1. Full disclosure: this version of the Takeaways is going to be a little rambling, a little bit of a rant and probably overly negative. This space is rarely written from the first-person perspective, meaning you don’t get a lot of “I think…” or “I want…”. It’s never been the intention of the Takeaways.
That said…I just can’t today.
When Game 1 of the Boston Celtics second series against the Philadelphia 76ers ended, I was frustrated, disappointed and angry. I had hoped that sleeping on it and rewatching with less-emotional eyes in the morning, that things would come into focus.
Nope. Frustration, disappointment and anger will still rule the day.
I found myself starting, deleting, re-starting and re-deleting the Takeaways several times over. Analyzing what went right and what went wrong felt hollow and was only serving to amp up the overall feelings of discontent.
So, instead you get this. The angsty, upset, and ranty (that’s not even a real word!) version of the Takeaways that we try to only write a couple of times a year. Apologies and no hard feelings if you skip right on by and move to Game 2. I wish I could.
For me, I’m frustrated with the Celtics. I’m disappointed in the Celtics. But I’m angry with myself.
I’m a middle-aged grown man with a family. I shouldn’t allow a sports team to own and control my demeanor this way. Instead, I’m acting like everything I tell our daughter not to be after she loses a game. Even worse, she’s upset about a game she actually played in with a group of teammates she loves and that love her. She has real reasons to be in her feelings.
I’m upset about a team I follow from about 1300 miles away. I shouldn’t be this upset, but here I set in a cranky, sour mood on a beautiful sunny spring morning. Such is life as a sports fan, I guess. We sign up for this as children and it probably never ends until the final buzzer on life sounds.
On the actual Celtics point of this, I guess I just have a few questions:
What was that?
How did you keep doing the exact same things at the end of close games?
I’ve watched this play at least 50 times now. I’m searching for clarity that will never come:
Even if the shot-clock violation should have been called, it doesn’t matter. If this was reversed, we’d all want the Celtics to have gotten the run-out layup too.
I’m not even mad that no one from Boston chased after Maxey. No one was catching him anyway.
I’m mostly confused as to why any one of the multiple Celtics who turned down shots on this possession turned down those shots. And what in the world was Malcolm Brogdon thinking? Even if he lost track of the clock, whatever. That happens, even if it was a bad time for that to happen. But what the heck was that pass? Maxey’s defense on the play was so bad that he was guarding a ghost that had long since glided away. Yet, Brogdon threw it right to him.
What’s already been forgotten is the Boston came right back and Jayson Tatum earned and made two free throws to regain the lead. Then this happened:
I love Al Horford. He’s been one of my favorite players in the league before, after and second Celtics tenure included. But James Harden and Tyrese Maxey were seeking Horford on switches all game long, just like Trae Young and Dejounte Murray were doing in the first round.
It’s not on Al Horford that he can’t switch out to guards anymore and handle them just as easily as he can handle a big. He’s almost 37 years old. Those days are gone, minus here and there.
To be fair to Joe Mazzulla, he tried to pre-switch and to let Horford jump switch (he basically stayed home on the baseline and others switched around him) for large portions of the second half. But late in the game, teams fall back into their comfort level. There’s not even really a reason for Marcus Smart and Al Horford to even switch that action above. They did it because that’s what they’ve always done.
And that’s not good enough. Horford’s defense wasn’t even that bad. He was right on the shot, as much as you can be without blocking it or fouling. But Smart might have hounded Harden into shooting something more off-balanced and rushed later in the clock.
Or, Smart could have fought through the screen, while Horford hedged, and they could have forced Harden to give it up. Someone else could have run up to show a second body to Harden. There were a number of things that could have been done that didn’t involve the Sixers best player delivering a dagger.
The Celtics still had a chance. They were only down two with 8.4 seconds on the clock, so they had a lot of options. This is what they did:
It’s hard to fault Marcus Smart for trying to lay it off to Jayson Tatum for the easy one. But it’s pretty clear that this either isn’t what was called or someone missed what was called. Either way, Jayson Tatum wasn’t on the same page as Smart was and it was another bad turnover.
Here’s the other killer. That was the Celtics fourth turnover after a break in action. Three came on ATO plays and one came on a quarter-opening play. That’s incredibly sloppy and just can’t happen in a playoff game.
So, my frustration comes in with all of that sloppiness. It’s all largely unforced and just messy.
My disappointment comes with the Celtics openly admitting that they relaxed when they found out Joel Embiid was out for the 76ers.
I’m disappointed that Jaylen Brown saw exactly three shots after a big first quarter, including only two in the fourth quarter. And, yes, he had some bad turnovers, but those came in the third quarter. Brown needed to see the ball more late. That’s on him, his teammates and Mazzulla.
I’m disappointed that Boston found a way to lose a game where they shot 58.7% from the field and outrebounding their opponent by 10.
I’m disappointed that the Celtics turned it over 16 times and let the Sixers shoot 50.6% from the floor.
I’m disappointed that Boston again crapped their pants late in the fourth quarter with the same stuff we’ve hated for at least four years running, under three different head coaches.
I’m also angry. But I’m not angry with the Celtics.
I’m angry with myself.
As I said, I’m angry for letting this impact me as much as it does. But mostly, I’m angry for expecting it to change and to be different. I’m Charlie Brown and the Celtics are Lucy with the football. I keep hoping I’ll get to kick it, but just when I believe it the most, the Celtics yank it away and end up on my back wondering why I ever trusted them in the first place.