1. It’s fair to say the Boston Celtics literally rebounded to get this win. A couple of nights after getting crushed on the boards in Philadelphia by a 62-41 margin, Boston got all over the offensive glass to beat Toronto. The Celtics grabbed 21 offensive rebounds, with five players grabbing at least three, including six offensive boards by Grant Williams. To say this was surprising is an understatement. To do it without Enes Kanter, one of the best offensive rebounders in the league, is stunning.
2. The other big contributor to the victory was Boston’s defense. With Kanter out, Brad Stevens relied on smaller, switchable lineups. Daniel Theis got the start, but was forced off the floor with a sprained ankle in the first half. Theis returned in the second half, but Stevens called on Robert Williams and Grant Williams to play most of the second half at the five. Then, with the team needing stops at the end of the game, Stevens went to his best five (Kemba Walker, Marcus Smart, Gordon Hayward, Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum), despite that lineup being tiny. These switchable groups helped force 23 Toronto turnovers.
3. That tiny closing group put the game away by doing something the Celtics did nine times in the game: take a charge. Boston drew 10 offensive fouls against the Raptors, nine of them drawn charges. While protecting a four point lead with under two minutes to play, Walker drew the biggest one of the night:
Walker’s play was solid, but watch what happens off the ball before the charge. Boston was small and had to scramble. That resulted in a bunch of bad matchups for the Celtics. They wanted Smart to close the game guarding Pascal Siakam, who had been killing the Celtics. On the above clip, Smart executes a jump-switch to get switched back to Siakam. Smart tells Walker to get out on OG Anunoby, while simultaneously switching Tatum back to his man in Kyle Lowry. This was a callback to the Boston defense of a couple of years ago.
4. Back to the rebounding, part of the reason there were so many rebounds available was the Celtics shot just 38.5% for the game. For the second straight game, they missed a lot of open shots. That’s something to monitor. The shooting showed signs of turning around, as the team hit half of their shots in the decisive fourth quarter, but needs to be a lot better moving forward.
5. As previously mentioned Grant Williams played a lot at the five in this game. While that allows Boston to switch on defense, it means Williams has to hold his own against both bigs and smalls. He does a nice job on the switch here against Lowry. Williams stays in front of Lowry and forces a contested fall-away as the clock expires.
6. In part because of all the missed shots, the Celtics had just 21 assists on 42 baskets. The good news is that everyone got in on the playmaking, as four players had three or more helpers. Here Smart finds Tatum, for the emphatic finish:
7. Jaylen Brown was Boston’s best player. While the rest of the offense scuffled through the first three quarters, Brown kept the team afloat. Overall, he finished with 25 points, nine rebounds and four assists. Brown showed great patience for most of the game, as evidenced on this play. In the past Brown tries to go through the defender or over him. He gets in the paint, stops, puts a move on Stanley Johnson and draws the And-1.
8. This clips shows Brown’s effort at both ends. First he does a nice job on Siakam and forces the turnover, then he runs the floor and takes the pass from Tatum for the type of loud finish Celtics fans are accustomed to.
9. With Kanter out and Theis hobbled, Boston needed good minutes from Robert Williams and they got them. Williams made all three of his shots and grabbed six rebounds in just 14:39. Williams did a get a little bit lost on defense in the second half, when Toronto started running more off-ball actions. But these first two games have been very encouraging signs of Timelord’s development.
10. It was a quieter night for Hayward compared to the opener, but he did score 15 points and snag eight rebounds. He was also solid on defense, including against Siakam at times. On this clip, Hayward holds his own in the post against Siakam and forces the turnover.
11. In the spirit of fairness, Brown did make a really questionable decision in the fourth quarter. Walker was finally getting it going, as he had hit two straight shots. Brown got the ball in semi transition and took an early-clock pull-up. That’s a spot where he needs to have better court-sense and make sure Walker gets another touch. But…let’s celebrate Brown’s big night a little more! This was the best assist of his young career:
12. Walker was a great addition this summer and Hayward looks like he is back, but the Celtics are only going as far as Brown and Tatum take them. And the two combined to make several big plays down the stretch.
First Brown makes comes over from the weakside for the huge block on the rolling Gasol:
That resulted in this patient triple from Tatum, as he doesn’t settle or dribble into some terrible mid-ranger shot. He fakes, sidesteps and drills the three-pointer:
Then the two linked up for a play that shows just how far both have come. Tatum drives and instead of forcing a layup attempt, Tatum kicks it out to the opposite wing and Brown confidently drills the triple: