1. With Jaylen Brown sidelined due to a sore foot, Semi Ojeleye drew the start and he delivered. Ojeleye opened both halves as the primary defender on Giannis Antetokounmpo, but his contributions didn’t stop there. Ojeleye scored 10 points (only his third time in double figures in his career), grabbed five rebounds and picked up two steals. When a guy like Ojeleye is your 11th man, your depth is over-the-top ridiculous.
2. Boston basically shot themselves in to—and almost out of—the game. They struggled early on to hit three-pointers, but then got ridiculously hot and finished one short of the NBA record, as they hit 24 total triples as a team. The downside? They missed several threes late, when they were trying to hold off the Milwaukee comeback. As they say, “It’s a make or miss league”, and Boston proved that tonight.
3. One three-pointer that Brad Stevens can probably do without? The early clock, pull-up three. Not the ones in transition. Those are good shots. The shots where someone catches, takes a few dribbles and launches with between 14 and 18 on the shot-clock? That’s what the Celtics (and really any good basketball team) can live without. The ball doesn’t move and they aren’t great looks.
4. Speaking of the ball moving…the Celtics piled up 41 made baskets on 30 assists. That’s terrific ball movement. Al Horford led the way with eight, Kyrie Irving had seven and Gordon Hayward added five. Those three are Boston’s primary playmakers and they all do it by attacking different types of defenders and from different levels. That’s the key to the Celtics offensive versatility. On this play, Irving had just hit two straight threes, but he gave it up to Jayson Tatum because Tatum had the better look. This is smart, unselfish team basketball
5. As for Irving, he was feeling it. When he’s making shots like this one, you have no chance of stopping him. There is nothing you can do as an opponent, but shake your head. As a Celtics fan, you just find yourself overcome with the giggles, as Irving tortures the helpless defender.
6. Marcus Morris has arguably been Boston’s most consistent scorer this year:
Marcus Morris' 118 points through 8 games this season are tied with M.L. Carr for 6th-most by a reserve player in franchise history.— Celtics Stats (@celtics_stats) November 2, 2018
118 points = most points scored by a Celtics reserve through the team's first 8 games since Dino Radja scored 134 during the 1993-94 season
This kind of production off the bench is a luxury that almost no other team can match. If Morris keeps playing like this, he’ll be in the mix for Sixth Man of the Year and he’ll cash in as a free agent this summer.
7. One other note from Morris tonight was this effort to pick up a steal. The play started with him missing a layup on a drive to the hoop. Instead of sulking or begging for a foul, he busted back on defense and got the strip. This is a championship level of effort.
8. On the topic of effort, Kyrie Irving has been working his tail off when he’s stuck in mismatches off switches. After a year of watching Terry Rozier and Marcus Smart battle bigger players on a nightly basis, Irving talked about having to play with more effort on defense. Multiple times he made Antetokounmpo work. And then, when matched with Celtics-killer Khris Middleton late in the game, Irving forced a huge turnover.
9. For a second straight game, the Celtics had a little trouble controlling ballhandlers on the perimeter. Surprisingly, some of this has come from Jayson Tatum, who is generally a solid defender. Antetokounmpo is nearly impossible to keep from getting into the paint, but Middleton and Eric Bledsoe also broke down the Boston defense several times. It’s something to keep an eye on as the season moves along.
10. Defending the arc was a huge storyline entering tonight’s game:
The Milwaukee Bucks lead the NBA with 15.6 made three-pointers per game & are 6th in percentage at 38.4%.— Keith Smith (@KeithSmithNBA) November 1, 2018
The Boston Celtics are 2nd in the NBA allowing just 8.9 made three-pointers per game & lead the NBA in opponent percentage at 27.4%.
Big storyline to watch tonight.
The Celtics ended up holding the Bucks to 9-of-29 shooting from downtown. (And don’t forget that, on Tuesday, Boston held the Detroit Pistons to 8-of-30 from beyond the arc.) Defending three-pointers continues to be a strength that sets Boston apart from almost every other team in the NBA.