The Boston Celtics two game post all-star winning streak was snapped on Monday as they fell to the New Orleans Pelicans 115-109 at TD Garden. The game featured two debuts. One, the return of fans to the Garden for the first time in over a year. The other, the first game in a Celtics uniform for Evan Fournier.
Based off the results, both the fans and Fournier probably want a do over.
Fournier went scoreless in 33 minutes of action going oh for 10 from the field. If you’re wondering whether that’s some kind of record, it is. More on Fournier in a minute.
As for the rest of the game, well they say it’s a make/miss league and that simple logic applied on Monday. The Pelicans shot 50% from the field 51.6% from 3 despite a pretty spirited defensive effort from the Celtics. Boston meanwhile shot 43/32 (Fournier’s donut didn’t help) en route to the 115-109 loss.
Jaylen Brown sat this one out for the Celtics with a bruised hip. Lonzo Ball missed the game for New Orleans.
The loss dropped the Celtics below the .500 mark yet again at 23-24.
STUDS AND DUDS
Zion Williamson: The Pelicans second year player scored 28 points, 11-for-22 shooting, eight rebounds, four steals, three assists. He was a force in the paint all night. Detractors will continue to point to Williamson’s lack of 3 point shooting but those same people probably need to put down their calculators and protractors and open their eyes and just watch and appreciate Williamson’s dominance. His physicality alone has drawn comparisons to Shaquille O’Neal, the most dominant physical force in the NBA this side of Wilt Chamberlain. But Williamson is more than just a physical freak. He has touch, and finesse and play making ability to go with an unrivaled physical presence.
A friend texted me this hypothetical during last night’s game…
‘If Zion Williamson has a career equal to Charles Barkley will that be a disappointment?’
At first it seemed like a silly question. Barkley is an 11 time all star, former league MVP, one of if not the most skilled true power forwards ever to play the game, and a consensus top 25 player of all time.
So if Zion ends up ONLY being as good as Sir Charles will it be a disappointment?
Luke Kornet: For a guy who was really a salary matching afterthought in a deadline day trade Kornet is really impressing in his first couple games with the Celtics. Acquired from the Bulls in the Daniel Theis trade “the Green Kornet” was the first big off the bench spelling Robert Williams. He canned a couple 3-pointers and held his own defending the paint. Kornet’s surprising play and the imminent return of Tristan Thompson may cause the Celtics to rethink their position in the big man buyout market.
Jayson Tatum: Tatum nearly singlehandedly brought the Celtics back in this one, sparking a 15-0 4th quarter run that got the Celtics within 3. Tatum also had a huge first quarter with 16. He kind of vanished during the second and third but without his strong start and finish the Celtics would have never been competitive. He finished with 34 points, 9 rebounds, and 5 assists.
Evan Fournier: As mentioned earlier, this was about as bad as a debut could get. According to statmuse.com Fournier’s 0-10 in 33 minutes was the most scoreless minutes by a Celtic with 10+ attempts since the three-point era (1980).
Evan Fournier Celtics debut:
That’s the most scoreless minutes by a Celtic with 10+ attempts since the three-point era (1980). pic.twitter.com/vPZmZXADDJ
— StatMuse (@statmuse) March 30, 2021
Fournier became just the fourth player in the shot clock era to go 0-for-10 in his debut with a new team.
You have to assume it won’t always be this bad, plus Fournier entered the game under some dubious circumstances.
The newly acquired guard was supposed to join the team Saturday in OKC but was held out after what proved to be a false positive Covid test. He was removed from NBA health and safety protocols on Monday afternoon and without the benefit of any practice or even contact with his new teammates was thrust into 30 plus minutes of action.
Marcus Smart: There is good Marcus, and there is bad Marcus. Often times both are present at the same time, in the same game waging a war for control of their host body. Last night was one of those epic good vs evil Smart battles but in the end ‘bad Marcus’ emerged victorious.
Smart had a poor shooting night overall (6-15, 0-6) but his night will be remembered for one thing and one thing only.
With 4:31 to go in the 3rd quarter, a jump ball was called following a loose ball scramble during a Pelicans possession. Only 0.3 seconds remained on the shot clock.
Marcus Smart just made Shaqtin' 💀pic.twitter.com/ypaFgORDPg
— ClutchPoints (@ClutchPointsApp) March 30, 2021
If the Pelicans won the tip they wouldn’t be able to get a shot off in time so they let Boston win the tap.
After gaining possession at mid-court Smart heaved the ball towards the basket, missing everything and returning the ball toe New Orleans.
Good Marcus however made an appearance late in the game during the Celtics 15-0 run with some nice passing, a tough bucket and the best defense played by anyone on Zion Williamson all game.
Then Smart tried to draw a foul on Steven Adams off the ball that didn’t go his way. He didn’t like it and got himself ejected ending his night and effectively the game.
It’s hard to say that the Smart half court heave in the 3rd quarter was the reason the game got away from the Celtics. But at the time the Celtics trailed by only 4 (90-86) and should have had possession. But New Orleans drilled a quick 3 and then Smart – still in his own head after the gaffe – missed a long hero ball 3 and then fell asleep on a back door cut that increased the Pels lead to 9. New Orleans extended to lead to 17 points in the 4th quarter and Boston never recovered.
SO THAT HAPPENED…
For the first time in 386 days fans returned to the TD Garden, kept away for more than a year to to the coronavirus pandemic that has ravaged the globe. Only 12 percent capacity is allowed so about 2000 fans were “treated” to game action. They got their money’s worth ripping into a “We Want Tacko” chant and even showering a few boos down on the men in green.
"Way to welcome your fans back," shouts someone from the crowd.
"You suck," yells another.
— Jay King (@ByJayKing) March 30, 2021
THAT’S WHAT HE SAID
Best quote of the night coming from head coach Brad Stevens regarding the return of Fans to the TD Garden.
“We’ve lost so many people in the United States and all over the world, the amount of people affected, employment status, the terrible tragedy that the past year has been. From our own experience playing in the bubble and not playing in front of anybody, seeing fans occasionally on the road but not here, I’d say it was pretty emotional for me to see it, because it just signals that maybe if we can buckle down and get through this, then we can have something resembling normal back,” Stevens said.