Someone better be escorting those refs out of Philly because that crowd seemed ready to skin them and hang them from the ceiling before we even got out of the 2nd quarter. The refs called 55 fouls in the game and as many travels as you’ll ever see, thanks to the new rule where a catch → pump fake → drive is now a travel. At one point, the Philadelphia crowd started chanting “a**hole” after an offensive foul call went against the 76ers. It was by far the worst officiated NBA game this season and it’s going to be hard for any of the 1200 or so NBA games left this season to top it. The fans in Philadelphia aren’t among the most forgiving crowds in the NBA. If the night ends without any incidents it will be a miracle. I for one am shocked the refs got off the court without being showered with all the trash the city of brotherly love could find lying around.
Although Irving was more aggressive in the 4th than in recent games, he shot just 7-17, 1-4 from three, continued to take and miss tough contested three’s, and still has yet to show the magical finishing ability at the rim that has been a staple of his career in his first 3 games in Boston. Kyrie has missed a lot of layups that should be easy ones for him. The 21 points was good, but not good enough. More is still expected of Kyrie Irving. However, it’s important to understand that while Kyrie deserves to be criticized if he has a bad game, it also should be recognized that Kyrie will need time to learn and adjust to the Celtics. Those 2 points are not mutually exclusive. Although it’s easy to rag on Kyrie for his performance so far, this team has only been together for less than a month and close to half the plays they were working on were going to be run through Gordon Hayward.
Brown had his first bad game of the season. His lanes to the hoop were constantly cut off and when he was forced to rely on his jumpshot he couldn’t come through, finishing 4-13 and 1-4 from three. In fact, Aron Baynes was the only Celtics starter that shot the ball well:
Kyrie Irving 7-17
Jaylen Brown 4-13
Jayson Tatum 3-8
Al Horford 5-16
Aron Baynes 5-8
Driving lanes are going to be harder for Brown to come by if he continues to play a lot of minutes alongside Aron Baynes. The Celtics rebounding is fantastic with Baynes out there, but he does disrupt their spacing.
Horford’s disappointing shooting shouldn’t overshadow how much he stepped up for the Celtics tonight. With Smart out for this game, the Celtics were forced to play big against Philly’s small ball lineup and Horford had to guard Ben Simmons for a lot of the game and he did an unbelievable job. A center guarding a small forward seems like a mismatch waiting to happen, but Simmons wasn’t able to take advantage of his athleticism like he should have been able to and Al held him to just 11 points on 4-11 shooting.
The real story of the night for the Celtics was their youth taking center stage, and not in the way you would hope. Jabari Bird, Abdel Nader, and Guershon Yabusele made up half the players who came off the bench tonight and that doesn’t count Semi Ojeleye who got a DNP. It wasn’t going to take long for the teams age to be revealed as a glaring weakness for them. The Celtics only have 4 players on the entire team that are NOT on their rookie contracts. It’s hard to be successful when you’re going to have at least 2 players on the court at all times who are still learning to play in the NBA. There’s a reason that even the greatest players don’t lead their teams to championships until their late 20’s. It takes a long long time to get used to playing in the NBA.
This season, the Celtics are going to frustrate you with missed 3’s, poor defense, dumb shots, and stupid turnovers. That’s what young teams do. Brad Stevens is going to need some time to figure out what sets he can run and how to manage his rotations before this team is even good, nevermind great. If you were hoping for a championship contender this year, you’re not going to get one. You’re going to get a team of a lot of new pieces and moving parts and young players who just aren’t capable of helping to carry a team on a deep postseason run. You’re going to get a point guard who is learning a totally new system, getting the most coaching he’s ever gotten in his life, and still adjusting to being the man on his own team. If you’re a Celtics fan, you’re going to have to be willing to accept the reality that this just isn’t the Celtics year to challenge for an NBA title.
Photo: (Causeway Street)