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Kyrie Irving dazzles in blowout win and 8 other takeaways from Celtics/Cavaliers

Boston pushed the lead to 30+ as they rolled over Cleveland

NBA: Cleveland Cavaliers at Boston Celtics David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

1. With Jaylen Brown still out, Marcus Smart got the start once again for the Celtics. For the second straight game, Smart facilitated the offense, while Kyrie Irving played off the ball. One additional tweak was that Al Horford also sat out against the Cavaliers to rest, and Aron Baynes started in his place. Baynes set several bone-crushing screens to free Irving in the first and third quarters. In part, this helped Irving on his way to 13 first quarter points. With Brad Stevens saying the team might have found something with Smart starting, look for Irving to continue to work off the ball quite a bit.

2. The ball movement was really good all night, as Boston piled up 30 assists on 49 baskets. In addition, only Irving and Jayson Tatum had double-digit field goal attempts, with 15 and 12 respectively. When the ball and players move, you get pretty finds like one from Daniel Theis to Irving:

3. Cleveland doesn’t play much defense, so you want to be careful to draw too many conclusions about things the Celtics did well offensively. That said, Tatum had a nice night on offense. He didn’t settle for bad shots, except for one time, and took advantage of mismatches, both in the halfcourt and in transition. This floater is an example of a shot he can get with some regularity. If he uses it more, it gives a little variety between his pull-up jumper and straight drives to the rim:

4. It seemed like Uncle Drew made an appearance at times in Boston. This play from Irving to Baynes was just straight ball handling wizardry, combined with a great pass:

5. It’s hard to find much wrong in a 30-point blowout victory that doesn’t come off as nitpicky, but the reserve unit’s defense was really bad in the first half. They allowed the Cavs to not only come back, but to briefly take the lead. Terry Rozier was again sloppy with controlling opposing ballhandlers. It’s a troubling sign, considering that was arguably his greatest strength in his first few seasons in the NBA. Once he was broken down, the rest of reserves provided little in the way of help. Over a quarter of the way into the season, you would think this would be getting cleaned up, yet it still remains an issue.

6. An example of Irving being off the ball, shows up on this clip. But this time, his movement frustrates the Cavaliers defense and opens up a shot attempt for Marcus Morris. Irving runs a loop cut with rookie Collin Sexton trailing. Then Irving loops back around with the ball, as Morris screens off Sexton. By the time Sexton realizes he needs to stay with Morris, he closes late and fouls him. It’s all created by Irving’s movement off the ball.

7. Gordon Hayward looked great, as he scored 14 points on 6-of-9 shooting. He was challenged by Irving to not hesitate and he didn’t. More importantly, Hayward had a couple of nice drives to the hoop, including a baseline And-1. He even has enough confidence that Stevens drew up an alley-oop play to start the second quarter. The Celtics, maybe the worst lob-throwing team of all-time, didn’t complete the play. But just throwing it t Hayward was a nice sign that he’s feeling good.

8. The entirety of the fourth quarter was Gino Time for Boston. Two things stood out, as the Celtics had some fun to close the game. First, Robert Williams got some run and finished one dunk at the rim and almost a second tip-dunk. But the most incredible display of his athleticism was on this goaltend where he nearly flattened the ball and broke the backboard:

9. And lastly the coolest moment of the night was Two-Way player P.J. Dozier making his Boston debut. What made this great is that Dozier is the second cousin of former Celtics great Reggie Lewis. Dozier even wore Lewis’ number 35 jersey when he was with the Oklahoma City last season. As for his play, Dozier made the most of his limited time. He scored seven points and grabbed four rebounds, including this loud finish to cap a really fun night:

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