1. That must have been one heck of a team meeting. Or maybe it was Al Horford and Marcus Morris being back. Or maybe it was a sign that everything is coming together. No matter what it was, the Celtics played their most complete game against a quality opponent, as they blew out the Hornets. From the second period on, this one was a laugher.
2. Speaking of Horford being back, he looked terrific. Brad Stevens mentioned before the game that Horford would have a minutes’ restriction, but because of the blowout nature of the game, it didn’t really come into play. Horford finished with just 19 minutes played, but they were extremely effective minutes. He scored 10 points on 4-of-4 shooting, grabbed six rebounds and handed out five assists.
More importantly, Horford’s return unlocked parts of the Boston offense that have been missing for the last couple of weeks while he’s been out. He was utilized heavily as a screener to start the game. Almost every trip involved Horford screening or handling the ball. That helped open up Kyrie Irving for some early baskets, as the two have created some good chemistry. The Celtics are just a different team with Horford on the floor.
3. Boston had some really good ball movement all game long. One of the most important things the Celtics did was to make a concerted effort to hit the paint on many plays, even if the resulting shot was a three-pointer. In this clip, the ball starts in the paint with Horford, he kicks to Morris at the arc, swing to Marcus Smart, swing to Jayson Tatum for the open jumper:
4. Gordon Hayward returned to a reserve role with Morris back, and he was effective again. He hit just 2-of-7 shots, but Hayward was aggressive about attacking the basket, especially when Charlotte went small with Marvin Williams at the five. Hayward drew four free threes late in the first quarter, when Charlotte was making a run. He also drove several times to make plays for others. That is a welcomed return to his game.
5. As much as it causes our hearts to jump in our throats and stop for a moment, Boston has been determined to get Hayward an alley-oop dunk. They pulled it off against the Hornets, on a play that looked a lot like the one Hayward got hurt on last year. Watch the bench’s reaction. This is a team that clearly talked some things out and is pulling for one another.
6. Horford gets taken to task a lot because he’s not a great rebounder himself. He’s not, nor has he ever been, the guy to grab 15 rebounds a night. But what he does do is control his man via boxing out. With Horford, and Morris, blocking out their men, the rest of the Celtics hit the glass. This team approach to rebounding led to a +10 advantage on the boards, which is a good sign for the Celtics team that struggles to control the glass.
7. Considering he’s in his fifth season now, you would think teams would have learned that trying to post up on Smart isn’t the mismatch it seems. This is especially true when the opposing player doesn’t spend a lot of time in the post. Williams is the latest to learn this lesson as Smart stoned him and forced the awkward turnaround jumper:
8. With just about everyone back, minus Aron Baynes, Stevens was able to go back to the nine-man rotation he’s preferred this season. Daniel Theis plays the Baynes role and everyone slots in where they have for most of the year. Being back to normal showed, as the second unit has come a long way. They balance each other nicely, and it allows Stevens to control minutes for some of the starters.
9. While Terry Rozier hasn’t developed as a point guard in the way many have hoped, he does still show signs of figuring it out from time to time. On this play, he makes the right read to find Theis and he makes it quickly. No extra dribbles and he was looking for the pass versus the shot:
10. Whenever Semi Ojeleye shows up making a play off the dribble and getting to the rim, as opposed to his normal standstill jumper game, he’s going to show up here. Sure, the game was over at this point, but it was great to see Ojeleye see Bridges over-close and leaning and drive the ball for the capper on a blowout victory: