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Celtics win streak snapped at 10: 10 Takeaways from Boston/Sacramento

It went right to the death, but Boston lost for the first time since opening night

NBA: Boston Celtics at Sacramento Kings Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports

1. The streak is over. After 10 straight wins, the Celtics took it right to the death before falling to the Kings. It’s not the end of the world. Sacramento is playing like a desperate team trying to climb out of an early-season hole. Buddy Hield was out of his mind. And, unlike several games throughout the streak, Boston couldn’t turn around a slow shooting start.

As Brad Stevens has said multiple times: the Celtics aren’t as good as they looked during parts of the streak. They also aren’t anywhere near as bad they looked in Sacramento. It’s a long season. Time to start a new streak.

2. Stevens has been going deep into his bench for most of the year, as Boston has been down at least one or two rotations players every game. The first two guys to get the call in Sacramento were Javonte Green and Robert Williams. Both guys are banged up, so we’ll give them some benefit of the doubt, but they were awful. In their six minutes, Boston was -13 and it looked as bad as that stat sounds. Williams was especially off of his game. It’s important to remember how raw he is, as he was out of control in this game. Williams has no chance of blocking this shot in the clip below. All this does is take him out of position for the rebound, and that was typical of his afternoon.

3. Jayson Tatum is a wonderful offensive talent, but there are things we all want to see him be better at. He’s eliminated a lot of the long two-point shots, especially the ones that come after a million dribbles, which is great. He’s getting to the basket a lot more, but he’s admittedly “terrible” at finishing right now. That’s got to improve

Finally, we’d all like to see him draw more free throws. But…to get those freebies, Tatum has to stop complaining to the officials so much. It’s been an issue since his rookie season. It’s to the point that he regularly turns to the refs looking for a call. Once players develop a reputation as a whiner, it can take years to shake. Some guys never do. Let’s hope Tatum can move past this eventually.

4. The Celtics dug themselves a deep hole by throwing the ball all over the gym early on. Boston turned it over 12 times in the first half, which matches their average per game. That made it harder on the offense to get back in the game than it needed to be.

5. Let’s get to the good stuff, because there was some, despite the loss! As mentioned above, Stevens is going deep into his bench. This was Semi Ojeleye’s day and he responded with his best game of the season. He scored 11 points and played solid defense. Ojeleye has become a guy Stevens might not play often, but who generally delivers when called upon.

The second reserve with a big game was Enes Kanter. He scored 10 points and snagged seven rebounds, including four on the offensive glass. He was continually making things happen when he was out there. Best of all? Kanter wasn’t a complete negative on the defensive end either.

Lastly, Brad Wanamaker was again solid. He’s really taken this opportunity and run with it. It’s all about being ready when you numbers is called and excelling in your role. Wanamaker has done that in a big way.

6. Once the Celtics stopped throwing the ball away, the ball movement really showed up. The team had 26 assists on 34 baskets. Plays like these two show just how good this team is when the ball pings around the court. In this first clip, Marcus Smart has a good shot, but gives it up to get Jaylen Brown a great shot:

Then, Smart does the same late in the game, but to find Tatum for a wide-open corner three:

7. Let’s mix criticism with praise for Tatum. This shot, when the Celtics were trying to take control of the game, is awful. There is plenty of time for Tatum to move the ball versus taking whatever this mess was:

8. But Tatum has that clutch gene. Despite some misses early, Stevens draws this play up to get Tatum a shot in what has been one of his sweet spots early in the season:

9. When he played for Charlotte, Kemba Walker had terrific chemistry with Cody Zeller in the pick and roll game. It was one of the Hornets best options on offense. Walker and Daniel Theis are building similar chemistry for Boston. Theis slips the screen and Walker finds him for an And-1:

Here, the Celtics last basket of the game, Theis just knows when and where to cut off Walker drives:

10. Marcus Smart has arguably been the Celtics best all-around player so far this season. His defense has been off the charts. His three-point shot has come around to the point where he’s now someone you don’t mind seeing with the ball in his hands.

Against the Kings, Smart had his first bad game of the season. His shot was off all day, as he finished just 2-of-16 overall and 1-of-8 from behind the arc. That happens sometimes. Surprisingly, Smart’s defense wasn’t up to his lofty standards either. He was regularly defending Buddy Hield, as Hield went for 35 points. He did force Hield into some really tough looks, but Smart’s usually great ball denial just wasn’t quite there.

All that said, Smart had the ball in his hands to end the game. As Brad Stevens said, it was the right play. Walker drove and kicked to Smart, who drove again, and Smart’s shot was thiiiiiiiiiiiiiis close to keeping the streak alive:

As Bill Belichick would say “We’re on to Phoenix” and a visit with old friend Aron Baynes.

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