Round 2: Celtics vs Cavs

Saints Rest

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To be fair, humans are conditioned to look at things a certain way, and what we see with the Celtics is a team that was like a Ferrari during the regular season. They had sustained high level performance for games at a time, and blew opponents away, and it was a wonderful thing to see. And now we have this Ferrari on the racing circuit and it's running against inferior vehicles (or ones with damage like the Cavs last night) and rather than blowing them away, its barely finishing ahead of them (at times). And we aren't really sure why. Rather than celebrating victories, after the race we run over to the car and pop the hood to try and figure out what's wrong. That weird "why" troubles our brains, and we work it out on message boards.
It may be more obvious than something under the hood. It may be as simple as they got a flat tire and while they are waiting to get it back from the shop, they are driving around on the spare which has a lot of miles on it.
 

FireChief

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To be fair, humans are conditioned to look at things a certain way, and what we see with the Celtics is a team that was like a Ferrari during the regular season. They had sustained high level performance for games at a time, and blew opponents away, and it was a wonderful thing to see. And now we have this Ferrari on the racing circuit and it's running against inferior vehicles (or ones with damage like the Cavs last night) and rather than blowing them away, its barely finishing ahead of them (at times). And we aren't really sure why. Rather than celebrating victories, after the race we run over to the car and pop the hood to try and figure out what's wrong. That weird "why" troubles our brains, and we work it out on message boards.
Good analogy, but the aspect we’re all turning a blind eye to is that the regular season is like I90 through the Dakotas in the middle of the night… cruise at your desired speed, just avoid obstacles. The playoffs, however, are like downtown rush hour. Everyone is going to have their commute time impacted, it’s now all about how successfully you can navigate the gridlock.
 

tims4wins

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Disagree. The ref was out of position and could have ruined a key play. Imagine Brown getting tangled with the ref and that play becoming a turnover or a missed basket fast break. It could have cost them the game. I don't blame Brown for being pissed.
His anger was deserved. His reaction was a bit much, screaming at the ref. But, emotions.
 

Over Guapo Grande

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His anger was deserved. His reaction was a bit much, screaming at the ref. But, emotions.
There is a fine line between "He doesn't care enough/show enough emotion" and "He gets too caught up in the moment". What is the proper amount of FU REF (FiredUpness REFerence) allowed?


(not an indictment on your post, just a convenient jumping off point)
 

Strike4

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Good analogy, but the aspect we’re all turning a blind eye to is that the regular season is like I90 through the Dakotas in the middle of the night… cruise at your desired speed, just avoid obstacles. The playoffs, however, are like downtown rush hour. Everyone is going to have their commute time impacted, it’s now all about how successfully you can navigate the gridlock.
Yeah there's no logic to it, it's just how we as humans work. And to move forward it's about finding the balance between continual improvement in quest of the absolute, one the one hand, and just walking away when the race is over on the other. You can't always duplicate the I-90 drive and you'll drive yourself nuts trying.
 

NomarsFool

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The offense sure feels like much more of a struggle than it has for most of the season. I know KP is out, but they've played without KP a lot. It's also not like Cleveland is some defensive juggernaut or throwing lots of different defensive looks that the Celtics haven't seen, right? I don't know if there's a stat that would prove they are playing more iso ball, but it sure feels like it.
 

slamminsammya

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The offense sure feels like much more of a struggle than it has for most of the season. I know KP is out, but they've played without KP a lot. It's also not like Cleveland is some defensive juggernaut or throwing lots of different defensive looks that the Celtics haven't seen, right? I don't know if there's a stat that would prove they are playing more iso ball, but it sure feels like it.
I think the officiating is playing a big role here. Also doesn’t help to have your best player struggling.
 

joe dokes

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The offense sure feels like much more of a struggle than it has for most of the season. I know KP is out, but they've played without KP a lot. It's also not like Cleveland is some defensive juggernaut or throwing lots of different defensive looks that the Celtics haven't seen, right? I don't know if there's a stat that would prove they are playing more iso ball, but it sure feels like it.
Was last night anything more than "Cavs play better defense without Mitchell"?
 

DJnVa

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To be fair, humans are conditioned to look at things a certain way, and what we see with the Celtics is a team that was like a Ferrari during the regular season. They had sustained high level performance for games at a time, and blew opponents away, and it was a wonderful thing to see. And now we have this Ferrari on the racing circuit and it's running against inferior vehicles (or ones with damage like the Cavs last night) and rather than blowing them away, its barely finishing ahead of them (at times).
Except this isn't true:

Regular season win %: .780
Playoff win %: .778

Regular season differential: +11.4
Playoff differential: +11.0
 

moondog80

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Those people call EEI. We should be smarter.

The Celtics have won by 20, 20, 14, 34, 25, 13, and 7.
This.

The KG/PP team that won the title got taken to 7 games in round 1 by the 37-45 Hawks. It's never easy.
 

RorschachsMask

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The offense sure feels like much more of a struggle than it has for most of the season. I know KP is out, but they've played without KP a lot. It's also not like Cleveland is some defensive juggernaut or throwing lots of different defensive looks that the Celtics haven't seen, right? I don't know if there's a stat that would prove they are playing more iso ball, but it sure feels like it.
They have the third best offense in the playoffs so far, which is awesome considering no KP and they’ve struggled from three.

Don’t bother comparing regular season offense to the playoffs, especially now that the refs are letting defenses play way more physical.
 

RorschachsMask

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Celtics are just smoking defenses when they run PnR in these playoffs. This is just their own PPP, doesn’t count passes, I’ll be able to check that later though.

Tatum: 1.24
Jrue: 1.21
White: 1.04
Jaylen 1.00

Just to give an idea, Mitchell is at 1.04.
 

tims4wins

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There is a fine line between "He doesn't care enough/show enough emotion" and "He gets too caught up in the moment". What is the proper amount of FU REF (FiredUpness REFerence) allowed?


(not an indictment on your post, just a convenient jumping off point)
Fair point. It's a tough needle to thread.
This.

The KG/PP team that won the title got taken to 7 games in round 1 by the 37-45 Hawks. It's never easy.
One difference is that in 2008, we were really fired up to be a true contender for the first time since the 80s really. I'm sure there was some "WTF is going on" (it was a long time ago!), but with this group, we have seen some of these signs before and things haven't ended well. In other words, this group has lost some of the benefit of the doubt.
 

Jimbodandy

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That Jaylen three was decisive - it iced the game. It is absolutely nuts that Jayken had to navigate around a ref in that situation. I hope the league takes action against that guy.
I think that it was the same ref that called the tech earlier too. I'm never psyched to draw that guy, but anyone looks competent next to Marc Davis. Whole game was choppy and weird, and both teams were pretty frustrated with the officiating. Celtics did a better job overall not letting it affect them.

Except this isn't true:

Regular season win %: .780
Playoff win %: .778

Regular season differential: +11.4
Playoff differential: +11.0
GTFOH with facts.
 

m0ckduck

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Except this isn't true:

Regular season win %: .780
Playoff win %: .778

Regular season differential: +11.4
Playoff differential: +11.0
It's still a fine point, though, even if the phrasing should have been "playoff Celtics are at parity with regular season Celtics." If the team had a 9 game stretch in February where they were playing opponents with an aggregate .570 winning percentage and missing KP for the majority, we'd all be fine with a 7-2 outcome and a +11.0 margin. (Edit: OTOH, it it was a stretch of 9 games where the opponent was missing their best player for 5, that does change things).
One difference is that in 2008, we were really fired up to be a true contender for the first time since the 80s really. I'm sure there was some "WTF is going on" (it was a long time ago!), but with this group, we have seen some of these signs before and things haven't ended well. In other words, this group has lost some of the benefit of the doubt.
Good point. There's also simply an irrational dread of getting caught out rooting for a front-running team, e.g. the team that blows everyone's doors off when the stakes aren't high but ultimately lacks the toughness (blah blah blah) to prevail against adversity. The 2007 Pats offered an unfortunate taste of that narrative— not that that's a nuanced way of viewing their season, but there is a perverse aspect of the Scottish game being made _even more disappointing_ by the 40 point beatings they'd put on teams earlier. That's such a tough dynamic to swallow that it makes people eager to inoculate themselves ahead of time by declaring that a playoff home loss disqualifies us from winning the title, and so forth.
 
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Eric Fernsten's Disco Mustache

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I'm going to get a tounge-in-check jab from @HRB for this, but I've only caught up to a small part of the stuff in the threads since last night

To wade in just on some of the recent stuff...


To be fair, humans are conditioned to look at things a certain way, and what we see with the Celtics is a team that was like a Ferrari during the regular season...
I'm a big believe in analogies, so I 100% support you in going looking for them.

And, in the spirit of trying to be helpful with your desire to understand some of the 'whys', I'll offer that cars are really bad analogies for basketball teams.

So are other things that take standardized inputs and turn them into standardized outputs. So, computer models are bad at replicating basketball teams. So are video games, including video games about basketball. So are Excel models and the way us fanatics online can play around with amateur statistics and quantitative analysis. In basketball it is an incredibly routine thing that the same visible inputs result in very different visible outputs.

That's not a sign that a given team is weak, or "lacks a champions heart", or get distracted, or whatever narrative. (Although all those narratives are sometimes true. I am 100% convinced that this Board's namesake 100% lacked a champion's heart, for example, although he did enjoy his port). So when someone sees a different visible output and work backward to and asserts that some visible input must have been different and worse, they have a certain potential to go astray.

All the different outputs are telling you is that basketball teams are full of human beings, and therein lies both the glory and the tragedy.

If you want to grope for an analogy, grope for one that involves a fair amount of internal chaos, variability, the full range of strongly felt human emotion, and all the messiness of group dynamics.

I don't have one that comes to mind right now, beyond the unhelpful one, which is that basketball teams are like basketball teams. And almost all that is new is old.

I'd argue that I'm more realistic than pessimistic. I suspect the C's will find a way to win Wednesday, but I wouldn't be shocked if they came out flat. Would you?
Pulling this over from the gamethread, b/c I try to answer questions that appear to be asked honestly

My first reaction is to say I wouldn't be surprised by anything, because more or less nothing that happens in the NBA playoffs feels all that surprising, and I've made peace with my own inability to predict the future. For me, that's part of what makes the playoffs fun. I have no real idea what's going to happen next, and when I feel like I do I'm often wrong. So, enjoy the ride.

But, since that feels a little bit like a dodge, I'll say gun to my head here's what I expect from game 5:
  • A bunch of the Cavs role players will play and shoot worse in game 5 than game 4. Because there are two trends that you see in the playoffs year after year. (1) Most role players play much better in front of fanatic home crowds than they do in front of fanatic hostile crowds, with the exception of some low-level-psychotic role players like Josh Hart, Tony Allen, Ron Artest, Payton Prichard, and the like. And (2) Many underdog teams allow themselves to let go of the rope and lose their elimination game on the road, rather than having to go home and lose it in front of their own fans.
  • I expect the Cavs to have some stretch of crazy three point shooting, since pushing the pace and putting up a ton of early-shot-clock 3s feels like their only/best chance at an upset
  • I expect the Garden crowd to pump up the Celtics role players
  • I expect Jaylen to want to close this series out, because while he can have stretches where he plays badly he has played with a ton of energy and intentionality more or less this whole run
  • I wouldn't be surprised at a bounce-back shooting game from PickSwap or Horford
Will we "come out flat?" Beats me

Go, Celts
 
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Montana Fan

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Man, watching Jrue dance around the court on defense is a true pleasure. I know there are questions about the size of his extension but he is Magic Johnson on the defensive end of the court. Glad Brad signed him.

While admiring Jrue I was thinking how much his addition had eased the trade of Marcus Smart. Wonder how Marcus will fare with the new way of officiating. My thought is that he will adapt (take less charges/flops) and thrive (muscle up players while defending them).
 

lovegtm

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Man, watching Jrue dance around the court on defense is a true pleasure. I know there are questions about the size of his extension but he is Magic Johnson on the defensive end of the court. Glad Brad signed him.

While admiring Jrue I was thinking how much his addition had eased the trade of Marcus Smart. Wonder how Marcus will fare with the new way of officiating. My thought is that he will adapt (take less charges/flops) and thrive (muscle up players while defending them).
Rules or no rules, Marcus is not in Jrue's zip code on either end right now. We saw last night how skilled an offensive player Jrue can be, and I expect him to stay aggressive now that he's had a taste of it.

On defense, Marcus hasn't been able to defend small guards for years now, while Jrue is still elite at it at age 33.
 

RSN Diaspora

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I feel like many were not fine after game two against Miami as well.. several posts saying things similar to ‘this team never changes’
Which is as tiresome in retrospect...but not necessarily in the moment as it is predictable. If we're looking to game threads as a beacon of rational analysis, we're gonna be disappointed every time--it's snap reactions in real time for a team we have insanely lofty expectations of. In reality, we have the best playoff record in the league and as of today, the only series lead in the league. On one hand, it's tedious watching these sub-WEEI caller takes. On the other hand, I shout stupid shit at the TV when things start going south and I'd probably be embarrassed to read what I said the next day.
 

lovegtm

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On the substantative side, what people called "iso ball" or "stagnant" late was actually the Cs having trouble attacking Cleveland's "no switch" policy. They started to figure it out more late, and either drive against the no-switch or hit a roller at a better angle, but it definitely made them uncomfortable.

It's funny to say, and he has better personnel, but I've thought JBB has done a better job at underdog coaching than Spo did. Spo got completely destroyed with his Tatum coverages, because Tatum is too used to them, and gluing Bam to Tatum got rekt.

JBB has found ways to use limited guys like Strus to make Tatum uncomfortable at times, while also not having rules like "don't leave Tatum ever off-ball" that you see from some teams.

The not-switching stuff has been a creative way to gum up the Cs favorite initiating actions while keeping the Cavs' limited smaller guys on the floor more.
 
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Strike4

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And, in the spirit of trying to be helpful with your desire to understand some of the 'whys', I'll offer that cars are really bad analogies for basketball teams.

So are other things that take standardized inputs and turn them into standardized outputs. So, computer models are bad at replicating basketball teams. So are video games, including video games about basketball. So are Excel models and the way us fanatics online can play around with amateur statistics and quantitative analysis. In basketball it is an incredibly routine thing that the same visible inputs result in very different visible outputs.
You're right, anything involving humans is infinitely complex and there's no model that can accurately predict this kind of output. And not to get all meta, but the Ferrari analogy wasn't about the Celtics, it's about our perception of the Celtics. Like @DJnVa post above - if humans were rational machines, we'd all read that and be like "oh I was wrong" and self-correct and then there'd be no more posting about the Celtics underperforming. But there will be, because people's senses and minds have processed a reality that is at odds with that fact, and it's hard to let it go.
 

DeJesus Built My Hotrod

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On one hand, it's tedious watching these sub-WEEI caller takes. On the other hand, I shout stupid shit at the TV when things start going south and I'd probably be embarrassed to read what I said the next day.
The key difference here is that you are shouting at your TV and not @ everyone.

This team won its first round series decisively, its up 3-1 in the second and some here appear to be expecting perfect execution on every series and wire to wire leads that build or at least stay constant. Maybe those are reasonable expectations but watching the other series, it doesn't feel like a fair standard.
 

tims4wins

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The key difference here is that you are shouting at your TV and not @ everyone.

This team won its first round series decisively, its up 3-1 in the second and some here appear to be expecting perfect execution on every series and wire to wire leads that build or at least stay constant. Maybe those are reasonable expectations but watching the other series, it doesn't feel like a fair standard.
Speaking personally, it's the shorthandedness of the other teams, and losing twice at home, that has me concerned. They have been excellent overall on the road though.
 

Eric Fernsten's Disco Mustache

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...now we have this Ferrari on the racing circuit and it's running against inferior vehicles (or ones with damage like the Cavs last night) and rather than blowing them away, its barely finishing ahead of them (at times). And we aren't really sure why. Rather than celebrating victories, after the race we run over to the car and pop the hood to try and figure out what's wrong. That weird "why" troubles our brains, and we work it out on message boards.
Please don't think that in quoting this post twice I'm picking on you, since I don't mean it that way.

And since you seem to really want to understand better how a theoretically great team like the Celtics could have such a hard time getting past Cleveland's scrubs, I'll share some thoughts. You don't need to agree or disagree.

Here's the story I was telling myself as game 4 unfolded last night...
  • There is a very common dynamic in the NBA that when a star player goes down, and then a bunch of role players step up and punch way above their weight class. Some of this is because all of these guys are super-competitive, more or less want to be star players themselves, and they recognize that now they have a moment to shine. Another reason is that they're freed from being the guy who has to play off the star player. So, instead of setting screens and crashing the boards, or hanging out in the weak-side corner being ignored, they get the sprint down the court and take an early shot clock 3. It's the role they were likely in their whole way through high school and college. And holy shit does it feel good to them to be back in that role, in front of 30,000 fans screaming for them to be successful. For one night they get to live the dream that have maybe reconciled themselves would never come true.
  • Basketball isn't like video game basketball. Guys don't have some innate chance of hitting an open shot or getting a rebound in traffic, which they carry into every game. Things change inside someone and guys play above their heads, have the night of their lives, etc. The opposite can happen too. Some things happen emotionally or in your personal life and suddenly you struggle to do something that used to be easy. We've likely all felt both. It's human. Last night both teams were up. And some guys on Cleveland were up a lot.
  • Conspiracy theory bullet: I don't know what everyone else here is saying about the refs, but game 4 felt to me like a great candidate for the "The league wants to refs to extend these playoff series" file. Boston was driving to the hoop in the first half, getting clobbered, and the refs were swallowing their whistles. Which, combined with our well-documented outside shooting woes, resulted in stretches where Boston would have trouble putting up points and Cleveland could hang around or close our lead. The refs also had some... interesting... calls, where a given Celtics (IIRC, Jrue, Jaylen) would put together a great stretch and then a ref would call a borderline non-shooting foul that got them sent to the bench by Joe. This sort of thing doesn't change the box score, so it can fly under the radar. But if you wanted to do something subtle to make it easier for the team that's down to keep coming back, manipulating the winning team's coach into repeatedly pulling his hottest guy isn't a bad way to do it.
  • In part because the refs were swallowing their whistles the Cavs keep pounding on our starters the whole game, and that's just exhausting to be on the receiving end of. The Cavs game plan appeared to be: (1) get super physical so Boston shot for a lower percentage, and got nothing east inside the paint, (2) be super aggressive on the perimeter and jumping into passing lanes, to force turnovers, (3) push the pace and take lots of early-shot-clock open threes, (4) hope you get hot from 3 and Boston does not. The situations where teams shy away from that approach it's because (1) the other team will probably take a lot of free throws and your starters will get in foul trouble, and (2) it tends to give the other team more than the normal amount of open outside shots off ball movement
  • So, normally, the way you'd beat that game plan is something like (1) take advantage of perimeter aggression by attacking the paint, (2) hit your foul shots, and (3) have your off ball players hit the inevitable open shots. The problem for Boston was that (a) the refs letting the Cavs play physical meant we weren't getting (1) or (2) and (b) Derrick white and Horford couldn't buy a basket to save their lives, which turned the game into Boston going 3-on-5 for a bunch of the night. Twice early in the game they isolated Horford on a much smaller player at the circle and he couldn't finish. Once it was clear Cleveland was going to let the dude shot and he couldn't convert from inside or outside, our odds got tougher.
  • So, how did we win? Tatum, Brown, and Jrue did what you'd want them to do. They took physically inferior players off the dribble, didn't wait for or expect a whistle, and scored through a ton of physical contact. Is that going to be pretty? Is it going to look like an expensive race car going around a race track? No. It's going to be ugly as shit. It's going to be a rock fight.
  • Hat tip to Coach Joe, for recognizing that if someone couldn't score through a physical defender, then he needed to play people who could score around them. That led him to bench Horford for a lot of Kornet, and White for a lot of Pritchard. Kornet and Pritchard obviously get around guys in different ways, but they were both a big part of how we held serve for the mid-point of the third through the mid-point of the 4th.
Sort of like playing an NFL playoff game in a blizzard, are choices were to win ugly or lose ugly.

For my money, there's every reason to feel good that we won

See you in Boston, bitches
 
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Auger34

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On the substantative side, what people called "iso ball" or "stagnant" late was actually the Cs having trouble attacking Cleveland's "no switch" policy. They started to figure it out more late, and either drive against the no-switch or hit a roller at a better angle, but it definitely made them uncomfortable.
What do you mean by late here? My frustration was at about the 6 or 7 minute mark, there seemed like there was a pretty conscientious decision to heavily slow it down and limit passes/turnovers. It's a good strategy but it seems like they go to it a little too early,

As we all know, basically no lead is safe with that amount of time left. I understand the rationale, live ball turnovers can definitely kill you but I think there's got to be a better happy medium
 

wade boggs chicken dinner

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The offense sure feels like much more of a struggle than it has for most of the season. I know KP is out, but they've played without KP a lot. It's also not like Cleveland is some defensive juggernaut or throwing lots of different defensive looks that the Celtics haven't seen, right? I don't know if there's a stat that would prove they are playing more iso ball, but it sure feels like it.
Synergy tracks this if someone has a subscription. I don't.
 

Auger34

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  • Conspiracy theory bullet: I don't know everyone else here is saying about the refs, but game 4 felt to me like a great candidate for the "The league wants to refs to extend these playoff series" file. Boston was driving to the hoop in the first half, getting clobbered, and the refs were swallowing their whistles. Which, combined with our well-documented outside shooting woes, resulted in stretches where Boston would have trouble putting up points and Cleveland could hang around or close our lead. The refs also had some... interesting... calls, where a given Celtics (IIRC, Jrue, Jaylen) would put together a great stretch and then a ref would call a borderline non-shooting foul that got them sent to the bench by Joe. This sort of thing doesn't change the box score, so it can fly under the radar. But if you wanted to do something subtle to make it easier for the team that's down to keep coming back, manipulating the winning team's coach into repeatedly pulling his hottest guy isn't a bad way to do it.
  • In part because the refs were swallowing their whistles the Cavs keep pounding on our starters the whole game, and that's just exhausting to be on the receiving end up. The Cavs game plan appeared to be: (1) get super physical so Boston shot for a lower percentage, and got nothing east inside the paint, (2) be super aggressive on the perimeter and jumping into passing lanes, to force turnovers, (3) push the pace and take lots of early-shot-clock open threes, (4) hope you get hot from 3 and Boston does not. The situations where teams shy away from that approach it's because (1) the other team will probably take a lot of free throws and your starters will get in foul trouble, and (2) it tends to give the other team more than the normal amount of open outside shots off ball movement

See you in Boston, bitches
I agree with most of your points (especially about the star player being out, there was some definite "Ewing Effect" potential)...but I really have to disagree here.

I complain about refs as much as anyone (and I think they can alter the outcome way more than anyone wants to admit) but I thought the Celtics got a pretty damn favorable whistle last night. There were definitely some calls in favor of the Cavs but, overall, I definitely don't think the refs screwed over Boston or were trying to push it to Game 4 (the Scott Foster special)
 

Justthetippett

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Speaking personally, it's the shorthandedness of the other teams, and losing twice at home, that has me concerned. They have been excellent overall on the road though.
It's not just that they lost twice at home, it's that they put up two real clunkers at home in games that were not close against clearly inferior teams. Overall through 9 games they have been very good, but it's reasonable to look at those two losses and have some concerns. The KP injury to me skews everything though. In light of that it's hard to find much to complain about if they go 8-2 through two rounds. (Big Al is definitely feeling the burn. His shot looks awful.)

I also think playoff bball is a little like divisional football. There's so much familiarity that it limits the talent gap and games generally end up a little closer than they otherwise would.
 

wade boggs chicken dinner

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Was Tatum really 11-25, 2-8, 9-9, exactly, for the 2nd straight game? Dude is the model of consistency. 11 Rebounds, 5 assists 6 TO's vs 13/6/5 is pretty on point too.
Karalis said that JT is the first C to get 30/10/5 in back-to-back games since . . . .


Larry.

Rules or no rules, Marcus is not in Jrue's zip code on either end right now. We saw last night how skilled an offensive player Jrue can be, and I expect him to stay aggressive now that he's had a taste of it.

On defense, Marcus hasn't been able to defend small guards for years now, while Jrue is still elite at it at age 33.
Jrue was an amazing pick-up. I've said a few times that I think he has another gear on defense from the regular season and I think we're seeing it. Also, having Jrue as a scorer really mitigates the lack of KP. Last year, if Al went 0-fer from 3P and DW wasn't shooting well, it was unlikely we would win the game.
 

Devizier

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Some of the commentary re: Cleveland is people forgetting that they were a 48-win team that runs about 9-deep

Yes they've been missing Jarrett Allen but they are still a very good defensive team without him
 

joe dokes

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It's not just that they lost twice at home, it's that they put up two real clunkers at home in games that were not close against clearly inferior teams. Overall through 9 games they have been very good, but it's reasonable to look at those two losses and have some concerns. The KP injury to me skews everything though. In light of that it's hard to find much to complain about if they go 8-2 through two rounds. (Big Al is definitely feeling the burn. His shot looks awful.)
This analysis exempts every West Conference team, because the standings were so close that there are no "inferior" teams. That said, the Lakers won a game against Denver; the Sixers won 2 against the Knicks, etc.
 

PedroKsBambino

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Apr 17, 2003
32,438
Rules or no rules, Marcus is not in Jrue's zip code on either end right now. We saw last night how skilled an offensive player Jrue can be, and I expect him to stay aggressive now that he's had a taste of it.

On defense, Marcus hasn't been able to defend small guards for years now, while Jrue is still elite at it at age 33.
Yeah, at both ends it's a huge upgrade. Defensively, Jrue is so much better playing "down" in size and that is useful against a number of scorers...Marcus had already reached the point he was more of a 2/3 than a true 1 defensively. And Jrue is as versatile in guarding up as Marcus was.

Offensively...Jrue is just an amazing fit wtih the roster. He can handle, create when needed, and is fine being a connector and 3pt shooter (which he is great at, unlike Smart). It's a huge difference in terms of reliability and ability to usefully step up when needed relative to Marcus. And he plays within a system, unlike Marcus, offensively.

They paid a significant price, but you can see why very clearly
 

ObstructedView

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Aug 1, 2001
3,531
Maine
I'm definitely guilty of bitching my way through some of these games, including wins that didn't feel comfortable enough. But then I look up and am reminded that the Cs are up 3-1 while every other series is a 2-2 rock fight. I wouldn't want to trade places with anyone.
 

8slim

has trust issues
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Nov 6, 2001
25,695
Unreal America
Fair point. It's a tough needle to thread.

One difference is that in 2008, we were really fired up to be a true contender for the first time since the 80s really. I'm sure there was some "WTF is going on" (it was a long time ago!), but with this group, we have seen some of these signs before and things haven't ended well. In other words, this group has lost some of the benefit of the doubt.
Yeah, this is really it. I’m not down with the over the top “here we go again” stuff that creeps into conversations here at times.

But at the same time, for all the success this franchise has had during the Js era, we’ve also witnessed some pretty excruciating failures as well.

If some folks are genuinely delirious to win by any way possible during the playoffs, then all the power to ya. However I don’t think it’s at all weird (or even explicitly negative) for others to discuss why some things didn’t go as well as we’d want. I mean the team itself does that.

It’s not noble to avoid discussing that.
 

JakeRae

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Jul 21, 2005
8,303
New York, NY
Except this isn't true:

Regular season win %: .780
Playoff win %: .778

Regular season differential: +11.4
Playoff differential: +11.0
This is my reaction to. Setting aside whether the analogy works, the story here should be that the Celtics are playing with the same level of dominance they did in the regular season so far in the playoffs. And they’ve done it against teams that are probably at least equal to the competition they faced in the regular season. Any narrative about underperformance doesn’t match what is actually happening on the court. There’s a bunch of weird SSS things like us losing more at home and not on the road, or having wider average margins in both wins and losses, but the trend is this team has been remarkably consistent all year. They played no meaningful stretch of games where they lost more than they won. The last time I looked was in 10 game stretches and there was literally one 6-4 stretch and none worse than that. I’m not sure that held up through the end of the season, but this team has consistently one 70+ percent of the time over virtually any subset of games and has continued to do that in the playoffs. They still might not win a championship. It’s hard to win a championship. But nothing that has happened so far in the playoffs should be causing concern about this team.
 

JakeRae

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Jul 21, 2005
8,303
New York, NY
Yeah, this is really it. I’m not down with the over the top “here we go again” stuff that creeps into conversations here at times.

But at the same time, for all the success this franchise has had during the Js era, we’ve also witnessed some pretty excruciating failures as well.

If some folks are genuinely delirious to win by any way possible during the playoffs, then all the power to ya. However I don’t think it’s at all weird (or even explicitly negative) for others to discuss why some things didn’t go as well as we’d want. I mean the team itself does that.

It’s not noble to avoid discussing that.
There’s a difference between discussing this and treating it like a sign something is wrong. I think the pushback is usually against the latter (although it probably sometimes bleeds into the former since none of us are perfect). Like, after the Heat Game 2, I think the forum unanimously agreed the Celtics needed to execute closeouts better. But there was disagreement about whether the poor effort/execution in that game was a harbinger or just a one-off bad performance exacerbated by excellent shooting.
 

Jimbodandy

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Jan 31, 2006
12,095
around the way
On the substantative side, what people called "iso ball" or "stagnant" late was actually the Cs having trouble attacking Cleveland's "no switch" policy. They started to figure it out more late, and either drive against the no-switch or hit a roller at a better angle, but it definitely made them uncomfortable.

It's funny to say, and he has better personnel, but I've thought JBB has done a better job at underdog coaching than Spo did. Spo got completely destroyed with his Tatum coverages, because Tatum is too used to them, and gluing Bam to Tatum got rekt.

JBB has found ways to use limited guys like Strus to make Tatum uncomfortable at times, while also not having rules like "don't leave Tatum ever off-ball" that you see from some teams.

The not-switching stuff has been a creative way to gum up the Cs favorite initiating actions while keeping the Cavs' limited smaller guys on the floor more.
This is a good catch. Perhaps ironically, part of Strus's effectiveness has been based on a traditionally Miami-like approach of getting handys and extra physical with Tatum (and to a lesser extent, Brown). He has been damn good at it.
 

InstaFace

The Ultimate One
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Sep 27, 2016
22,904
Pittsburgh, PA
To be fair, humans are conditioned to look at things a certain way, and what we see with the Celtics is a team that was like a Ferrari during the regular season. They had sustained high level performance for games at a time, and blew opponents away, and it was a wonderful thing to see. And now we have this Ferrari on the racing circuit and it's running against inferior vehicles (or ones with damage like the Cavs last night) and rather than blowing them away, its barely finishing ahead of them (at times). And we aren't really sure why. Rather than celebrating victories, after the race we run over to the car and pop the hood to try and figure out what's wrong. That weird "why" troubles our brains, and we work it out on message boards.
But at same time the playoff celtics have a nearly identical win % with a better net rating than they did in the regular season.
that said, I totally get the human nature described in your post. I try to fight it though, as it’s a bit more fun (for me) to just enjoy the ride.
This made me want to look at whether the net-rating stuff is particular to these Celtics, or is just "hey the playoffs are hard, all the teams are good and they get better the further you go". So let's compare some anecdata on the best teams since 1990-ish, those with >= 9.0 net rating in the regular season**:

Team -- Net rating Reg Season / Net rating Playoffs (W-L) / Season-to-Playoffs Delta
1990-91 Chicago Bulls* -- +9.5 / +13.2 (15-2) / +3.7
1991-92 Chicago Bulls* -- +11.0 / +6.9 (15-7) / -4.1
1993-94 Seattle SuperSonics -- +9.5 / +0.9 (2-3!) / -8.6
1995-96 Chicago Bulls* -- +13.4 / +12.1 (15-3) / -1.3
1996-97 Chicago Bulls* -- +12.0 / +6.5 (15-4) / -5.5
1996-97 Utah Jazz -- +9.7 / +3.8 (13-7) / -5.9
1998-99 SA Spurs* -- +9.0 / +9.5 (15-2) / +0.5
1999-00 LA Lakers* -- +9.1 / +2.6 (15-8) / -6.5
2006-07 SA Spurs* -- +9.3 / +4.5 (16-4) / -4.8
2007-08 Boston Celtics* -- +11.2 / +6.1 (16-10) / -5.1
2008-09 Cleveland Cavaliers -- +10.0 / +9.9 (10-4) / -0.1
2011-12 Chicago Bulls -- +9.1 / -1.9! (2-4) / -11.0
2012-13 OKC Thunder -- +9.8 / +1.4 (5-6) / -8.4
2014-15 GS Warriors* -- +10.2 / +8.2 (16-5) / -2.0
2015-16 SA Spurs -- +11.3 / +9.9 (6-4) / -1.4
2015-16 GS Warriors -- +10.7 / +4.4 (15-9) / -6.3
2016-17 GS Warriors* -- +11.6 / +13.5 (16-1) / +1.9
2019-20 Milwaukee Bucks -- +9.5 / +1.2 (5-5) / -8.3
2020-21 Utah Jazz -- +9.3 / -0.9! (6-5) / -10.2

Avg Delta, all top NRtg teams (19): -4.4
Avg Delta, Championship Teams (10): -2.3

2023-24 Boston Celtics -- +11.6 / +12.1 (leading playoffs; 7W-2L) / +0.5

Only 3 of the top 19 teams by net rating have ever improved upon their regular-season net rating in the playoffs (and all 3 won the title); thus far, we're on track to be the 4th. Many title winning teams have had a negative delta from their regular season, some of them substantially so (but most of those teams still led all playoff teams by net rating). So offhand, I'd say that after 9 playoff games, we're looking damned good, even if the road will get tougher from here on out.

...And either way, we are only 3 years removed from Evan Fournier, Tristan Thompson and Romeo Langford starting multiple playoff games, and I just count my blessings. Long live Wyc's Unlimited Budget (tm).

* Won title
** using Bk-ref's unadjusted net ratings, because that's apples-to-apples with what they have on the playoff season pages, so it's what I have available.
 

InstaFace

The Ultimate One
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Sep 27, 2016
22,904
Pittsburgh, PA
It may be more obvious than something under the hood. It may be as simple as they got a flat tire and while they are waiting to get it back from the shop, they are driving around on the spare which has a lot of miles on it.
Between this, and nailing me on the Michael Cohen / Lebowski rug thing yesterday, you're on fire right now with turning analogies around on people.

And listen, that spare with a lot of miles on it is a FUTURE HALL OF FAME tire. A beloved and universally respected tire, one who doesn't fuss over a bit of broken glass on the road. Goes with whatever wheel you need it on, without complaint. I'll not have you besmirch the good name of that tire in our presence! :)

I agree with most of your points (especially about the star player being out, there was some definite "Ewing Effect" potential)...but I really have to disagree here. [about the refs]

I complain about refs as much as anyone (and I think they can alter the outcome way more than anyone wants to admit) but I thought the Celtics got a pretty damn favorable whistle last night. There were definitely some calls in favor of the Cavs but, overall, I definitely don't think the refs screwed over Boston or were trying to push it to Game 4 (the Scott Foster special)
I 100% agree that the refs favored us last night. By a small degree, maybe, but getting a good whistle on the road in the playoffs when you're already leading the series is like seeing Halley's Comet. And, as night follows day, Cleveland was bitching about the free-throw disparity in the postgame (even Dan Gilbert got in on it). The sure sign of a winning mentality!

And as much as I hesitate to raise this, because I've been on his ass about it for years... Jayson Tatum bitching about not getting the calls early, to the point that he got T'd up, seemed to be at least correlated with us getting a lot of the calls on drives from that point forward. Causative? Perhaps - we'll all see what we want to see there - but let's at least acknowledge the possibility of it being causative. May have helped us win the review on the Horford block, too.
 

tims4wins

PN23's replacement
SoSH Member
Jul 15, 2005
38,843
Hingham, MA
This is my reaction to. Setting aside whether the analogy works, the story here should be that the Celtics are playing with the same level of dominance they did in the regular season so far in the playoffs. And they’ve done it against teams that are probably at least equal to the competition they faced in the regular season. Any narrative about underperformance doesn’t match what is actually happening on the court. There’s a bunch of weird SSS things like us losing more at home and not on the road, or having wider average margins in both wins and losses, but the trend is this team has been remarkably consistent all year. They played no meaningful stretch of games where they lost more than they won. The last time I looked was in 10 game stretches and there was literally one 6-4 stretch and none worse than that. I’m not sure that held up through the end of the season, but this team has consistently one 70+ percent of the time over virtually any subset of games and has continued to do that in the playoffs. They still might not win a championship. It’s hard to win a championship. But nothing that has happened so far in the playoffs should be causing concern about this team.
To your last sentence: you are 100% correct. But that is where the disconnect lies. Anyone worried - yours truly included - is thinking back to past playoff failures. And that’s because they have the same two stars, and certain elements have occurred under multiple coaches, suggesting it may be a Jays issue. Judged by their own merits there is little to worry about the 2024 team in isolation. However, some (many?) of us don’t think this team should be looked at in isolation. YMMV and I hope they cruise to a title. I said as far back as October they could do that.
 

Strike4

Member
SoSH Member
Jul 19, 2005
4,011
Portland, Maine
This made me want to look at whether the net-rating stuff is particular to these Celtics, or is just "hey the playoffs are hard, all the teams are good and they get better the further you go". So let's compare some anecdata on the best teams since 1990-ish, those with >= 9.0 net rating in the regular season**:

Team -- Net rating Reg Season / Net rating Playoffs (W-L) / Season-to-Playoffs Delta
1990-91 Chicago Bulls* -- +9.5 / +13.2 (15-2) / +3.7
1991-92 Chicago Bulls* -- +11.0 / +6.9 (15-7) / -4.1
1993-94 Seattle SuperSonics -- +9.5 / +0.9 (2-3!) / -8.6
1995-96 Chicago Bulls* -- +13.4 / +12.1 (15-3) / -1.3
1996-97 Chicago Bulls* -- +12.0 / +6.5 (15-4) / -5.5
1996-97 Utah Jazz -- +9.7 / +3.8 (13-7) / -5.9
1998-99 SA Spurs* -- +9.0 / +9.5 (15-2) / +0.5
1999-00 LA Lakers* -- +9.1 / +2.6 (15-8) / -6.5
2006-07 SA Spurs* -- +9.3 / +4.5 (16-4) / -4.8
2007-08 Boston Celtics* -- +11.2 / +6.1 (16-10) / -5.1
2008-09 Cleveland Cavaliers -- +10.0 / +9.9 (10-4) / -0.1
2011-12 Chicago Bulls -- +9.1 / -1.9! (2-4) / -11.0
2012-13 OKC Thunder -- +9.8 / +1.4 (5-6) / -8.4
2014-15 GS Warriors* -- +10.2 / +8.2 (16-5) / -2.0
2015-16 SA Spurs -- +11.3 / +9.9 (6-4) / -1.4
2015-16 GS Warriors -- +10.7 / +4.4 (15-9) / -6.3
2016-17 GS Warriors* -- +11.6 / +13.5 (16-1) / +1.9
2019-20 Milwaukee Bucks -- +9.5 / +1.2 (5-5) / -8.3
2020-21 Utah Jazz -- +9.3 / -0.9! (6-5) / -10.2

Avg Delta, all top NRtg teams (19): -4.4
Avg Delta, Championship Teams (10): -2.3

2023-24 Boston Celtics -- +11.6 / +12.1 (leading playoffs; 7W-2L) / +0.5

Only 3 of the top 19 teams by net rating have ever improved upon their regular-season net rating in the playoffs (and all 3 won the title); thus far, we're on track to be the 4th. Many title winning teams have had a negative delta from their regular season, some of them substantially so (but most of those teams still led all playoff teams by net rating). So offhand, I'd say that after 9 playoff games, we're looking damned good, even if the road will get tougher from here on out.

...And either way, we are only 3 years removed from Evan Fournier, Tristan Thompson and Romeo Langford starting multiple playoff games, and I just count my blessings. Long live Wyc's Unlimited Budget (tm).

* Won title
** using Bk-ref's unadjusted net ratings, because that's apples-to-apples with what they have on the playoff season pages, so it's what I have available.
This is awesome
 

8slim

has trust issues
SoSH Member
Nov 6, 2001
25,695
Unreal America
There’s a difference between discussing this and treating it like a sign something is wrong. I think the pushback is usually against the latter (although it probably sometimes bleeds into the former since none of us are perfect). Like, after the Heat Game 2, I think the forum unanimously agreed the Celtics needed to execute closeouts better. But there was disagreement about whether the poor effort/execution in that game was a harbinger or just a one-off bad performance exacerbated by excellent shooting.
For sure. 100%. Personally I just find it… annoying?… when someone suggests that it’s wrong to discuss why a win occurred the way it did.

Like, it wasn’t completely unreasonable to think the Cs would easily dispatch the Cavs last night. Personally, there wasn’t a moment when I thought the Cs might lose. But there were clearly some less-than-ideal things occurring during the game. We should discuss those things, I think.

The implication of “we won, so do cartwheels or shut up” ain’t for me.
 

RorschachsMask

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Aug 23, 2011
6,049
Lynn
I guess you could say it's bad that they've been so good when he's off court (credit to PP and Jrue), but they're still pretty good when he's on court. Or was that not the stat you were looking at?
Just looking at the BPM, which is way different than Bball references numbers. Thinking Basketball is really good, so I put more weight into that.