At this level within the season, particularly when most groups know their particular person fates because the playoffs/play-in/offseason all loom, solely a handful of issues matter. For one, you need your group to be wholesome. Groups would moreover love to present their end-of-the-bench guys some run, notably people who could be preventing for a spot in a playoff rotation (or, *grimaces*, for a spot on the group subsequent season). Additionally ideally suited: sustaining and/or gaining momentum.
The Boston Celtics desperately have to mark off each merchandise on that guidelines as they creep towards their date with [insert play-in tournament opponent here] (no, we nonetheless don’t know). Maybe I’m getting forward of myself by considerably analyzing the Celtics 124-108 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves earlier than recapping it, I’m curious: how’d they fare with stated guidelines?
- Well being: Properly, their starters this afternoon had been… Payton Pritchard, Evan Fournier, Jayson Tatum, Semi Ojeleye, and Luke Kornet. The Celtics are limping into the play-in extra so than working towards it, as they had been with out the next towards the Wolves: Robert Williams III (left foot turf toe), Marcus Sensible (proper calf contusion), Tristan Thompson (left pectoral pressure), and Kemba Walker (left cervical nerve irritation). Jaylen Brown, clearly, isn’t strolling by way of that door. At halftime, Mike Gorman stated, “you title the Celtic, and he’s in all probability not right here.” We’re 0/1 to begin.
- Additional run for the “different” guys: Kornet and Ojeleye began the sport, and in Saturday’s first quarter, Tacko Fall, Romeo Langford, Aaron Nesmith, Jabari Parker, and Grant Williams all noticed run. Tremont Waters would finally verify in. At one level, the Celtics fielded a lineup of Waters, Nesmith, Langford, Parker, and Kornet. No, this was not a Maine Purple Claws recreation. However hey, 1 for two now!
- Momentum: Boston had misplaced its earlier 4 video games coming into their second-to-last of the season. They received right this moment’s, which by definition, is a step in the precise course. And I imply, hey, they will’t fall decrease within the standings! So… 2 out of three?
To the sport. Because it unfolded in full element, that’s.
The primary quarter started a pleasant, depraved catastrophe. The primary bucket for both group didn’t fall till two minutes had ticked off the clock; Karl-Anthony Cities scored it, two of his 11 within the quarter and 24 for the sport. The Celtics missed their first seven pictures, 4 of which got here from past the arc, and three of these threes had been shot by Semi Ojeleye. They began 3-for-11 from the ground; Tacko Fall checked in earlier than the quarter was half over; at one level, Romeo Langford weaved his means by way of the Minnesota protection for a assured reverse layup that Chris Paul can be happy with. Boston scored 37 factors and led by 11 after one. All the pieces about it was atrocious. All the pieces about it was wonderful.
However maintain your gleeful yelps, for I’ve but to say essentially the most stunning silver lining a fan may ever dream of: the “keep prepared” Celtics did this towards the Timberwolves starters. Not simply on this explicit recreation. The starters they’ve been operating with all season; a lineup that features a former Rookie of the Yr, a possible Rookie of the Yr this season, a max-able guard, and a catch-as-catch-can core of position guys who’ve made the again quarter of Minnesota’s season bearable to observe. The T-Wolves are 15-19 since the All-Star break, one recreation worse than the Celtics; that’s an distinctive half-season when in comparison with their 22-49 document in full.
Maybe their poor efficiency on Saturday got here by means of neglect. Minnesota’s neglect of its supporting solid, that’s, people who have made essentially the most of their roles throughout this misplaced season. The likes of Jaden McDaniels, Josh Okogie, Naz Reid, and Ricky Rubio haven’t merely putzed their means by way of the latter half of a season that has made this shoddy group semi-worthy of headlines that decision them “too good to tank.” They’ve been very important items within the early levels of this long-term rehabilitation challenge, and whereas they could not reside in Minnesota for for much longer, they’re not undeserving of their flowers.
On this recreation’s first half, although, the KAT-D’Angelo Russell-Anthony Edwards trio shot 31 of their group’s 47 pictures and solely drained 12 (that’s a 38 p.c clip, not nice for 3 guys who’re paid and performed primarily for his or her scoring skills). In the meantime, Boston’s makeshift band of misfits managed to ship their greatest efforts capturing the ball (from three specifically, the place they shot 43 p.c within the first half) and taking good care of it (simply 5 turnovers; the field rating was a lot prettier than the sport).
As talked about up prime, it’s essential for gamers who don’t usually get prolonged run to get precisely that late within the season. It provides coaches an opportunity to see precisely what they’ve with the offseason across the nook and one or so spots nonetheless vacant of their closing playoff rotation. You anticipate Jayson Tatum and Evan Fournier to attain in double figures on a nightly foundation; you hope for a participant like Ojeleye will toy and tinker along with his less-refined abilities in these late-season conditions. To search out him crashing the offensive boards, or to seek out Waters zipping passes to open cutters on the baseline feels, with out exaggerating, like discovering a bar of gold hiding within the tank atop your rest room.
Their contributions, together with efforts from Kornet, Langford, and the standard suspects, helped propel the Celtics to a 66-47 lead on the half. Tatum and Fournier performed by way of a lot of the third quarter, surprisingly, and scored as successfully as ever, unsurprisingly. Tatum had 23 factors by way of three, hoping to make one final case for belonging on an All-NBA group this season. Fournier, in the meantime, had a pedestrian 13, although his six assists made for a glowing three-quarter report card. Each will doubtless sit out of tomorrow’s 1:00 p.m. ET recreation towards the New York Knicks, so to finish their particular person common season campaigns on a comparatively excessive be aware — momentum! — was welcome.
By means of three, we didn’t essentially be taught something that we didn’t know already, although it was good to see some Celtics additional solidify their positions in what is probably going a close-to-solidified playoff rotation. Main 89-74 after three, the rookie duo had mixed for 18 factors and would go on to pour in 20 whole. Pritchard aimed to increase his vary, whereas Nesmith continued to outduel larger opponents within the paint, thus additional rising into his position as a Boston model of PJ Tucker.
An indication of how a lot respect Pritchard will get now? Rubio is guarding him on the emblem.
— Keith Smith (@KeithSmithNBA) May 15, 2021
As for the opposite guys? Properly, it’s good to know who’s expendable, not less than. Grant Williams pressured far too many passes and maintained his constant run of “oh, hey!” and “oh, expensive” performs. Jabari Parker briefly excited CelticsBlog’s Keith Smith, but it surely’s onerous to make a case for him receiving constant minutes subsequent season except he evidences appreciable enchancment in the course of the offseason or preseason. Tacko Fall has been enjoyable. His time very nicely could also be finished.
It’s nonetheless troublesome to gauge what the Celtics have in gamers like Waters and Langford. By advantage of a rise in minutes and touches on Saturday, Waters recorded seven assists, quite a few of which were impressive; he whipped a number of of them from the highest of the important thing to the baseline like a shortstop throwing a person out at first. However he’s a restricted shooter on account of his dimension and oozes extra potential in his minutes towards lesser opponents than he does with starter’s minutes. Langford, in contrast, is on the mercy of his personal athleticism. He overdoes it on each ends, sometimes ending performs in triumph, however extra usually closing them out with a foul or a brick.
And although the Celtics did its greatest to permit the Wolves again into the sport — at one level, their once-humongous lead dwindled to simply 12 — and compelled themselves right into a nook the place Tatum and Fournier needed to verify again in, just so their teammates didn’t blow it, they’d survive with out trying again on their technique to a 124-108 win. That they had no cause to fret about falling beneath seventh, as their placement within the convention is a lock, however once more: it’s all in regards to the guidelines. Momentum isn’t essentially as necessary as well being, but it surely’s a pleasant perk.
The Celtics will shut out the weirdest common season in NBA historical past tomorrow towards the Knicks. What a experience it’s been.