Sunday, February 26, 2017

Game 58: Boston Celtics Vs. Toronto Raptors

Game 58 of the season had lots of hype going in to the fourth contest between the two teams. While Toronto had the edge 2-1 going in, the Celtics won the last meeting, which supplanted them in second place in the division, overtaking the Atlantic Division from the Raptors. All-star Kyle Lowry sat out the game with a sore wrist, looking to give Boston a chance to further separate themselves in not only the division but conference. Moreover, there was a lot of angst upon the aftermath of the trade deadline where Danny Ainge and the Celtics stood pat and Raptors acquired Serge Ibaka and P.J Tucker from the Orlando Magic and Phoenix Suns respectively. How did it all play out?

The Celtics asserted themselves early with good defense and ball movement. Jaylen Brown played both sides of the ball well, defending DeMar Rozen admirably early, while showcasing his own offensive skills, helping the C's jump out to an early 11-point lead at the end of the first quarter, due also in part to their defensive intensity, 29-18. The intensity continued between the two teams into the second quarter where technical fouls were called on Jae Crowder, Isaiah Thomas and DeMarre Carroll, who also picked up a flagrant for shoving Thomas to the floor intentionally.

The Celtics would swap baskets the rest of the way and go into the half up by ten,  55-45. The third quarter started to turn after Thomas was whistled for a flagrant, for swiping at Rozen, going for the ball (It's getting harder and harder to know what a Flagrant is) and then with the Raptors going on a run by a series of buckets made by Serge Ibaka, DeMar Rozen and company, outscoring the Celtics, 29-22 cutting the C's lead to 3. The only team this year to play more meaningful fourth quarter basketball than the Celtics this year, are the Utah Jazz and Toronto Raptors. Where we have come to expect the King of the Fourth to be our own Isaiah Thomas, it went to DeMar Rozen who had a career high with 43-points

Ultimately, the loss came down to the Celtics not executing in the fourth down the stretch, missing shots at the charity stripe and not being able to get the stops or rebounds when they needed it most. P.J. Tucker, who was on the Celtics radar during the NBA trade deadline, provided just that in the final possessions and 10-total rebounds for the game, thwarting good offensive games from Marcus Smart and Jae Crowder, who scored 19 a piece, to help lessen the burden on Thomas. 

Although, one game does not make, the Celtics need to find a way to defend the interior to make a run during their upcoming schedule, which continues in Detroit tonight.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Being a Realist - Isaiah Thomas is Not an All-Star

My twitter feed has been lit on fire with #NBAVote. While I love how the NBA is embracing the 21st Century and I am sure has engaged a younger audience, (which every league, not just the NBA needs to capture for continued sustainability and profitability) it also brings out more subjectivity than objectivity.

I am aware, that fan voting is about connecting to your player of your team. Heck the Red Sox have had numerous players in the final vote as it were, where "the fan" can bring one player from each league to the game to show "your" teams passion. And Boston is definitely a passionate town. We vaulted Kevin Garnett as the top vote "getter" in the 2008 All-Star Ballot. However, he deserved to be an All-Star.

The All-Star Celtic being pushed this year is Isaiah Thomas. This is just not being a realist. I have been a Celtic fan for over three decades and I love MY Celtics and in those 30+ years, we have had some All-Stars, 139 selections to be more precise (I'll just go as far back as 1980): Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, Robert Parish, Dennis Johnson, Paul Pierce, Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett, Reggie Lewis, Tiny Archibald and to a lesser extent, Antoine Walker and Danny Ainge.

You could say Isaiah could be better than Danny Ainge if you were to compare stats and might be at the end of his career (Although Danny was one hell of a scrappy player). And most people on Twitter I have encountered use those said stats: Tweeting how Thomas is averaging 20.7 points and 6.8 assists. If you're going just on Stats, I can see your argument. At this point in the season, he has better averages than Derrick Rose, Dwayne Wade, Kyrie Irving and Kyle Lowry all who have significant All-Star vote totals greater than Thomas.

The eye test tells a different story and the stats are a bit inflated. Have you watched Isaiah play defense? No really, have you? He rarely, if ever squares up defensively constantly positioning himself in a help stance. Now, that's not necessarily bad directing a player to where you know you have help, However, he almost never switches and if he does, it's an incredible mismatch. He cannot defend the pick and role. He always tries to go over the top, (Yes, you say he has to protect against the 3) but Crowder or Amir pick up his man and Isaiah is left in limbo. When they play zone, once his guy gives up the ball he relaxes. Have you seen Smart play the same zone, he drops down between his man and the ball and swats at the defender creating pressure without completely leaving his man alone.

No, No, you have it all wrong you say. Isaiah is our offensive play maker, commenting on his consistent 20 points a game. Oh really, if you call being 1-15 going into the 4th quarter the other night against the Pistons an offensive spark plug. Yes, he finished 6-20 and 22 points but we gave up multiple leads, specifically a 9 point 4th Quarter lead.

All-Stars take over the game, make that shot that seals the game, like Kobe did in the December 30th game against us. All-Stars take the ball to the hole without losing the handle multiple times. All-Stars make the opposition look silly with hesitation dribbles (which Isaiah does against marginal teams but not elite ones) True All-Stars can play on both ends of the floor, every game, every night.

I will be the first to to admit I am hard on Thomas. I see the ceiling and he's not close to it. I want to see him have a consistent 3-1 assist to turnover ratio. I want him to be able to hold his own on defense, especially in the fourth quarter. I want to see him score twenty-four points a game and go to the basket looking for the jugular when we are up ten, instead of settling for a three, getting us in the bonus early, capitalizing on his strength, free throw shooting.

Most importantly, I want to see him stop talking about lack of set rotations, not getting calls and telling the media we have to be better. I want him to BE BETTER and lead this team. He does this, he will be an All-Star and he won't have to have RE-TWEETS to get him there.

But right now, this year, Isaiah Thomas is not an All-Star. I'm just being a realist.

Monday, December 7, 2015


     We are a fourth of the way through the season and the Celtics currently stand at 11-9, projecting out a 45-37 record. This would make for progress over last year.

     Early, they have already made strides which show an upward trend. They have picked up their defense, holding opponents to 98 points per game, 3+ points better than last year. They have also improved offensively both in points per game and their offensive rating. Even in their pace of play they have improved. However, these improvements are marginal.

     The biggest concern I have over the first twenty games is their inconsistency. They are the proverbial Jekyll and Hyde. The statistics confirm this, in their 11 wins and 9 losses, averaging double digits whether they win or lose.

     They're identity should be defense all the time. Although, when the C's get a lead, they tend to relax on the defensive side of the ball and get careless on the offensive side of the ball. I have bad news folks, these guys are not talented enough to take possessions off. What makes them who they are is the sum of their parts.

    The Celtics are not an isolation team. They need to move the ball and move it often. They need to play fundamental basketball for forty-eight minutes. Turnovers have been a huge issue in losses. The reason for their wins is in most part, suffocating defense and draining the three.

     Right now, their play is good enough for 10th place in the Eastern Conference which gets them a seat at the lottery. At the same time, they're one game out of first place in the Atlantic.

     I need to see more of Jekyll and less of Hyde.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

November: Looking Ahead

     November is a tough month for the Celtics. They have already played the Spurs, Pacers and Wizards, winning 1 of 3. However, many would argue they should have beaten the Pacers who were playing in the 2nd of a back to back. However, that is in the past. We're looking ahead right?

    They play the following teams in November:

     11/10 @ Milwaukee
     11/11 vs. Pacers
     11/13 vs. Hawks
     11/15 @ Thunder
     11/16 @ Rockets
     11/18 vs. Mavericks
     11/20 vs. Nets
     11/22 @ Nets
     11/24 @ Hawks
     11/25 vs. 76ers
     11/27 vs. Wizards
     11/29 @ Magic
     11/30 @ Heat

     Ten of 11 teams they face in November were in the playoffs last year. Albeit one of them was the Nets who are off to a horrid start. They play 16 games in 30 Days, three back to backs and 12 of those 16 teams have a better than .500 record.

     I had tweeted last week that I would be happy with going .500 in November. Being objective, I think this is a positive outlook. Five of the remaining 13 games should be wins: Mavs, Nets Home and Home, the 76ers and Magic. I believe they could win the Wizards, Pacers and Milwaukee and Heat games. This would give them 9 wins in November. I would take that. What say you?

     However, I will be watching incredibly close to the Plus/Minus of our starters. In our first five games we were:

     76ers: -28 C's: +8 = Win
     Raptors: +32 C's: -40 = Loss
     Spurs: +1 C's: -11 = Loss
     Pacers: +23 C's 16 = Loss
     Wizards: -1 C's +25 = Win

      Coincidence? I think Not!

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Where's the Love?

     Jared Sullinger, 21st overall pick of the 2012 NBA draft to the Celtics. Much hullabaloo was made about this pick, the Celtics included. Doc Rivers was quoted that before flagged medically for a back issue, he would have been in the Top 5. They saw great promise in this PF out of Ohio State. They were willing to take the risk vs. reward.

     In the 2012-2013 season, after appearing in forty-five games in his rookie campaign, was side lined for the year when he underwent back surgery to repair a lumbar disk. This however, was something of a known inevitability. He made a complete recovery.

    In his second season, 2013-2014, he played in 74 of 82 games, starting forty-four, increasing his per game statistics in rebounding, assists, blocks, points, free throw and 3pt field goal percentage.

    Last year, in his third season, he played in 58 of 82 games, starting in forty-nine of them. His statistics either remained consistent or improved across the board until he fell victim to a broken foot in February of 2015. Shortly thereafter, articles surfaced that Jared was facing a heavy burden, notably his weight. Danny Ainge, President of Basketball Operations openly criticized Jared for his lack of conditioning. The status was he would be out for the remainder of the season and they wanted Jared to commit to a conditioning schedule coming into this season.

     However, the Celtics behind a remarkable 24-16 second half run, made the playoffs. And who did they play during these playoffs? He played all 4 games averaging 20 minutes, and a 21.6 PER (Player Efficiency Rating) which rates the players per minute production which was 6 points higher than the league average of 15.

     Fast forward to this preseason where he was the 6th big man on the depth chart, on the outside, looking in, to get playing time. Boston media recently brought up the C's not signing Sully to an extension and he replied that he will just continue to prove the doubters wrong which he said even included family members.
     Five games into the season he is 1st among the Celtics Big man in minutes, rebounds, assists, blocks, Field goal percentage and shots made behind the arc.

     So, I say, "Where is the Love for the Big man?"

     He has incredibly soft hands, unbelievable rebounding instincts, great body control and seems to be a genuinely nice guy. I personally think the Celtics push on the weight issue because they envision him being a cornerstone to their future. And although he is on a torrid pace right now and may level off a bit, he is definitely trending upward and on pace to have his best season as a pro yet. This will bode well for the C's chances making the playoffs.

     Here is to Sully having a career year, staying healthy, going deep into the playoffs and remaining a Celtic for a long time.

     In the meantime, give Sully some Love. He's earned it. And enjoy watching him prove all the doubters wrong.


Saturday, November 7, 2015


      This C's team hasn't gotten much air time anywhere, even locally. Why? No Drama. I mean how do you talk about a team that has no unrealistic expectations set and many National outlets have praised Coach Stevens in their polls. Their top player rated in the NBA is their 6th man, Isaiah Thomas. Most believe they will make a modest improvement from last year. (I have them winning 50 games.)There are no egregious acts by the players, team or owner that media loves to hook their teeth into. There seems to be a bunch of good character guys putting their team first. So, what do we talk about? Isaiah being a starter? No. Danny explained why they feel he works best off the bench on Toucher & Rich radio show and I agree.

       Back in the preseason, someone asked Abby Chin Since there was no Rondo #headbandwatch what the replacement was? She responded the #kohairwatch (Kelly Olynyk Hair Watch.) That resonated with me and I have been fixated ever since, hence this blog post: #KOHairWatch.

       Olynyk has played four of the five games. The only one he missed was serving his one game suspension for apparently (I say apparently because I didn't think it was intentional) injuring Kevin Love last year in the first round of the playoffs. Conveniently, he has alternated each game with one of two hairstyles: The man Bun and The Hair Band. So, now and going forward, I will give you an update on Kelly's play as it pertains to the hair style that he chooses pregame.

       Over four games he has been solid averaging a +8 while on the floor, 10pts. 4.5 boards, 1 Block, 1.5 steals and 1.5 TO over 17 minutes of playing time off the bench. However, while wearing the Hair Band, he has been en fuego. He has shot .500 from the field, .375 from beyond the arc, a ridiculous +35 on the floor, while pulling down 14 boards, and logging 5 steals.

       It will be interesting if he wears his hair in a ponytail as per his alternating theme. However, the Hair Band may be the right play.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Plus-minus (+-)

     Basketball has a curious plus-minus stat which basically states: Plus-minus measures the point differential for the team when the player is on the court, which is the difference in the points scored for and the points scored against.

      In the first game, against the 76ers the Celtics starters were a +8, against the Raptors, they were a -40 and against the Spurs, the starters were a collective -11. The +8 is skewed against the 76ers because Marcus Smart was a +22 by himself, so that means the other 4 starters were a collective -14. The only team we defeated was, you guessed it, the 76ers who had a plus-minus of  -28 among their starters.

     This makes one ponder whether or not Stevens should tinker with the Starting five. Maybe Olynyk or Johnson could start in favor of Zeller at the 5. Maybe Turner or Jonas could start at the 3 for Crowder? I have blogged before how I believe Turner could be more valuable among the starters. I believe him and Thomas in the same back court doesn't do much for the C's. Also, Isaiah Thomas plays some horrendous D. Maybe having another solid defender like Crowder on the floor at the same time could make up for Isaiah's glaring deficiency on D. It puts a lot of responsibility on Amir to play his guy and Isaiah's.

     Last year, Turner played a lot of point forward out of necessity and I think he should do it again. I am not saying to be the defacto point guard. However, he could bring it up, alternating with Smart to give some different looks and allowing him to create shots which he does well.

     Something has to give because as we are right now, our starters living on the wrong side of +- is going to have us end up on the wrong side of the Win-Loss column.