1. In both the first and third quarters, the Celtics came out firing. They scored 42 points in the first and 41 points in the third. The big opening frame helped Boston take control early. The huge production after halftime put the game away. In those two stanza alone, Boston shot 31-of-46 and Kyrie Irving scored 20 of his game-high 24 points.
2. Gordon Hayward returned from his illness and played one of his more efficient games of the season. He scored 19 points on 7-of-10 shooting in just 17 minutes, but what really stood out once again was his passing. He picked up five assists, including this pretty pass to Daniel Theis on a set play:
3. When Jaylen Brown is aggressive, he’s great. When he’s out of control, he’s not. This game mostly featured Brown putting his head down and driving into traffic with no plan. Then it devolved into him taking questionable jumpers. It was far from his best effort. He was probably due a stinker, after playing well off the bench since returning from his back injury. And possibly he was still feeling the ill-effects of being out sick last game, but it’s something to watch for in his wildly inconsistent third season.
4. Brown’s forays into the paint were just a small part of a really bad second quarter for Boston. After going up 47-23 following a Terry Rozier three-pointer, the Celtics wouldn’t score again for nearly five minutes. Atlanta ripped off a 19-0 run to close the gap to 47-42. The main culprits for Boston during this run? Sloppiness and lack of effort on both ends of the floor. The Celtics committed three turnovers and missed several makeable shots during this period. On defense, the Hawks repeatedly got free runs at the basket or wide-open shots. Boston is too talented to go long stretches like this. If it happens against a good team, the margin may end up too much to recover from.
5. When the Celtics brought back up the effort level, they picked it up in a big way. They forced 24 Hawks turnovers and scored an NBA season-high 44 points off those turnovers. Boston snagged a Celtics season-high 15 steals, including four each from Irving and Marcus Smart.
6. Smart was the driving force behind a lot of these turnovers. By one estimate he had six of Boston’s 20 deflections. He was constantly a menace against Atlanta and really helped to get the Celtics off and running.
7. It was a ho-hum night for Jayson Tatum, despite him scoring 22 points. That’s a good thing in a blowout like this. While Tatum regularly hammers home loud finishes at the rim, or draws “oohs” and “aahs” from the crowd after crossing someone over, he can also be quietly efficient too. The best play Tatum made was when DeWayne Dedmon switched onto him. Tatum backs it out, takes his time, backs Dedmon up off the bounce and drills a side-step three-pointer while being fouled. Tatum has started to punish bigs on switches and this is the latest showing:
8. OK…OK…OK…It’s Timelord time! Robert Williams had quite the roller coaster of a game. His first half stint wasn’t great, as he was clearly lost on where to be and when to be there a few times. Both John Collins and Dedmon took advantage of this a few times for easy buckets at the hoop. On offense, Williams wasn’t sure on set plays and got in the way on a few improvisations by his teammates.
But that’s not unexpected for a rookie big man. Williams will figure it the more he plays, either in the NBA or the NBAGL. Right now professional basketball minutes are his best friend. If they come with the Celtics while guys are injured, great. If they come with the Red Claws when the Boston is healthy, that is fine too. Williams just needs to play.
9. As the game settled in, Williams started making more and more plays. This alley-oop from Irving is just absurd. Williams is just chilling in the dunker spot, which is what he does best right now. Irving drives with just Vince Carter to challenge him. Normally this is when Irving gets a bucket. Instead he sees Carter has come off Williams, and now it’s time for some fun. If you pause the clip as Williams catches, look at how high above the rim the ball is. It’s probably fair to say that Boston has never had a big man leaper quite like Williams.
10. When The Dream Team was put together, they scrimmaged the College Select team. Basically, it was a chance for the NBA stars to get some practice together, prior to the Olympics, against the best the NCAA had to offer. Following that game, Larry Bird, clearly awed by what he witnessed, said, “When I saw that Chris Webber guy, I knew it was time to retire.”
Vince Carter, who has made several players question their basketball mortality throughout his own long, illustrious career, may have had a similar moment with Williams in this game. Carter beats Tatum for a lefty layup. The ball ends up in the Celtics bench: