Keith Smith: It is enjoyable that the Celtics have somewhat broken the game of basketball. They are all new guys and very young. New teams and young teams don't win, but they are 17-3. So much for that narrative!
But it goes beyond that. Al Horford, a 6'10'' center, regularly leads the team in assists, including 10 tonight. Kyrie Irving is finishing inside at over a 65-percent clip, the highest of his career. For what it's worth, that number is close to what elite wings and lots of big men finish around the rim at.
Until tonight, the team's non-Kyrie guards couldn't hit a shot if their lives depended on it. Yet, night after night, Marcus Smart and Terry Rozier are making plays that win games. Whether it’s defense or rebounding or hustle plays, one of the two (or both!) is bound to be in the mix when Boston needs them most.
The odds aren't very good that Boston will win 16 in a row again—probably not even four or five. But I'm certainly not going to count against it. Not when this team is turning everything we thought we knew about basketball upside down.
Alex Kungu: Celtics second unit has been one of the weak points for the team. On Wednesday’s matchup with the Heat, it was the bench’s inability to score in the first half that allowed the Heat to recover and take control of the game. Against Orlando, the Celtics ditched the idea of a pure second unit and mixed in starters with the second unit throughout the first three quarters. That move, along with Rozier having a career night, helped keep the offense afloat throughout the game. Rozier obviously won’t be relied on to average 23 ppg, but his aggression, along with guys like Brown, Tatum, Morris, or Horford taking advantage of second units, could be the beginning of a more balanced offensive attack.
Romy Nehme: Excluding garbage time, the Celtics’ offensive execution was a nice autumnal crisp tonight. There was a definite emphasis on getting guys involved who had gone dormant or quiet during the tail end of the streak, instead of leaving it up to the flow of the game (see: Big Al with 10 assists, Baynes with a double-double, more off-the-ball Kyrie). One of my favorite parts of the broadcast is when Scal interviews Brad—you get to see a looser side to coach, and Scal’s a sharp basketball mind. Pregame, he asked Stevens if we should just abandon looking at Tatum through the lens of “for a rookie”, saying that it’s clear he doesn’t play like one. Some have been clamoring for more 4th-quarter-demolition-derby Tatum earlier on in games (given that he’s fourth in the league in FG% in the 4th quarter), especially with the stagnant 1st quarters we’ve seen from the Cs of late. Tatum wasn’t just the beneficiary of open 3-point shots tonight—he was an integral part of Stevens’s play calling, and he delivered the same late-game efficiency we’ve come to get expect to get the Celtics’ offensive engine revving. This play was a thing of beauty:
1) Tatum in the corner is easy money, 2) Generating outside shots by going through the post is great usage of the inside-out game and 3) we haven’t seen a ton of defense-killing cross-court passes.