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Hayward and Smart lead the way: 10 Takeaways from Cleveland

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Hayward’s offense and Smart’s defense carried the Celtics to their 5th straight win

Boston Celtics v Cleveland Cavaliers Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images

1. Gordon Hayward is back. Anytime you have an offensive stat-line that puts you in company with Wilt Chamberlain, and Wilt Chamberlain only, it was a good night. Hayward went 16-of-16 on two-point shots, which tied Chamberlain for most two-point attempts without a miss in a single game. That was part of a 17-of-20 overall shooting night on the way to 39 points for Hayward. His shot chart from the night is pretty impressive:

Look at all those baskets in and around the paint and the 8-for-8 shooting at the basket. That includes this stop-and-fade away shot from Hayward that has become his signature move in the paint:

Beyond the scoring, Hayward also had eight assists (re-affirming his place as the Celtics best playmaker) and seven rebounds. The last of those rebounds was a play Hayward never would have attempted to make last year. He comes in and crashes the offensive glass for the putback. This is Hayward just playing basketball:

2. Marcus Smart was a big part of this win too. His box score is just kind of “meh”, but as is often the case with Smart, the numbers don’t tell the story. For a third straight game, Smart defended a much bigger player to start the night. In his last three matchups, Smart has checked Giannis Antetokounmpo, Julius Randle and Kevin Love. And he’s more than held his own against all three players. Smart calls himself a “stretch 6” and whatever that means, he’s proving he is one. There were three plays that stood out to prove Smart’s defensive versatility. First there was this play against Love. The Cavaliers iso Love in the post on Smart. Love has one of the best up-fakes in the NBA, but he can’t lift Smart. He tries to back him down, but that goes nowhere either. Then Love decides to pass to the cutting Collin Sexton and Smart deflects the pass for a steal:

On this one, Cleveland called a timeout to get this play. They are going to Love in the post to try and get a clutch basket. Smart has other ideas and stones Love before forcing a deep jump-hook that has no chance:

And lastly, when there is a ball you have to get to clinch the game, Smart’s getting it. That’s even if he’s got to go up in the trees to come away with the ball:

3. Boston must have made Dikembe Mutombo smile, as they piled up 12 blocks as a team. Daniel Theis recorded five himself, while Robert Williams, Jayson Tatum and Kemba Walker (What?!?!) recorded two apiece. For one night at least, it was a Boston Block Party.

4. For as long as I’ve been watching the Celtics, I can hear Tommy Heinsohn exhorting the team to “Run! Run! Run!” and this year’s group has taken that to heart. This play starts with a Theis block, and ends with Tatum to Hayward back to Tatum for a layup. You know this one made Tommy chortle with glee:

5. Smart and Al Horford had great timing on the play where Horford slipped the screen and Smart lobbed it to him at the rim. Smart and Theis are starting to develop that same sort of chemistry:

6. Since the swap was made, a lot has been made about how Walker is a better fit for Boston than Kyrie Irving. Some, of that is personality-based. Ok…a lot of it of is personality based! But on the court, Walker fits in better too. Irving is a wizard with the ball in his hands. Few in the NBA are as good, and none are better. But off-ball, Irving was always just sort of a spectator. Boston never ran plays like this one for Irving like they do here for Walker. Walker’s off-ball movement and dangerous catch-and-shoot ability opens up new facets of the offense for the Celtics.

7. Hayward’s big night was fun. Walker hit six three-pointers and made big plays late in the game again. Tatum has quietly scored 15 or more points in all six games. Theis was a contributor, and Smart’s fingerprints were all over the victory. But…why can’t the Celtics put bad teams away? For a second straight game, Boston had to work right until the end to beat a non-playoff team. Part of the issue is the rebounding. Cleveland shot under 42% for the game, but grabbed 12 offensive boards. The Celtics also had 14 turnovers. Not controlling their own glass and being careless with the ball is a great equalizer and something Boston needs to clean up.

8. This play was so simple, but one of my favorites from the game. Semi Ojeleye easily wins the jump with a tip to Hayward. Hayward could have brought it down and set up for a shot to end the half. But he sees Tatum sprinting out and drops in the pass. From there, Tatum does the rest:

9. Carsen Edwards sure seems to enjoy playing in Cleveland! The rookie guard had a big game off the bench for the Celtics. After some early-season struggles, Edwards hit 3-of-4 triples on his way to 13 points. Boston’s bench has been inconsistent at best offensively, so Edwards stepping up as a scoring option would really stabilize that second unit.

10. Coffee is for closers. Kemba gets coffee.