When the Boston Celtics work overtime for their biggest win of the season, we do too! Here’s an extra-large batch of takeaways from a big night for Boston.
1. It was a tale of two halves for Jayson Tatum. His first half got off to a good enough start:
But it was all downhill from there. He missed his other four shots of the half, grabbed just two rebounds and his defense was poor as well.
2. But they play two halves for a reason! After halftime, Tatum scored 19 points on 7-of-8 shooting. He also picked up his defense and had this loud finish to aid Boston’s late game comeback:
3. Late in the first quarter, the Raptors broke out a funky zone defense look. It looked like a standard 2-1-2 or 2-3, but it had a twist. Pascal Siakam was playing this roamer role, where he just jumped all over the place and doubled at will. The Celtics struggled with it, but Toronto never went back to it. Last year, because they shot the ball so well, no one would have dared to zone Boston. This year, with some struggles, the Raptors got away with it for a short period.
4. The start to the second quarter featured some of Gordon Hayward’s best minutes of the year. He hit a layup to open the quarter, then had a steal and found Marcus Morris on the break for an And-1. Then he hit a three-pointer. This whole game was somewhat of a statement from Hayward, who made a lot of big plays. More on that later.
5. Back to Bad Tatum for a second…He misses this shot, takes a split-second for a personal pity party and lets Kyle Lowry leak out to the other end, where Marcus Smart fouls him. Plays like this from Tatum, and Jaylen Brown, are becoming far too commonplace this season. Missing shots is fine. Sulking after them is not.
6. Rebounding continues to be a huge issue. Toronto had 11 offensive rebounds and 13 second-chance points. Those are big numbers in a close game. Late in the second half and in overtime, boxing out their man became a bigger focus. Hayward and Tatum both drew over-the-back fouls that led to free throws. If Boston had more of that early in the game, they may not have needed overtime to get the win.
7. One more bad note before we get to the good stuff…Why is Al Horford passing up a dunk or layup to kick it to Jaylen Brown in the corner? Just dunk it Al!
8. It’s probably not how it should be, but when Tatum gets it going offensively, he also picks up his defense. He was great on both ends in the second half and overtime. This steal is one sign of just how hard it is to work around him when he’s engaged on defense. It’s almost important because it came against Kawhi Leonard, who Boston was struggling to stop. And it led to Tatum going coast-to-coast for the layup.
9. When a team is struggling, they look to their leader for a lift. Kyrie Irving certainly provided that on offense. But this was the play that started it all for Boston:
The game was in a weird place. The Celtics had cut the lead, but committed a tough turnover in transition. Aron Baynes made Leonard pick up the ball early, but it was Irving who was there for the tie-up. That got the crowd going and gave the Celtics a big lift.
10. Late in regulation, Brad Stevens made a rotation tweak, as he tabbed Morris and Smart to close the game. Smart for Irving is a fairly regular occurrence when Boston needs a stop. Morris over Brown was an inspired call. Morris held his own against Leonard, including forcing him into a tough miss as time expired in regulation.
11. We promised more Hayward, so here you go: He made every big non-Kyrie play down the stretch. And he made all those big plays by doing all of the little things. He got in passing lane. He got rebounding position. He made sharp cuts. He knocked down big shots and free throws. Tonight was arguably the first time Boston has seen the Gordon Hayward they signed in the summer of 2017.
12. Speaking of Hayward… he went a season-high 39 minutes in this game. That tops his previous high of 31 minutes (against Portland last week). With a back-to-back against Hayward’s former club, the Utah Jazz, this is something to monitor. For what it’s worth, Hayward said post-game that he would “get some treatment and play tomorrow, if the coaches allow it.”
13. Execution down the stretch in regulation was very good for the Celtics. They got good looks on almost every trip. In overtime, it got even better. Boston made all six of their field goal attempts in the extra session. For a team that went five minutes in the first half with only one basket, hitting all six shots for 16 points in five minutes of overtime was a major accomplishment.
14. At some point in the second half, Kyrie Irving went into the phone booth and came out with his cape on and saved the Celtics. He was great all game long, but saved the best stuff for late in the game. A defeat tonight wouldn’t have meant the season was lost, but it would have been a confidence shaker. The Raptors are who Boston is chasing and they already scored a win over the Cs in Toronto. It’s mid-November, but this is a game the Celtics needed. And Kyrie went and got it for them.
Kyrie Irving recaps 43-point performance: