1. When the Lakers started the game on an 8-0 run, you wouldn’t have blamed Celtics fans for saying “Here we go again” with an exasperated sigh. By the end of the first quarter, Boston had the lead and Los Angeles wouldn’t ever get it back. This was the most complete performance the Celtics have had in months. In many ways, considering the circumstances, this was Boston’s best win of the season. They were connected defensively. The energy and effort level was very high all game. The offense had the ball moving and everyone was involved. Despite the way the last few weeks have gone, the Celtics have been this team more often than not this year. Now, let’s hope they can keep the main guys healthy and keep playing this way.
2. Part of what got the Celtics off to a good start was Jaylen Brown and Gordon Hayward seeking contact early. Both players were getting in the lane over and over again. That resulted in good looks for themselves, their teammates or they got themselves to the line.
3. We’ve said it a lot in this space, but it deserves repeating: When Gordon Hayward is involved in the offense and aggressive, good things happen. Hayward only took 12 shots, but he had five assists. He was also involved in getting the ball moving on several other plays. And when Hayward is involved, he plays with confidence and you get plays like this one:
Right off the catch Hayward sees Kyle Kuzma is leaning the wrong way. As JaVale McGee steps towards Marcus Smart in the corner, Hayward is off to the rim for the uncontested dunk.
4. A major issue for Boston during their rough patch has been losing minutes when the other team’s key players are off the floor. Against the Lakers, the Celtics were able to expand their lead when LeBron James and Anthony Davis sat. When Davis went to the bench with foul trouble in the first quarter, Boston took the lead. They extended that lead to double-digits in the second quarter when James sat. In the third quarter, they came out on fire and really put the game away when James and Davis sat. It was good to see Boston not only take, but build on a lead.
5. Part of what allowed the Celtics to build up their lead was the bench stepping up. Enes Kanter was a real difference-maker. He scored 18 points on 8-of-10 shooting, which helped Boston to a 62-52 advantage on points in the paint. Kanter was also all over the offensive glass with six offensive rebounds. Beyond that, he was good on defense against the far more athletic Davis, McGee and Dwight Howard. He also set solid screens, as he did here to free up Jayson Tatum for a layup:
Notice that Kanter actually sets two good screens. He frees Tatum up initially then drops to immediately screen off the help defender to help Tatum get the layup.
Kanter also finished off this ridiculous pass from Smart:
Still no idea how that one got through there!
6. Brad Stevens went to a playoff-like rotation in this one. During the game’s competitive minutes, Stevens played his five starters (Kemba Walker, Jaylen Brown, Gordon Hayward, Jayson Tatum and Daniel Theis) and just three bench players: Marcus Smart, Enes Kanter and Semi Ojeleye. Ojeleye got the call because of his defense against James and Davis and he delivered. By playing just eight players, Stevens was able to keep everyone in rhythm. Equally as important: With his main guys healthy, Stevens kept two of Walker, Brown, Hayward and Tatum on the floor at all times. Look for this to continue in big games the rest of the way and into the postseason.
7. Jayson Tatum was terrific. He scored a game-high 27 points and hopefully put to rest that nonsensical “Tatum or Kuzma?” argument. As he always does when he has a big night, Tatum got his points in lots of ways. He was active on defense and created some opportunities for himself, like this steal and dunk:
When his confidence is overflowing, Tatum will just mess with defenders before drilling the jumper in their face:
And when he’s seeking out contact to get himself And-1 chances, Tatum is in for a big scoring night:
8. Kemba Walker gave Boston a nice lift with his shooting and scoring. As Brown and Tatum are still finding their consistency, and Hayward is hit-or-miss, Walker is a guy the Celtics can count on nightly to score. When he has the ball on a string for his pull-up, Walker is nearly unstoppable:
9. It was 99% good for Boston. One weird play was this odd decision on defense. Right before this clip starts, Smart is lining everyone up, as he regularly does. For whatever reason, he tells Walker to cover McGee and Kanter to cover Kuzma. It ends up a mess and Kuzma gets an easy dunk:
Maybe it was supposed to be some sort of pseudo-zone? No matter what, this was messy. Good news is that it was about the only time Boston was out of position defensively on the night.
10. Jaylen Brown had the game’s highlight play (more on that next!), but he was pretty good all-around. His defense against Davis was terrific. And he made a bunch of plays as a passer with six assists. This find to Daniel Theis for a triple was really impressive:
The lefty hook-pass out of pick and roll? Yeah, that’s a new one for Brown and a perfect sign of how far he’s come as a passer.
11. Alright, here’s what you came for! Brown put the game away when he drove and hammered one right on James:
You have to love how Brown reached back for his inner-MJ and hung for a second before elevating even higher to throw it down.
Old friend Chris Grenham got you the back-to-back of both Boston’s building blocks yamming on James:
Here's Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown dunking on LeBron James in one video. pic.twitter.com/7RR1TAlYpr— Chris Grenham (@chrisgrenham) January 21, 2020
12. The Celtics ball movement was really good. They had 31 assists on 52 baskets. This play features all of the Celtics main four offensive players with a touch before Walker drops in the floater:
13. Let’s have some fun to end it. Grant Williams drilled a three-pointer and had something to say to DeMarcus Cousins before getting a technical, which Cousins thoroughly enjoyed:
And then Vincent Poirier turned from Vinnie Sex Pants to Vinnie Sex Triple:
Wins are always good. Wins over the Lakers are even better. Blowout wins over the Lakers when everyone has some fun are the best.