Raise your hand if you think that game was pretty damn playoff worthy.
The Houston Rockets defeated our guys 123-120 in an absolute thriller. The Rockets outscored the scored the Celtics 15-12 in crunch time. It seemed like they hit a clutch three every single time the Celtics got close to a double-digit lead.
Eric Gordon was fantastic. He had 29 points in 27 minutes and shot 7-11 from deep. He made most of his shots count and he played excellent defense on post mismatches. The Celtics got caught up with Chris Paul and James Harden, and Eric Gordon made them eat it.
Harden had 26/7/10/5 but never looked completely comfortable. I know that sounds funny considering his superb line, but he only shot 6-18. He was also three for 12 from deep. He missed some shots he usually makes, but there was one name that kept popping up.
Is Marcus Smart actually James Harden’s kryptonite? This man lives for games like this. Hell, did you see how close his last-second prayer was to going in? That was four inches from a brand new ballgame. Smart only had 11 points on four of twelve shooting, but his defense, as always, was fantastic. He was all over the place and consistently held his own against James Harden. Those were two of the top five players in combat muscles, and it showed.
Marcus Morris was also fantastic, but the best Celtic to take the court last night was Greg Monroe. Monroe bodied whoever the Rockets put on him in tune to 18 points on six for nine shooting. He brings to the table the food the Celtics were missing. He was a +23! A big body that can dominate down low on offense. Combine that with his soft touch (6-6 from the line) and it’s just what Boston needed. Morris finished the night with 21 points on 5-7 shooting deep.
So, here’s my thoughts.
The NBA Is Calling Too Many Technical Fouls
The Celtics were called for three technical fouls on the night. Marcus Morris got one for literally taking two steps off the court after swatting Luc Mbah a Moute.
Marcus Morris : 21 points (8-13 shooting & 5-7 from 3), 4 rebounds & 3 steals in 34 minutes off the bench pic.twitter.com/PVEPOCWpim
— Lee Harvey (@MusikFan4Life) March 4, 2018
You could tell he had no bad intentions, but he was quickly called for the tech. Brad Stevens also got a technical foul and was appalled by it. He must’ve said something pretty damn offensive because it seemed out of nowhere.
There are a lot of things that deserve a technical foul, but it really seemed like the refs were exceptionally nit-picky last night. Wasn’t a huge fan of that because those points usually matter. Boston and Houston played a hell of a game last night. The last thing we need is sappy little technical fouls.
Jayson Tatum Is Going To Be So, So Good
The birthday boy was nice last night. Tatum was four of seven from the field and hit both of his deep attempts. This one play says more than you need to know.
The hesitation, the crossover, the pull-up!
— NBA (@NBA) March 4, 2018
There aren’t a lot of veterans that can make that shot with consistency. Tatum is learning to do it at a very fresh 20 years of age. It really seemed like Tatum found his groove early and built off of it. He seems to be showing more and more every night. He put up a running floater from about seven feet after shaking his man. It did not go in, but it was close and it showed how confident Tatum is in his first season.
Jeff Goodman recently increased the Tatum hype drastically.
— CLNS Media Network (@CLNSMedia) March 3, 2018
How’s that for expectations? Tatum looks unfazed, and right now anything is possible. It’s early, but it’s starting to get really exciting for the Celtics youngest player.
One critique of Tatum’s game last night was his closeouts. He has to be more aware on crosscourt passes because it led to a lot of wide open threes last night. Good shooters will make you pay more times than not.
The Celtics Can Win When Kyrie Irving is Not His Best
Kyrie Irving had an off game last night. He was not terrible, but it wasn’t pretty by any means. Irving shot 6-17 last night including 2-7 from deep. He had a turnover late and couldn’t miss a free throw when the Celtics needed him to. Yeah, I said miss. He’s that good, but he was not elite last night. The Celtics need more than 19 points from their superstar in a playoff series.
Although Irving was a little off, the Celtics held their own and received contributions from other players. The bench was fantastic, and it was really interesting to see Brad roll with only nine players. The Celtics got 56 points alone from Terry Rozier, Morris and Monroe.
If the Celtics can get that production from the bench while Irving has one of his great games, it’s going to be a pretty sight. The Celtics proved last night that they can play well when Irving doesn’t, but no one wants to get used to that. I cannot wait to see the Celtics play as well as they possibly can. Hopefully that time comes sooner than later.