1. Just like the Washington game, Boston’s defense left a lot to be desired early on. The Warriors scored 32 points early on and got whatever shots they wanted. Eventually, the Celtics locked in and held Golden State to just 38% shooting after the first quarter. But against a good team, that sort of slow start could bury Boston in a hole they can’t dig out of.
That said, a hallmark of a good team is winning games where they play poorly, especially on the road. As it stands, right now no one is playing better than Boston with their 10-game win streak.
2. The Celtics offense wasn’t a lot better in the early going. A major culprit was Jayson Tatum, but in one specific way: Tatum can’t make a layup. In his own words, he is “terrible” on layups right now. This play in the first quarter is one Tatum has to finish. There isn’t enough size to bother him at the rim on this shot:
In the fourth quarter, Tatum had these two point-blank misses:
He’d more than make up for it later in the game, but Tatum is leaving anywhere from six to eight points off the board because of missed layups.
3. In the Doc Rivers’ era, Boston regularly used sets that involved a lot of big-to-big, high-low passing. Under Brad Stevens, the Celtics have used some of this, but it’s coming back in to vogue with this group of bigs. On this first clip, Robert Williams continues to impress with his passing ability, as he finds Semi Ojeleye on the backdoor cut:
And then later in the game, it was Enes Kanter finding Grant Williams for the layup:
4. Marcus Smart did his thing all game long. His defense, both individual and team, helped slow down the Warriors and get Boston back in the game. Smart also hit five three-pointers and is now up to 40.8% on 6.9 attempts per game from behind the arc. The shooting now matches the defense and playmaking, both of which Smart showed off on this play:
5. Once again, Brad Wanamaker gave Boston some really good minutes, especially in the first half. Stevens has always liked a third point guard that is best described as “steady”. That has ranged from Phil Pressey to Shane Larkin to now Wanamaker. His nine points were nice, but 18:25 and being +8 for the game is even better. When the roster is fully healthy, Wanamaker’s minutes may be sporadic, but Stevens knows he’s always ready when called upon.
6. Maybe it’s because he doesn’t have to carry a huge load on offense, but Kemba Walker’s focus and effort on defense has never been better in his career. Walker is giving up about five inches to Glenn Robinson III here, but stays in front of Robinson and contests his jumper:
7. Daniel Theis has rapidly built chemistry with Walker, Smart and Gordon Hayward. That seems to be coming along with Jaylen Brown now too. On this first clip, he seals the smaller defender for the easy dunk off the pass from Brown, who immediately looked up in transition:
Then Brown shows off his ability to pass in traffic while on the move, as he finds Theis for another dunk:
8. It was a rough shooting night for Boston, but the ball movement was again good. The Celtics had 24 assists on 37 baskets, including five players with three or more helpers. Plays like this one get everyone involved and end in a great shot. Bonus: look at that skip pass from Grant Williams to Walker in the corner (insert emoji with hearts for eyes):
9. We said Tatum made up for missing layups with plays late in the game. This was the play of the game, as Tatum steals the tip and races in for the dunk to put Boston back on top:
What you can’t see in the clip, is Smart telling Tatum exactly where Willie Cauley-Stein is going to tip the ball. Following the game, Tatum told the media: “Smart told me the whole time ‘Yeah, they’re going to tip it back. Shoot the lane,’ I’m like, ‘No.’ He’s like, ‘Listen to me. Listen to me.’ I’m like, ‘All right, yo.’ And I listened to him, and it worked.”
It wasn’t nearly the same stakes, but it brought back memories of this all-time Paul Pierce highlight:
10. Then Tatum made a much more conventional, but no less important play. And Tatum made this drive and pull-up against perennial Defensive Player of the Year candidate Draymond Green:
11. Lastly, it might not matter how Kemba Walker starts games if he keeps finishing them with big shots like this:
Coffee is for closers. Kemba gets coffee. We’ll even give him a large for the throwback Walker Wiggle too.