1. That was more like it. As Brad Stevens said postgame: “The way that we played is the way we need to play.” Just as importantly, the team played with a sense of purpose and a joy that has been missing all too often this season. The result was handing the Warriors their worst home loss of the Steve Kerr era, and their first wire-to-wire defeat in a home game in almost 13 years.
2. The Celtics played together on offense, with 38 assists on 49 baskets, including 12 on 14 hoops in the first quarter. On defense, they executed their switching system perfectly. And they did it against a team where blowing a switch almost always results in allowing a bucket. That kind of play only happens when a team is connected.
3. While it will get lost in Gordon Hayward’s big night, and that’s just fine, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown both played really well for Boston. On this play you saw Tatum use his athleticism and skill to get a basket from a really tricky spot. This isn’t a shot just anyone can hit. It’s one only a truly talented scorer can make.
4. The two youngsters hooked up for this simple, yet beautiful play too. We all love to see Tatum in the post. He can do a lot of things from there as a scorer. Once that comes more often, he’ll start getting doubled. Then he has to make a quick decision and find the open player, as he does with Brown here:
5. As for Brown, he also got it done as a driver and cutter too. He had a lot of nice rim attacks off the dribble, and this loud finish off a pass from Al Horford:
6. Time for Gordon Hayward love! He was awesome. The best player on the floor for either team last night. Whether it was motivation from an anonymous Warriors player calling him a “liability on both ends” following the Celtics loss to Golden State in Boston, or he was just feeling good, Hayward was great. He scored 30 points on a variety of shots. He was aggressive from the minute he hit the floor. He’s not going to be this good every game, but when Hayward is at least solid, the Celtics potential to be great rises considerably.
7. His box score line won’t tell much of a story, but Marcus Smart was huge in game. He defended Stephen Curry about as well as anyone can. And he made a bunch of plays as a switch and help defender. Here, he shows just how intelligent he is on defense, as well as his physical gifts. He beats Kevin Durant to the spot and takes it in the chest, right at a point where the Warriors were making a bit of a run:
8. On the other end, Smart in the post against smaller (height or weight) guards has become one of the places Boston can find some offense. Here he posts Curry, works his way in the paint and dishes out one of the best assists to Hayward that you’ll see:
9. Just like when things went well in the game in Boston, the Celtics killed DeMarcus Cousins in pick and roll and off switches. It got to the point that Cousins got frustrated enough to get into it with Aron Baynes after committing an offensive foul. The best part? Jayson Tatum and Terry Rozier both came to the defense of their teammate. Rozier got a technical foul, but that’s the kind of tech everyone from Boston is happy to see him get.
10. This is nit-picking, but the lone negative for the Celtics was that they allowed a bunch of fast break points in the third quarter. The Warriors piled up 12 of them int he frame, which is a lot for one quarter. They got the points by leaking out after Boston took jumpers. Once the Celtics realized it, they shut it down. That started with this play from Tatum against Durant on a breakaway:
11. Overall, Kyrie Irving summed it up best in the on-court interview immediately following the game: “We’ve been doing a lot of talking. It’s time to put some action to it.” Irving later went on to say that the Celtics long plane ride to the West Coast helped the team a lot. Sometimes getting away from everything else and just making it about basketball is what a team needs.
Now, it’s about keeping it going. Too many times this season, Boston has followed an incredible effort with a poor one. They’ve got three more games left on this road trip to reverse course on that. As Brad Stevens said “We know that we haven’t played like that enough, but it’s encouraging as a reminder that we can.” It sure was.
CELTICSBLOG/CLNS GAME RECAP FROM ORACLE ARENA: