1. The Boston Celtics looked like the Boston Celtics again. The defense was excellent. The offense was efficient and versatile. For the first time this year, we saw the Celtics look like the team we expected. This was easily the most complete effort of the young season.
2. With Aron Baynes sidelined for the game with a sore hamstring, the Celtics biggest concern was rebounding, especially with Andre Drummond on the other side. But Boston got it together as a team. The bigs were hyper-focused on keeping a body on Drummond and Blake Griffin whenever a shot went up and the guards and wings cleaned up the rebounds. Kyrie Irving and Terry Rozier combined for 15 rebounds for the game, while Drummond and Griffin combined for just 14. And Detroit had zero offensive rebounds in the first half, which was the competitive portion of this contest.
3. 1. Tonight was the best Gordon Hayward has looked this season. He got himself going early:
And then got out and ran in transition:
And relished attacking bigs off mismatches:
If this is the Hayward the Celtics have, the whole offensive dynamic changes.
4. With Baynes sidelined, Boston asked a lot of Daniel Theis and he delivered his best game of the year. Theis scored 17 points on 7-of-9 shooting and grabbed eight rebounds, including three offensive boards. He also drew two fouls when he had position on the offensive glass. Beyond that, Theis was active and bouncy on defense, as he challenged several shots at the rim. He seems to be working himself back into form.
5. Speaking of Theis, he played 12 straight minutes at one point in the first half. This was a prime example of how Brad Stevens can take care of one of the several mouths to feed, while also stealing some valuable in-game rest. In this case, it was Al Horford who benefited from sitting. Overall, Horford only played 20:42. Given how key he is to Boston’s hopes this season, games like this are great opportunities for him to play, but not overly push himself.
6. Part of what makes Horford so key for the Celtics is his ability to hold his own against anyone. He started the game guarding Drummond, but Boston was in full “switch everything” mode all night. Horford defended everyone from Drummond to Reggie Jackson. This ability to switch everything was key to Boston’s league-leading defense last year. For one night at least, it was back in full force.
7. It’s been a rough start to the year, but Jaylen Brown looked like himself tonight. He was off and running in transition, knocking down jumpers and making plays for others. The latter of which was on display with a nice find to Jayson Tatum for a jumper in the third quarter. A year ago, Brown bulls his way to the hoop for a wild shot or picks up a charge. This year, he slows down and finds Tatum in the corner.
8. An oft-cited reason for optimism for this season was the Celtics depth. Because of the return of injured players, that pushed last year’s starters back to bench roles that they are probably now overqualified for. Tonight was a great example of that, as Boston’s reserves outscored Detroit’s by a 62-34 margin.
9. Two of those 62 bench points came from Robert Williams III, who hammered home this exclamation point when he got in the game:
It was that kind of night for the Celtics. One where they looked like themselves for a whole game for the first time this season.