Note: Since it’s a week off, and your author is taking some trips today, these takeaways are in The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly style
1. The good: The nine-game winning streak was snapped, but it happened! There should be no doom and gloom about where the Boston Celtics are headed this season based on this score. Does the team have problems? Sure, they have a few. But for the most part, this was a night of rest against a desperate team that was desperate for a win.
The Celtics are fine. Even the things we call here are aberrations (for the most part) or are things that should (or at least, can) be fixed eventually.
2. The good: Malcolm Brogdon was excellent. Scored 23 points in 25 minutes off the bench in Boston. Brogdon also added six assists and was one of the few Celtics to put a decent defensive effort into this.
Funny side… Brogdon has a unique shooting move. In a game where he takes multiple three-pointers, it really stands out. Brogdon starts his shot relatively low, and the effort to get it to the edge seems to be all he can manage. Sometimes Brogdon appears to release a medicine ball while playing through a torn rotator cuff:
But it’s very effective, so it doesn’t matter at all. Just a funny note.
3. The good: Despite a somewhat high turnover on the night (more on that next day), the Celtics continued to move the ball well. They tallied 28 assists in 38 baskets. Marcus Smart returned and led the way with eight assists, Jason Tatum continued his game with seven assists, and as previously mentioned, Malcolm Brogdon had sixteen cents off the bench.
More than anything else, being ready to share the ball was the most heartening part of this loss to Boston. Nobody got into extreme champion ball mode, and that’s a welcome departure from previous losses.
4. bad: Transitions were a thing. 15 turnover is above the Boston average, but not by an incredible amount. Instead, the bad part was when transitions seemed to happen.
Four different times in the second half, when the Celtics made a run on the Bulls, and it looked like they were snatching the momentum away, they were coughing.
But the Stars were guilty earlier in the game, too. Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum carry a heavy burden in the playmaking business, but that is the life of a star player. It will come with some twists, though, as it’s part of being a high-use gamer. Those killers are not forced to. In the first quarter, Jason Tatum sprinted straight to a defenseman for an assist on the steal. And then this was just a really bad pass late in the beginning:
As for Brown, that could be on one of his teammates, because the spacing was wonky here. But Brown can’t keep getting up in the air without a plan:
Is it difficult to call the stars to play dirty? Yes, maybe a little. But they are held to higher standards.
5. bad: Defense… ugh. It was one of the first times this season that the Celtics offense didn’t show up and it wasn’t enough to salvage another poor defensive performance.
A year ago, Boston was historically good on defense. They finished leading the league in all three opponent field goal percentages allowed. The Celtics held teams to 43.4% overall, including 33.9% on three-pointers, and were the only team in the NBA to hold opponents under 50% with two-pointers at 49.7%.
This season, the Celtics are 20The tenth Ranked Defense. The two-point defense remained as strong, if not at last year’s level. But the three-point defense has fallen far.
The bullpen has walked or stepped onto the vault after jumping three-pointers over the break. Overall, Chicago was 13-for-24 in non-corner threes. Of those shots, the bulls were 9 of the 18 shots rated as wide open.
When it was a good looking 18 of 24 shots, Boston was actually lucky that they didn’t shoot a little better. Shooting 4-of-6 on triple defenses made up for it, but not locking in on shooters again and again was a glaring problem with this loss.
Kind of good news? The players realized this and were quick to say that they didn’t put in the effort or put in the effort they needed to win at this game.
6. bad: We’ll keep this simple, and it ties into one of the ugly spots, too: Where was Payton Pritchard? Yes, Marcus Smart and Malcolm Brogdon both played, but there’s still room for Pritchard, too. He played so well that he was never buried on the bench again.
Also, playing Pritchard can help save minutes for some vets and key-turn men.
7. The ugly: It was a really bad night after a series of good events, but Al Horford’s shooting line is really bad. Horford was 0-for-9 overall, including 0-for-7 on three-pointers. More than anyone else, Horford had one of those nights. It happened, but it was hard to watch.
8. The ugly: The recoil wasn’t great. Chicago scored 51.7% but managed to recover eight of 43 errors. That’s an offensive bounce rate of 18.6%. Not awful, but when you combine it with a Celtics team that only racks up five offensive rebounds, it’s fair to say that the Bulls have dominated the glass.
9. The ugly: Boston was in a comeback mode, but Joe Mazzola let the dream live for the long haul. Each start played between 34 and 37 minutes. In a game in which Chicago dominated the entire second half, there was no reason for the minutes to go up.
Al Horford scored 35 minutes into a match where he was ineffective at both ends. This was the screaming for it to be in or under 30 minutes. In his first game, while playing on a sore ankle, Marcus Smart also played 35 minutes. With how well Malcolm Brogdon plays, and how well Derrick White plays, Smart didn’t need to put up with that kind of load.
Jaylen Brown and Jason Tatum played 38 minutes and 36 minutes, respectively. Both would have gone down by about five minutes and the result would have been the same.
The minutes from a late November game may seem small in the bigger picture of the season. But several Celtics, most notably Tatum, admitted they ran out of gas in the Finals last year. Since loading up on minutes is cumulative, and getting back into the finals is the goal, it’s time to start easing that load whenever and wherever possible.
10. The Celtics returned to action Wednesday night against the Dallas Mavericks in Boston. Luka Doncic and the Mavs have done some miracles to beat the Celtics in heartbreaking fashion in recent years. Dallas comes up to a small scrimmage at 9-7, but they’re still a dangerous opponent.
It’s time to see if Boston can get the weekend off to a good start and start a new streak.