Opening Night was a rousing success for a team with rising expectations. The Celtics got a win and Isaiah Thomas played like a superstar. The team had 31 assists on 39 made buckets and held the Sixers to 40% shooting. After a slow start, they utilized their depth and found working combinations as the game progressed to wear down Philadelphia. Here are a few things that I ♥ed:
Going small to defend a big
Usually, small ball is used to create mismatches on offense, but last night, bringing in Jerebko at the 4 was a way to double Okafor on defense with someone that could recover quickly back to his man. Stevens said about JJ's ability to cover so much court:
"[Jerebko's] got a high motor," said Stevens. "He'll be there on the catch, he's quick, but he's one of those guys that if you did the treadmill test on him, he'd run until he fell of. He's just got a high, high motor and he doesn't stop."
And it wasn't just Jerebko. The guards--particularly Marcus Smart (a plus-22 for the night)--were great at chipping whenever a big put the ball on the floor and tried to turn into the paint. The Celtics scored 34 points off 22 Sixers' turnovers and 26 fast break points to Philly's 7.
Jae Crowder hitting the hole
Crowder is built like a running back and I love watching him attack gaps in the defense like he's hitting the line of scrimmage at the one-yard line. Crowder's ability to set the tone on D is his game changing value, but last night, he attacked on offense like he does on defense. So much of pace-and-space is about being able to read the coverage and react in time. He finished with 14 points by getting to the line and shooting behind the arc (2-for-4) without hesitation. Stevens has stressed the importance of getting easy buckets and his team responded with 52 points in the paint.
Sticking with Sullinger
The narrative during the preseason had been that Sully had lost his place in the rotation, but tonight, he proved that he's got a set of skills that nobody really brings to the table. Sure, Kelly Olynyk was sitting out tonight due to suspension, but it's not as if Stevens would have turned to KO after Jahlil Okafor started killing Tyler Zeller in the paint in the first quarter. He didn't even go to Amir Johnson in the moment.
Before the team started doubling with Jerebko and Crowder, Sully stemmed the tide by fighting Okafor on the block and making sure he wasn't starting his post move with a foot in the key. He may have not lost the weight we had hoped this summer, but Sully's still a strong presence in the paint. He finished with 12 points and 7 rebounds, but ironically, his biggest contribution came on the defensive end.
It's also important to note that Stevens stuck with Sullinger at the start of the second half instead of going back to Zeller. It just wasn't Tyler's night, but by going with the hot hand, Stevens showed his players that he'll use anybody at any time if he thinks they can contribute. That's huge for a team this deep.
Crowder channeling KG
Jae, you had me at "Garnett dead ball block shot."
Dude just gets what it means to wear the green and play in Boston and for Boston.