouTube Is Joe Mazzulla In Over His Head as a Rookie Coach? | Celtics Beat

    SI .com Grant Williams After Missed Opportunity Against Utah Jazz: “That’s Probably the Most Frustrating Thing as a Player”

    Clutch Points Jayson Tatum is falling apart, and it could lead to demise of Celtics

    NY Post Paul Pierce denies he had to poop during NBA Finals

  • These are your Boston Celtics
    Photo by Barry Chin/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

    It’s March. Embrace the madness.

    With ten games left in the 2022-2023 regular season, the Celtics are 49-32 and third in the East, percentage points behind the 76ers and two and a half games back of the Bucks with a game against each to close out the regular season. There’s time and opportunity to make up the difference, but pick up a paper or log on to Twitter and you’d think we were re-arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic rather than jockeying for playoff position.

    The “what’s wrong with the Celtics” conversation is valid. The offense that rocketed them up to historic heights to start the season has expectedly fallen to earth. The defense that carried them last year and been very good this year has cratered since the Jays and Joe Mazzulla & Co. were lighting up All-Star Weekend. They’ve been depressingly average in March with 2.0 net rating (115.9 offensive rating, 113.9 defensive rating) and as often as they’ve looked like the best version of themselves, they’ve also looked like a walking brain fart far too often.

    The good news is they’ve lost four games by a combined nine points. Heartbreakers for sure, but considering the fabric of an 82-game season, they’re just loose ends in an otherwise successful year. The bad news is the way they’ve been losing. Against the Nets, a 28-point second quarter lead was relinquished by midway through the third and they never responded against a Brooklyn team now without Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant. The Celtics had wrapped their arms around a win against the Knicks in overtime only to cough it up in the second OT. Boston had significant leads in Cleveland and Salt Lake City in the fourth quarter, but couldn’t close it out in the clutch.

    Head coach Joe Mazzulla has wavered between “I should have played Derrick White more” and “we didn’t execute,” between some version of “you have to lose to learn to win” and crediting the opposing team. The tough losses haven’t exactly galvanized the team and the fan base, and there might be some lingering questions before spring comes around — mainly, will the Celtics continue to start White and predominantly play small or will Robert Williams return to the starting lineup — but ladies and gentlemen, these are your Boston Celtics.

    The trade deadline has passed. President of Basketball Operations Brad Stevens still has a 15th roster spot to fill before the playoffs, but if last season is any indication, that will most likely be filled by a G-League call up rather than some ring-chasing veteran. So much handwringing has been made of who starts, who closes, and who plays at all. It doesn’t help that players like Grant Williams and Payton Pritchard who played large roles in last year’s Finals run have been in and out of the rotation.

    There will always be second-guessing after a loss. Every Monday morning quarterback is going to choose the road untraveled when it comes to what Mazzulla should have done down the stretch and with the team just a game over .500 since the break, some might even question not just the game plan, but the full season plan from the beginning.

    Against the Jazz, Jayson Tatum became the first player this season to cross the 2000-point mark. It’s a worthy accomplishment for an MVP candidate, but that also means that he’s put on a lot of mileage on the odometer. Last year, he clocked in at 2,731 minutes to close 2021-2022 and was admittedly exhausted by the Finals after back-to-back seven-game series against the Bucks and Heat. He has ticked over 2508 already, but including yesterday’s day off before the Kings tomorrow night, Boston plays just one game in six days before a manageable two-game homestand this weekend. It’s as much a needed physical rest as it is a mental break after a 7-6 stretch since the All-Star break.

    Yes, there are going to be games when they give up a bunch of offensive rebounds. Six times this season including Saturday night on the second night of a back-to-back in Utah without Al Horford and Robert Williams, the Celtics gave up fifteen or more offensive boards; they’re 2-4 in those games. But let’s not forget that Boston is the best defensive rebounding team in the league. That’s worth repeating: Boston is the best defensive rebounding team in the league. They’ve played small. They’ve played big. All year, rebounding hasn’t been an issue.

    Here’s the topic du jour: the high variance with the three-point shooting could bite them in the a%& come playoff time. Nine times this year, they’ve hit under 28% of their threes and loss 7 of 9 of those games. And for what it’s worth, that comes out to nearly a game in a seven-game series. So yeah, that could happen. Depending on how the next few weeks shake out, it’s conceivable that the Celtics could start the second round and beyond on the road with the very real prospect of playing Game 7 at Wells Fargo or Fiserv Forum. They might even throw away a game at home if the rims at TD Garden or the leprechaun that lives there doesn’t cooperate.

    The fact of the matter is, this is how the team is built and frankly, it’s looking more and more like the playoffs, particularly in the East, are going to be a clash of styles. Even if they start with two bigs, Joel Embiid and Giannis Antetokounmpo are matchup nightmares. If the last three weeks have made you squeamish about trying to outshoot teams and rely on smaller defenders guarding up against bigger opponents, get used to it.

    They shoot a lot of threes and on many nights, they’re going to need to rely on their defense when their shots aren’t falling. They’re going to switch a lot on defense and self-inflict unfavorable matchups on themselves. Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown are going to make and miss a bunch of shots and oftentimes, they’ll need that third or fourth or fifth scorer to make up the difference and we just don’t know who that is. And in the playoffs when rotations shrink, their depth and versatility will raise more questions than answers. That’s part of it, too.

    These are your Boston Celtics.

  • The future of CelticsBlog podcasts
    Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images

    Thanks for listening.

    As some of you may or may not know, Vox Media has moved away from its podcast offering. As such, the CelticsBlog podcast channel is no longer in effect, but that doesn’t mean the shows on the blog’s feed are gone; they’ve simply moved to a new home.

    The Green With Envy podcast will now be taking over the feed that you’re (probably) already subscribed to, so for you, there’s nothing you need to do. However, for the next week or so, while the transition is in effect, you may notice the generic name Boston Basketball Podcaston your feed. That name will be updated shortly and will then be displayed as Green With Envy. As such, please do not un-subscribe from the feed!

    Another small piece of news is that CelticsBlog’s Adam Taylor will be reuniting with Will and Greg on the show, bringing the Three Man Weave back and creating some exciting new content across multiple platforms.

    If you’re not already subscribed to the Green With Envy Podcast, you can do so on the following links: Spotify, Apple, Green With Envy YouTube, and Adam Taylor’s YouTube.

    You may be wondering about the First To The Floor podcast. Have no fear! They’re still going to be producing content. However, they have now moved under the CLNS Media banner and have re-launched their old podcast feed.

    If you were/are a fan of their show, you can find their content on Apple, Spotify, and YouTube - each hyperlink will take you to their subscribe page so you can keep up with the awesome work those guys are doing.

    CelticsBlog is lucky to have so many versatile and talented contributors, so it makes sense that we point you in their direction in case you were unaware of all the additional content on offer:

    Please continue to support these shows! Every one of them brings a unique perspective, just as they do with their writing and coverage of the team. Finally, all of them put in countless hours behind the scenes to ensure the quality is above and beyond what you would expect, and that alone, should be commended.

  • Boston Celtics Daily Links 3/19/23
    Derrick White vs Trail Blazers 3/18/23 | Photo by Cameron Browne/NBAE via Getty Images

    All the Celtics news you need in one convenient place.

    Herald Celtics blow 19-point lead, alarming issues persist in brutal loss to Jazz

    Globe Brian Scalabrine thinks there’s just one issue causing the Celtics’ recent skid

    Celtics blow 19-point lead, miss shot at the buzzer to lose to the Jazz

    6 takeaways from Celtics vs. Jazz, including Grant Williams’ final play

    ‘I ain’t got no ego or nothing like that’: Jayson Tatum is OK with other Celtics players taking clutch shots

    A year ago, Will Hardy and Joe Mazzulla were bonding as Celtics assistant coaches. Now they’re facing off as head coaches.

    Celtics clinch a playoff spot thanks to a Heat loss

    A promising start unraveled for the Celtics in loss to Utah, but they still clinched a playoff spot

    Celtics Green Comments from the Other Side - Jazz 3/18/23

    CelticsBlog Celtics destroyed on the boards, lose at Utah 118-117, fall to third in East

    Celtics collapse vs. Jazz ends in crushing final possession: ‘he just tried to make a play’

    Another fall-from-ahead loss: 10 Takeaways from Boston Celtics-Utah Jazz

    Does it truly matter how you finish?

    ESPN Celtics vs. Jazz - NBA Game Recap - March 18, 2023

    CLNS Media Will Jaylen Brown Leave Celtics over Toxic fans?

    Celtics .com Keys to the Game: Jazz 118, Celtics 117

    3/18 Putnam Postgame Report: Down to the Wire

    Tatum Becomes First Player To Reach 2,000 Points This Season

    NBC Sports Boston Joe Mazzulla walks through final play call in Celtics loss to Utah Jazz

    Celtics vs. Jazz takeaways: C’s lose late lead, fall to third place in 118-117 loss

    Jayson Tatum talks final play in loss to Jazz, not scoring in 4th

    Late-season Celtics swoon is becoming harder to comprehend — and watch

    NESN Celtics Clinch Playoff Berth For Ninth Consecutive Season

    Celtics Wrap: Boston Fails To Adapt Against Subpar Jazz In Loss

    Three Ways Celtics Have Flirted With Panic Button During Road Trip

    What Happened On Celtics’ Final Play In Disastrous Loss Vs. Jazz?

    The Athletic Danny Ainge has faith in Joe Mazzulla, thinks Celtics coach could be ‘legendary’

    Celtics Wire How valuable is Celtics’ Grant Williams to teams around the NBA?

    Celtics history: Boston defeats the Heat, Hawks, Hornets and Houston

    The best of Jayson Tatum’s clutch moments with the Celtics

    Boston legend Robert Parish on when he knew it was time to retire

    Former NBA referee shares what it’s like to miss a call

    Mass Live Celtics’ Robert Williams could play against Kings on Tuesday, according to Joe Mazzulla

    Four takeaways as Celtics lose to Jazz 118-117 after crunch time mistakes

    What Celtics said about blocked final possession drawn up for Jayson Tatum

    NBA Playoff Picture 2023: Where Celtics stand in East after Jazz loss, 10 games to go

    How Celtics’ Joe Mazzulla, Jazz’s Will Hardy helped each other as 1st-year NBA coaches

    Celtics’ Jayson Tatum says ‘I ain’t got no ego’ when it comes to final shot

    Joe Mazzulla compounded Celtics issues with questionable choice in Jazz loss

    Boston Sports Journal BSJ Game Report: Jazz 118, Celtics 117 - C’s fail to execute in final minute, fall to Utah

    Karalis: It’s harder than ever to tell if these Celtics can win it all, or if they’ll flame out

    Hardwood Houdini Boston Celtics teammate trolls Jayson Tatum for Duke’s tournament loss

    Former Boston Celtics champion points out team’s troubling trend

    Clutch Points Celtics: Jaylen Brown’s heartfelt message for Micah Shrewsberry

    Jazz fans go wild over Walker Kessler’s game-winning block vs. Celtics

    Jayson Tatum drops truth bomb on Grant Williams epic fail in Celtics vs. Jazz

    Celtics fans react to Jaylen Brown’s eye-opening ‘toxic’ comments

    Celtics: Robert Williams injury update will have Boston fans hyped up

    Bleacher Report Jayson Tatum, Celtics Celebrated by Fans After Clinching Playoff Berth With Heat Loss

    SI .com Celtics Discuss What Went Wrong on the Final Play in Their Loss vs. the Jazz

    Jayson Tatum Says He Has No Issue with Others Taking the Game-Deciding Shot: ‘I’m Just Trying to Win’

    Grant Williams Trolls Jayson Tatum On Behalf of Tennessee Basketball

    Talkbasket Jayson Tatum: I’m not frustrated at Grant Williams

    Will Hardy on Joe Mazzulla: “He’s a machine”

    Heavy ‘Bad for Business’: NBA Sources Weigh in on Grizzlies’ Ja Morant

    Damian Lillard Sounds Off After Celtics Best Trail Blazers

    CBS Sports Celtics can’t shake troubling trend of blowing double-digit leads as loss to Jazz drops Boston behind 76ers

    The Game Haus Age Is Just A Number: Al Horford’s Unexpected Impact

    The Spun Grant Williams Had 2-Word Message For Jayson Tatum After Duke’s Loss To Tennessee World Today

    Chowder and Champions Celtics out tuned by Jazz: Thoughts and sound off on another blown game

    Essentially Sports “Ain’t Passing Him the Rock”: Doleful Jayson Tatum Trolled Over Massive March Madness Upset Sending Fans Into a Meltdown

    Deseret News 3 keys to the Utah Jazz’s 118-117 win over the Boston Celtics

  • Does it truly matter how you finish?
    Photo by Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images

    There’s a ton of talk about the Celtics needing to finish strong, but does ending the regular season on a high note mean anything?

    As basketball fans and media members, we love to find patterns to make ourselves feel better about players and teams that we enjoy watching. It doesn’t matter what year it is; we all have biases in the basketball world. Whether it’s to prove a point you made throughout the season or just because you’re a super fan, you’ll hunt down every last iota of statistical information you can to make sure that you were right! It’s a bit annoying and heck, I’m usually one of those people scouring advanced stats for that kind of info.

    The new narrative rolling around NBA Twitter, besides an incredibly loud MVP race conversation, is this idea of finishing a season “strong.” Apparently, to win the NBA title, you simply HAVE to close out a season in style. It’s never made sense to me either, so I decided to actually look and see if this is true.

    Do you need to finish a season hot to win the NBA title? I’m keeping this strictly top-line, no pick-me advanced stats to fit a niche argument, no incredible deep dives into injuries, we’re keeping this in the win-loss column since apparently, that’s all that matters. All the records we’ll be looking at today are over the final 23 games or so from the All-Star break to the end of the season. Obviously, due to COVID and its effects on the schedule, we’ll have to be a bit flexible as we progress, but I think we all understand the context.

    Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

    2017-2018 Finals
    2018 Warriors: 14-10
    2018 Cavaliers: 16-7

    Let’s start with the last edition of the LeBron vs. Steph rivalry. The 2017-2018 Warriors were looked at as one of the best rosters ever assembled. Hell, their preseason championship odds were -187, an objectively hilarious thing to look at! They finished the season 14-10 and considering they finished the season 58-24, those 10 losses were a pretty massive chunk of their total season losses. They actually ended up finishing 2nd in the West despite having the best offense in the NBA averaging 113.5 PPG. (Side note, incredible that one of the best rosters ever averaged 113.5 PPG just 5 years ago and now the 2023 Celtics average 117.5 PPG and that is good for 4th! Basketball is fun.) The Dubs actually closed the season losing 3 of 4. I promised no DEEP dives on injuries, but yes, Steph Curry was injured to close the season. Good thing the Warriors still had KEVIN DURANT, KLAY THOMPSON, AND DRAYMOND GREEN. Goodness, what a roster. The Cavs were the opposite. Closed the season healthy and in style. They won 6 of 8 to close the year but finished 4th in the East at 50-32. Conclusion? How either of these teams closed didn’t really matter. The Warriors still swept the Cavs. Let’s jump to a year without an obscene super team.

    Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images

    2018-2019 Finals
    2019 Warriors 16-9
    2019 Raptors 15-8

    Just kidding, one more super team. Both teams in the Finals closed the regular season well, but not in legendary fashion. Kawhi had really started to kick things into high gear, some of the box scores he was putting up down the stretch were incredible, I suggest the hardcore basketball fans go shuffle through Basketball Reference for a bit. The Warriors were fully healthy heading into the playoffs, their starting 5 of Steph-Klay-Durant-Draymond-Cousins was rolling until...they lost Games 2 and 5 to the 8-seed Clippers as Danilo Gallinari lit them up with 24 and 26 points respectively. Shout out to Lou Williams with 36 in Game 2 and 33 in Game 5 off the bench. Regular season momentum is great until the Italian Dream gets a hold of you, then all bets are off. On a serious note, this season is a good example of how different the playoffs are from the regular season. The Warriors were playing great until KD went down and then all of a sudden, how they closed the regular season didn’t mean anything. Heck, even the Raptors with their insanely hot end to the season, lost their first playoff game to the Orlando Magic! At home! Remember the D.J. Augustin game?! Anyway, we’re losing focus, let’s head to, gulp, the bubble.

    Photo by Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images

    2019-2020 Finals
    2020 Lakers 2-5
    2020 Heat: 3-5

    I’m not going to spend a ton of time on this season for obvious reasons. It should be mentioned that the Lakers were on an absolute tear coming off the All-Star break before the world shut down. They were 8-2, #1 seed in the West, clearly the best team in basketball at the time, but they did kind of stink during those few weird bubble regular season games. The Heat were pretty mid in the regular season that year, they finished 44-29, so not a ton to take from anything this season. Damn you COVID.

    Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images

    2020-2021 Finals
    2021 Bucks 14-9
    2021 Suns: 16-7

    Only asterisk on this season is the lack of an All-Star break, so I just took the last 23-24 games for each team. Again, as you can see, nothing really legendary going on here. The Bucks finished the season 46-26, good for 3rd in the East. Suns, 51-21, and 2nd in the West. Even in the playoffs, these teams weren’t necessarily the most dominant. The Bucks were 16-7 in the playoffs, Suns finished 14-8, almost a swap of their end-of-season records. What both teams definitely had in common were their stars dominating in the playoffs. Giannis-Middleton-Jrue was an incredible trio, especially when they hit the Finals. Same thing for Booker-Paul-Ayton, they were sensational in the series sweep against Denver in Round 2. Still, goes to show that while finishing strong is good, you have to flip that switch come playoff time or you’re going nowhere.

    Photo by Matt Stone/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald via Getty Images

    2021-2022 Finals
    2022 Warriors 11-12
    2022 Celtics 17-5

    It should be mentioned, again, that Steph Curry missed the last 13 games of the season, but the Warriors went 6-7 in those games. Before that, they were 5-5 with him, so not a huge difference. On the other side, I don’t think I need to spend too long on CelticsBlog talking about how 2022 Celtics closed out the season. It was something truly special and carried into the playoffs quite well, but unfortunately, they got Steph Curry’d and that was that. This is a pretty obscene example, but sort of ironic Celtics fans have been up in arms about the team finishing the season, yet then one that beat them in the Finals last year finished last year 11-12. Got to love basketball.

    Looking at all the data and the records above, I think we can safely say that while you’d obviously like to win as many games as possible to close out a season, it really doesn’t have a true impact on your postseason performance. If your superstar goes supernova, your regular season record doesn’t matter, they are going to get you to the very top. Whether it’s Kawhi, Steph, Giannis, whoever, they will get you to the promise land with a great playoff run. Tatum and Brown did it last season before falling to the PG legend, I think the same expectations apply. When the regular season ends and the playoffs start, your stars have to go up another level. Period.

  • Another fall-from-ahead loss: 10 Takeaways from Celtics-Jazz
    Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports

    Boston had their chances but didn’t execute late in a loss in Utah

    1. The Boston Celtics dropped yet another fall-from-ahead game at the Utah Jazz on Saturday night. Blowing leads is not something that is unique to the Celtics, even if it seems like a troublesome Boston-centric thing. Because of the way the game is played now, a lead of 20 points is rarely safe until deep into the fourth quarter, and that’s across the entire NBA.

    This loss also came on a back-to-back with travel that included a rare West-to-Mountain time zone change. And the Celtics were without Al Horford and Marcus Smart, while continuing to be without Rob Williams.

    None of those things are excuses. The Celtics had a big lead and could (and should) have won against a team that is battling for a spot in the Play-In Tournament.

    But those are some of the reasons that Boston lost. And there are a whole lot more reasons. Let’s dive into those now.

    2. Without Rob Williams, rebounding has been an issue for the Celtics. Take Al Horford out of the mix and remove Marcus Smart (who is generally pretty solid at boxing out bigger players) and that issue is exacerbated tenfold.

    That said, Utah bludgeoned Boston on the boards. The Jazz grabbed 17 offense rebounds and outscored the Celtics 20-8 in second-chance points. In a one-point game, that’s a massive margin.

    Despite the recent struggles, Boston still ranks as the top defensive rebounding team in the NBA. But there are nights it really doesn’t seem like it. And that’s clearly being propped up by some early-season success. No matter what, it’s something that needs to get solved with big, physical teams like Milwaukee, Philadelphia, Cleveland and New York looming in the playoffs.

    3. Where was Derrick White during the fourth quarter? Unless White is dealing with an undisclosed injury, and nothing has been shared, there is no reason he should be sitting for an entire final period. This especially true on a night when Boston didn’t have Marcus Smart and was struggling to contain the Utah ballhandlers.

    This tweet from Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston is baffling:

    White has been somewhere between the Celtics third- and fourth-best player this season, depending on where you place Al Horford in the mix behind Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. Sure, Boston has great guard depth with Smart and Malcolm Brogdon. But White needs to be on the floor more often late in games. And this decision is something that Joe Mazzulla should really expound on more than just his standard “Matchups” answer.

    4. Related to the above, Boston couldn’t control the Jazz ballhandlers all game long. Now, controlling John Stockton, Deron Williams and Donovan Mitchell is a tough task, but…What’s that? Oh! It was Talen Horton-Tucker and Kris Dunn?

    Sarcasm and snide aside, it was a bad defensive effort on that front. Only Derrick White did a solid job of keeping either Jazz guard from getting into the paint at will. He got overpowered a couple of times by Horton-Tucker, but that’s what THT does. But, for the most part, White kept the ballhandlers in front and forced passes or tough looks.

    Part of this was soft-switching. This happens so often, that it has to be a schematic coaching decision to soft-switch. A soft-switch, or no-resistance switch, is when the defense switches despite there not being a screen, or before the screen can be set.

    The Celtics have soft-switched for years, but it’s usually more along the lines of handing off a cutter or off-ball screener to the next guy, as they play a sort of pseudo matchup zone defense. Now, it’s happening with on-ball actions more than ever. In general, it’s fine, because the Celtics trust their guys to hold their own when switched. But, in a game like this one where no one could keep the ballhandlers controlled, it called for a strategy or scheme change, and none ever came.

    5. These were Jayson Tatum’s last two shots of the game. With Boston nursing a one-point lead, Tatum dribbled the air out of the ball before taking this awkward, contested, one-legged fallaway as the shot-clock expired:

    Then, down a point, while trying to conserve the 2-for-1, Boston went to this look for Tatum on an ATO:

    Tatum is Boston’s best player. That’s true no matter how well Jaylen Brown is currently playing. But Tatum was 4-for-10 before those two shots. Utah’s mix of funky defenses and double-teams (more on that later) had Tatum out of rhythm.

    To add to the curious decision, Tatum has been brutal as a pullup shooter this season. He’s well under 30% on the year. And that’s a two-year trend now.

    Yes, Tatum has been a crunch-time killer for most of his career. But Boston could, and should, have gotten better looks than those two shots.

    6. Let’s go to the final play of the game. Here it is:

    Postgame, Joe Mazzulla, Grant Williams and Jayson Tatum all confirmed that what was drawn up was Williams catching and executing a dribble handoff with Tatum. The idea was to free Tatum up for the game-winner.

    Obviously, that’s not what happened. Where did it all go wrong?

    First, Lauri Markkanen, or Will Hardy (or both), made the right call to have Markkanen drop off Malcolm Brogdon as the inbounder. That allowed Markkanen to jump Wiliams cut, which blew up the idea of the DHO.

    Williams backdoored Markkanen a bit to get the catch. From there, everything went worse. The DHO was now gone, because it would have taken too long for Williams to pivot back and for Tatum to get to him. Tatum started the play in the backcourt and barely moved into the frontcourt by the conclusion. That spacing wasn’t good right from the start, blown up DHO or not.

    Williams can’t pitch it back to Brogdon, who would have been wide-open, because Brogdon never bothered to get inbounds on the play.

    Williams said he maybe could have passed to Sam Hauser in the corner, but that’s a tough angle with the long arms of Kelly Olynyk, who already had deflected several passes, stunting toward Williams and Markkanen trailing.

    Williams had no angle to pass to Jaylen Brown, who was, once again, cast a bystander away from the play.

    In full fairness, Williams could, and probably should, have taken a pullup or a floater or something. He said so himself. Challenging Walker Kessler, who is already one of the league’s best rim protectors as a rookie, was a tall task, no pun intended.

    Mostly, this is now a known play design from Mazzulla. The only variations are if Tatum catches it direct on the run, catches it deep and dribbles into the shot himself (like he did on the previous play) or if Tatum catches off a pass/handoff from a teammate. It’s a guarantee that Hardy had his team schooled and ready, thus Markkanen blowing up the initial action.

    Grant Williams could have done better, and he said so himself, but the Celtics have to put him in a spot to do better too. And that starts with being creative and running something different at the end of games.

    7. Related to the above: Jaylen Brown is not the NBA’s best decoy to be used to pull a defender away from the play. He’s a star player. Relegating him to watching off-ball and away from the play on ever late-game action is old, stale and bad. It’s beyond time to involve him in one of these end-game plays. Either let him get the shot or make the decision to pass.

    Or, and this is a truly wild suggestion, maybe run an action that involves the two All-Stars on the roster working together to create a look?

    8. A lot of the above happened in the last minute of the game, but Boston lost this one just as much in the second and third quarters as they did in the final minute.

    The Celtics got sloppy about midway through the second period. They let the Jazz close the half with momentum. The third quarter was all Utah, until Boston regained control late. Then, despite teammates and Joe Mazzulla yelling, Jaylen Brown lost track of his internal clock:

    That allowed Kris Dunn to get up the final good look of the period and he hit a three-pointer to cut Boston’s lead back to just three points. It was a bad and unforced turnover that led directly to three points for Utah. It’s often said that you don’t lose a one-point game on the last play, but on any number of plays throughout the game. This was a good example of that theory.

    9. The other place where Boston struggled, and it happened from midway through the second quarter and onward, was against Utah’s zone. Maybe inspired by March Madness, Will Hardy coached this one almost like a college game. He mixed in a 2-3 zone, a 1-3-1 zone, a matchup zone and some funky double-teams on Jayson Tatum.

    The result was Tatum was off-kilter all game. This was the most diagnosing he’s had to do in a game since last season’s playoffs.

    It also took the Celtics a long time to figure out the Jazz zones. Once they did, they started to break them down and got some good looks. But that’s on Joe Mazzulla and the coaching staff. Sure, an odd look like a 1-3-1 might take a couple of plays to see, and then a call or two from the sideline to sort out. But we’re talking minutes of gametime here before Boston figured out what was happening. That’s a lack of preparedness, recognition and ability to figure it out on the fly that was ultimately fatal.

    10. So…the Celtics clinched their ninth-consecutive playoff appearance, despite the loss. That’s something and it’s an accomplishment. No one will celebrate it, because simply making the playoffs isn’t anything that anyone wants anymore. And that’s fair, but it’s still an accomplishment worth at least minimally recognizing.

    There were also some good things out of this game. Grant Williams turned in a very strong game. One so good that you wished better for him on that final play, as it would have capped off a fairytale type of night. Luke Kornet and Mike Muscala turned in some good minutes off the bench, including in some weird lineups where they had to play together due to lack of personnel. Malcolm Brogdon is back in rhythm, and he looked good again too.

    But all of that is silver-lining stuff that no one really wants to hear or read. Boston could have made up a little more ground on Milwaukee atop the conference, and instead they wake up in third place (by win percentage, despite having the tiebreaker over Philadelphia). There are only 10 games left, and instead of rounding into form, the Celtics seem to limping to the finish line.

    On the plus side, Boston now has two days off and Rob Williams might play on Tuesday at the Sacramento Kings to finish the road trip. And it’s a road trip the Celtics can still return home from with a 4-2 record. After a needed day of rest and a much-needed practice day, Tuesday is another chance in a series of dwindling opportunities for Boston to find themselves again before the regular season comes to a close.

  • Celtics collapse vs. Jazz ends in crushing final possession: ‘he just tried to make a play’
    Photo by Chris Gardner/ Getty Images

    Boston blew a 19-point lead and finished the contest with a disastrous final play.

    The Boston Celtics blew another double-digit lead on Saturday night, dropping a game to the Utah Jazzin crushing fashion. They were up big early on, but Utah battled back by way of a 23-5 run in the second quarter.

    But despite Boston’s mid-game collapse and lackluster effort on the glass, the contest came down to one final play, a play that will undoubtedly be the focal point for most fans.

    “The play was designed to get the ball to JT,” Grant Williams explained post-game. “Normally, the big is the one that’s guarding. They didn’t take the guy off the ball. They took Lauri off the ball. So, I got open against Lauri [Markkanen].”

    With 5.0 seconds left on the clock in the fourth quarter, Boston lined up for potential game-winning inbound play. Tatum stood in the backcourt, a formation the Celtics have rolled out numerous times this season (with a ton of success), and Malcolm Brogdon got ready to pass the ball in.

    Williams ran to Brogdon, but Markkanen cut him off when he tried to break right. He was forced to his left, away from Tatum, and from there, he had to improvise.

    “He just tried to make a play,” head coach Joe Mazzulla said of Williams. “It was the way the defense played. They did a good job denying it with the inbounder, and then by the time he got it. he had to make a play.”

    A play that was intended to end with a shot by Tatum ended in Williams making a run at the basket. He had a couple of options, but Utah did their best to cut off the corners.

    “As soon as I caught it, I was right in the lane,” Williams said, breaking down the possession. “So, I took the dribble [and] tried to look up to see if anybody was available. JB [Jaylen Brown] fell to my left, and [I] potentially had to Sam [Hauser] to my right for a shot. By then, it was probably three seconds left on the clock. JT was in the backcourt. Malcolm was still out of bounds. So, I was like, ‘I got to get a shot up at least.’”

    With no options available to him, Williams put up a shot against Walker Kessler in the paint. Kessler, who ranks fourth in the league in total blocks this season, sent the shot away, sealing a gritty comeback win for the Jazz.

    Hindsight is 20/20, but in the heat of the moment, that was the decision that seemed best to Williams.

    “There was no avenue in that scenario,” Williams said, reflecting on the play. “I probably could have shot a floater. Probably the better shot. Or even just trying to get that ball to Sam. But [Lauri] did a good job of bluffing and getting back out and forcing me into Walker.”

    Once the Jazz forced Williams to stray away from the initial plan, it was as if the Celtics froze. And with only five seconds on the clock at the time of the inbound, there weren’t any alternatives for Williams to work with.

    Brown was getting cut off by Talen Horton-Tucker in the corner. Hauser stood still in the corner, with Markkanen floating in between him and Williams. Brogdon never stepped onto the court, standing motionless in the spot where he inbounded the ball. And once Williams was forced toward the hoop, Tatum never walked past halfcourt.

    It was a complete and utter disaster, and all Williams could do was try to make something happen.

    “No. I’m not frustrated at Grant,” said Tatum. “If he made it, everybody would be happy. It’s not what we lost, that last play. It is what it is.”

    With how well the Celtics played in the first half, the fact that the game came down to a final play should speak to how badly they got beat in key areas. Utah outrebounded them 56-40, including a 17-5 gap in their favor on the offensive glass.

    Williams failed to make a play, but it should never have gotten to that point. He was forced into making a tough choice that he should never have needed to make.

    “They were kind of denying me the ball, and the ball was in Grant’s hands,” said Tatum. “And he just had the option to go DHO to somebody else or go attack the basket. We have a baseline of what we try to do, but it’s all about the reaction. So, I don’t have an ego or anything. I wasn’t mad that Grant took that shot and didn’t pass it to me. It’s basketball. I want guys to play with instincts and just read the game.”

  • Celtics destroyed on the boards, lose at Utah 118-117
    Photo by Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images

    Boston blows a 19-point first-half lead, drops into third place in the East

    Twenty second-chance points by the Jazz were the difference tonight as the Celtics lost 118-117 in Utah. Boston gave up a season-high 17 offensive rebounds, and their counterpunch of 22 threes wasn’t enough to save them.

    Jaylen Brown led with 25 points and Grant Williams shot 7-of-12 from the arc, but was blocked under the hoop on the final inbounds play as time expired. Jayson Tatum was held to 15 points, none in the second half. Lauri Markkanen led Utah with 28 points.

    Despite the loss, the Cs clinched a playoff spot thanks to Miami losing to Chicago. However, the Celts fell to 3-2 on their road trip, and dropped into third in the East, a few percentage points behind the Sixers, who won their eighth straight earlier in the evening.

    Malcolm Brogdon returned after missing the win in Portland. Robert Williams and Payton Pritchard remained on the injury list, and were joined by Marcus Smart (left hip contusion) and Al Horford (who customarily sits out the tail end of a back-to-back). Blake Griffin and Grant moved into the starting lineup.

    Utah was without the injured Jordan Clarkson and Collin Sexton. The Jazz played for the first time since Monday, when they completed a six-game road trip of their own.

    From the jump, the Jazz ran a double-team at Tatum every time he touched the ball all night; he took just one shot in the first quarter. But his teammates took advantage by shooting 57% and hitting 7-of-13 threes. Boston used a 15-3 run (including a Malcolm Brogdon free throw after old friend Kelly Olynyk was T’d up for complaining) to build a 13-point lead. Markkanen drained a triple at the buzzer but the Celts led 34-24. Jaylen led the team with 10 points in the frame.

    Tatum broke out in the second quarter, highlighted by a four-point play in which Utah’s Johnny Juzang committed a flagrant foul with a “reckless closeout.” Soon after, Tatum swished another triple to surpass 2,000 points for the season. When Grant drove for a slam off Jayson’s fourth assist of the night, the Celtics had scored 11 straight to take a 53-24 lead.

    But as we know, these Celtics’ weakness is relinquishing large leads. The Jazz switched to zone defense, which cooled off Boston’s shooting, and Utah reeled off a 23-5 run that cut the lead to a single point. Their offensive rebounding (10 in the half) also made a difference.

    Tatum restored order slightly in the closing minute by burying a three from up top, then drawing a shooting foul for three free throws with 0.4 seconds left. His six-point burst made the score 64-57 at intermission. Tatum and Brown both scored 15 in the half.

    The Jazz came out strong in the third, and when Ochai Agbaji hit consecutive threes, they took their first lead of the night at 71-69. Derrick White’s three took back the lead at 73-71. It was short-lived. Walker Kessler made consecutive layups and Rudy Gay drilled a triple to cap an 11-2 run, and Utah led 82-75.

    NBA momentum can shift quickly though. Mike Muscala’s corner three triggered an 11-0 run. A Brogdon trey and feed to Luke Kornet made it a 16-3 stretch, and when the buzzer sounded the Cs held a tenuous 91-88 advantage.

    With the score tied at 95, Brogdon’s layup and jumper, sandwiched around a Grant triple, put Boston up seven with 8:00 to go.

    With 1:43 left in the fourth quarter, the officials ruled a foul by Jaylen Brown was a flagrant one. Kessler missed both, but Agbaji made a three with the extra possession. When Talen Horton-Tucker drove for a layup, the Jazz led by one with 35.3 remaining.

    The Celtics now have two days off before closing out their road trip versus the Sacramento Kings, who will be playing their second game in two nights.


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It is possible that the NBA with its broadcast partner TNT will offer a free streamed presentation of any particular game, subject to time slot and teams matched up. When checking whether your chosen team is to be streamed for a scheduled game, visit the site and find the scheduled matchup(s) found along the pages left column. Locate the "Watch" link to click on which will then present you with a "How To Watch" selection palate to choose from. If it is available you will see Video Streams... Watch TNT offered on the palate to select.

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