1. The Celtics have gotten off to slow starts in each of the first three games. Against New York, Boston shot just 32.7% in the first half and hit the break trailing by five points. In the second half, the Celtics blew the game open on the strength of 59.1% shooting, including 9-of-16 from behind the arc. The defense and offensive rebounding have kept Boston in games while the offense finds its way.
2. The Williams tandem was good again for the Celtics, and they needed it with both Enes Kanter and Daniel Theis out with injuries. Robert Williams got the start and responded with four points, seven rebounds, a couple of steals and a block. But most surprising and encouraging? Timelord had three assists and only one turnover. His passing has come a long way.
Grant Williams played 19 minutes with a relatively pedestrian stat-line, but that misses just how good he was. The note written down for Williams was “Grant just does stuff” and that’s the most accurate descriptor of his game. He’s like slightly bigger version of Marcus Smart with how he’s involved in everything.
3. Jaylen Brown has been Boston’s best player through the first three games. Only foul trouble has slowed him down so far. That’s something to keep an eye on, as Brad Stevens is tasking Brown with defending bigger players to start games. Brown was limited in his minutes against the Knicks, as he was at four fouls early in the third quarter. What he can clean up is the fouls that are off the ball and sometimes 20 feet from the hoop.
4. When Brown wasn’t in foul trouble, he was excellent on defense again. Here he goes against Marcus Morris, who tries to back him down. Brown holds his ground and contests Morris’ fall-away without fouling.
5. Carsen Edwards is fun. He’s like Eddie House 2.0. The challenge for Edwards will be figuring out exactly what he is. Can he be a point guard that can initiate offense? Or will Stevens have to pair him with another playmaker at all times? Here are two plays that show the ups and downs for Edwards as a developing passer.
On this first clip, Edwards gets his head up immediately and finds the streaking Gordon Hayward in transition:
On this one, Edwards can’t curb his natural inclination to score, as he misses Jayson Tatum wide open on the cut. If he’s going to miss the pass, he’s got to make the layup.
6. The Celtics pressure defense has been off the charts through the first three games. Because they are small, Boston has to hound ballhandlers and passers. This is where the length and athleticism of the Brown/Tatum/Hayward wing trio comes into play. They are able to get their hands in the face of passers, which allows the guards and bigs to make plays in the passing lanes. Through three games the Celtics have forced 19, 23 and 26 turnovers. That’s almost 23 per game. For reference, the Oklahoma City Thunder led the NBA last season with 16.7 forced turnovers per game.
7. Let’s go back to Robert Williams for a second. Sometimes his incredible athleticism works against him, like when he chases blocks. He leaves Mitchell Robinson on this play to try for a block on R.J. Barrett that he has no chance of getting. That allows Robinson to grab the rebound for the easy putback dunk.
8. The major focal points with Tatum so far this season have been his shot selection and his finishing at the rim. Here he shows improvement in both areas. Instead of a couple of dribbles and a pull-up, Tatum drives the closeout. Then he finishes strong at the rim through contact. This And-1, gave Boston a lead they would never relinquish and was part of the Celtics blowing the game open.
9. This whole sequence was great. Grant Williams hustles to save a possession with an offensive rebound, Marcus Smart and Tatum team up to save the ball and then Smart finds Brown for the alley-oop finish. It’s the kind of gritty play that Celtics fans love.
10. Before the game, Kemba Walker talked about how he considered going to the Knicks in free agency, but decided that the Celtics were the best fit for him. It’s easy to see the draw of New York for Walker: it’s home and he’s had some monster games in Madison Square Garden. For most of this game, it looked like it wasn’t going to be a happy homecoming. Then Walker had his first signature moment as a Celtic. He scored 21 of his 32 points in the second half on 8-of-9 shooting. Stevens has built good offenses around the scoring abilities of his point guards, and after a shaky start to the year, it looks like that will continue with Walker.
Bonus: Tacko Time! Tacko Fall was active for his first NBA game and as Boston turned it into a rout by outscoring New York 72-45 in the second half, Fall made his NBA debut. And a rousing debut it was! He scored four points and grabbed three rebounds in 3:38 of time. Fall’s first NBA basket was the kind of dunk that he, and only he, can get: