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Back under .500 again: 8 Takeaways from Celtics-76ers

Boston dropped back under the even marker with another disappointing performance

Philadelphia 76ers v Boston Celtics Photo by Kathryn Riley/Getty Images

1. One of the early rules of writing that I learned is that you really shouldn’t involve yourself in the subject you are writing about, unless the subject if actually you. That’s why you’ll rarely see me use things like “I” and “for me” in my writing. It’s rarely about me.

That said…I’ve got nothing for you today.

It’s not that the Celtics lost that’s bewildering. The 76ers are a really good team. They had almost their full roster available. George Hill hasn’t played for them yet, so it’s hard to even count him as an absence. Joel Embiid is back and playing like a potential MVP. They defend at a high level and have the offensive balance that has eluded them for years.

Boston was without Evan Fournier and Tristan Thompson. The Celtics are in the middle of a three-games-in-four-nights stretch. Both Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown look worn down for parts of each game.

No matter what the reason is, valid or not, Boston lost. Again. It’s a very frustrating pattern of repetition. Win a couple, lose a couple. Look good for a few days, look awful for a few days.

2. 22 is an absurd number of turnovers. Live it felt like at least half were unforced. On the re-watch, it landed at nine of them being unforced. That sort of careless basketball can be overlooked when you beat bad teams anyway. Against a good team? It puts you in a hole you can’t dig out of.

3. Embiid is a handful to guard and he does get the benefit of some calls. However, putting him at the line for 20 free throw attempts is evidence of the sloppy defense Boston played all night. Whether it was one-on-one or rotation breakdowns, the Celtics never looked connected on the defensive end. Only Embiid taking long jumpers bailed Boston out for stretches of the game. No one has a real answer for Embiid this season, but the Celtics didn’t even make it hard on him for most of the game. That’s not a winning formula.

4. Jaylen Brown did that thing where he’s great early and then disappears for the entire middle of the game. Yes, Brad Stevens and his teammates could do a better job getting Brown shots. That’s 100% true. But it’s also on Brown to not become passive and content to sit in the corner. He had lots of minutes where he was out there with four backups. Brown can’t be an observer during those periods. He has to demand the ball.

5. How about Jayson Tatum? Another game where it took him a long time to get going. On one hand, you could argue that Tatum is taking the star approach of letting his teammates get going before he takes over. On the other hand, he takes a bunch of jumpers early in games and, for whatever reason, they rarely seem to fall in the opening minutes.

Tatum’s struggles to find his footing early in games is just another item on a long list of questions that there doesn’t seem to be an answer for.

6. Robert Williams was Boston’s only big with a prayer of doing anything against Joel Embiid. He picked up two fouls in the games opening minutes. One was a good call, the other was questionable. Because Brad Stevens trusts his players to play through foul trouble (as many good coaches do), Williams got back in at the end of the first quarter. Luke Kornet having given all that he could and looking exhausted probably contributed to that too.

How did Williams pay that trust back?

This is an awful foul and a sign that Williams had no idea of the situation. He bites on pump fakes a lot as it is, but to do so on a perimeter jumper when you already have two fouls? That’s just bad basketball.

Williams ultimately fouled out after just 14 minutes of action. The above foul aside, Williams also gave three other fouls against non-Embiid players. Four of six fouls were against anyone but the one guy Williams had to give Boston a chance against.

He’ll learn. It’s mostly that Williams is still young and inexperienced. But this is also why Tristan Thompson will still have a key role to play on this team if they’re to do anything good this season.

7. The best thing about this compressed season is that a chance to bounce back from a disappointing loss is never far away. The Celtics welcome the Knicks to TD Garden in a matchup that could loom large for seeding. Boston is down 0-1 in the season series to New York with two more to play. Given how tight the Eastern Conference standings are, tiebreakers may loom large. Getting this win feels almost like a necessity for the Celtics.

8. This is the last thought for now, and I’m bringing myself back in here. As most of you probably know, I’m very active on Twitter. I enjoy engaging with NBA fans, and of course Celtics fans. I also host chats on the Locker Room app three times a week. They are overall NBA chats, but we talk a lot of Celtics in there too. I enjoy the back and forth and connecting with fans.

That said, the negativity of Boston (not necessarily Celtics) media and fans has become grating. There are Boston media members telling Celtics players to take a hike. There are some who actively participate in the bashing of the team, without providing any context at all. A little while back, Jaylen Brown said that “nitpicking everything and being negative isn’t going to help anyone” and he was spot on.

It’s not that the team (players, coaches and front office all) are beyond criticism. They deserve all the nuanced and harsh, but fair, analysis thrown their way. What they don’t deserve is being told they should be fired, cut, traded or worse. And you know what the worse is without me having to state it here.

It’s a predictable cycle too. Player brings up how harsh the media and fans are and the response is always the same: “Not tough enough to handle Boston. Don’t want guys like that anyway.” There’s no accountability that treating people like crap eventually makes those people consider what it’s like somewhere else. And before you say “It’s the same way everywhere”, that’s not true. I’ve lived all over the country and the media and fans in the Northeast is by far the worst as far as negativity goes. My working theory is that being cooped up inside for half the year because bad weather puts an outsized sense of importance and focus on the local sports team.

Far too many Celtics fans buy in to what the local media peddles. The vast majority of the local media are people who focus on the Celtics for a couple of hours each week, as they take a break from the Patriots, Red Sox and Bruins. Many of them will even say things like “I didn’t even watch, but…” and still expect you to take their opinion seriously.

The sad part? Many of you do.

You’ve fallen into the trap. Either you listen and begin to believe their nonsensical, shout-louder-than-the-other-guy takes. Or you hate-engage by reading/watching/listening to them. Either way, they win. They got you. Now, you’re engaged and negative too. Negativity sells because you agree with it or you disagree with it. Either way, they’ve got you.

I found myself caught in this cycle about a year ago. It was early on in the pandemic and I was reading, watching and listening to everything I could consume. There was no basketball to take me away from it. This went on for about three months. Eventually I realized how miserable I was. I would wake up each morning looking for things to make me angry and it wasn’t hard to find them.

One day I realized how silly and pointless that was, and I just stopped. I didn’t engage with people/sites/stations that served only the purpose of making me mad.

You can do the same with your consumption of Celtics content. There are a ton of smart people providing fair coverage of the team. It’s not all sunshine and rainbows, but they aren’t constantly begging for people to lose jobs. Or worse. I recommend right here at CelticsBlog of course, but you know the other outlets.

You don’t have to read/watch/listen to those who only want to capture your attention. They aren’t providing anything worth consuming anyway.

Tune them out. You might find yourself happier. Give it a try at least. At worst, you’ll have yet another thing to be mad about during this disappointing Celtics season.

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