1. Jaylen Brown was aggressive from the opening tip. When Brown drives the ball, as he did in the clip below, it opens up the rest of his game. He finished with 18 points in just 25 minutes due to the blowout nature of the game. Brown is the most athletic guy the Celtics have. When they are able to get him off and running, it makes everything easier for everyone else. This basket was part of six straight points for Brown:
2. Brad Stevens made a slight rotation tweak from the first 13 games of the season. Gordon Hayward is almost always the first sub out. This is in part due to his minutes’ restriction, but also because Stevens likes him as a ballhandler with the second unit. The adjustment came with Brown and Jayson Tatum. Tatum has usually gone out with Hayward and then come back in with him with the reserves. Tonight it was Brown who got those duties. As Brown has been somewhat of the forgotten man within the Boston offense, this might be Stevens trying to get him going.
3. After falling behind 24-19 to end the first quarter, it would have been easy for eyes to roll and say “Here we go again”. But the Celtics amped the defense way up in the second quarter and turned the game into a laugher. Boston got all over Chicago and held the Bulls to 11 points on 5-of-21 shooting heading into halftime. They also forced seven turnovers in the second frame. The Celtics signature defense was in full force as they switched, helped, rotated and scrambled all over to flummox the Bulls.
4. Going in to the 2018 NBA Draft, Wendell Carter Jr.’s player comparison was most-often Al Horford. Watching them go head-to-head, it was very easy to see why. You know those video games where you have to fight a mirror-version of yourself, but that mirror-version has the benefit of experience? That had to be what it was like for Horford against Carter. Carter is quicker and can jump higher, but Horford knows all the tricks of the trade. It will be fun to see them go against each other, especially as Carter grows his game.
5. The second quarter defensive effort carried over to the third quarter. Watch Kyrie Irving’s defensive effort on this play. It’s an example of both his increased effort level on defense and how Boston teaches players to close out on three-point shooters:
6. When you are struggling to find offense, as the Celtics have for large stretches of this season, it’s up to the coaching staff to make the game easy for the players. Stevens and co. have made some adjustments to the offensive gameplan, while also giving the players freedom to find easy offense themselves. This first clip results in a miss, but it’s an example of how the coaches drew up a set to Tatum an easy look at the rim:
By using Hayward as the playmaker at the top of the key, while running a dummy action that looks like Horford is screening for Irving, it allows Tatum to slide in for the duck-in and an easy look at the rim.
7. This clip is an example of the players finding easy offense. Brown runs the floor and pins Justin Holiday. Irving has his head up and finds Brown for the bucket. Again, when you are having some struggle, stealing points like this really helps.
8. About those layups…ugh. While Boston made a ton of shots around the rim that was mostly due to the porous nature of Chicago’s defense. Tatum, Brown, Hayward and Rozier all had misses on layups that they have to make. It’s getting better, but the Celtics offense can’t afford to leave those points off the scoreboard as often as they have this season.
9. Speaking of Hayward, his offensive timing is still off. His aggression is far better than it was to start the year, which is a sign he’s confident in his leg again. Now, it’s about regaining his timing on offense. On drives to the rims you can see him hanging there for an extra fraction of a second. It’s almost if he’s unsure of finishing with strength or using athleticism, or kicking the ball to a shooter.
On the flipside, Hayward’s timing on defense is all the way back. He’s defending everyone in Boston’s switch-heavy system and is using his skills to make plays. He had three steals against the Bulls and that’s been a somewhat regular occurrence to start the year.
10. The final takeaway isn’t about anything specific, but more of a feeling thing: this is just what the Celtics needed. Even though they battled throughout the West Coast trip, a 1-4 result wasn’t what anyone expected. You know they wanted to come back to Boston and hammer a bad a team, and that’s exactly what happened. Everyone is preaching patience and that it takes time, but this game showed just how good the Celtics can, and will, be.