1. To start anywhere but with Jaylen Brown would be burying the lede. Brown set a new career-high with 42 points on 15-of-21 shooting, including 7-of-10 from behind the arc. Brown was hot from the jump as his by quarter scoring was eight in the first, 18 in the second and then 16 in the third. He didn’t play in the fourth quarter, as Boston had built a 25-point lead entering the final frame.
You know Brown is feeling it when he takes pullup threes in transition. This was a sign of what was the come:
You should like this shot for a couple of reasons. First, Brown pulls from very deep with the utmost confidence. It’s awesome. Second, is that Tatum sees Brown has the mismatch and makes sure he’s working through that. No hesitation from Tatum and you see him make sure Brown comes to get the ball:
This is the last one and it’s the best one. Brown just kind of toys with the defender here using his improved handle. Jonas Valanciunas is in help position, so Brown doesn’t force the drive. He knows this jumper is there and he swishes it with ease:
2. The last few days, Brad Stevens talked a lot about the Celtics needing to “impact the ball” on defense. Stevens relates it to Boston playing small a lot of the time and their best chance at being a good defense is getting up into the ball.
The Grizzlies were without Ja Morant and De’Anthony Melton, leaving Tyus Jones as the only point guard on the lineup. Boston was able to harass the ballhandlers all night and forced 22 turnovers with a whopping 17 steals. That’s taking advantage of a weakened opponent by impacting the ball.
3. Memphis went zone for a good deal of the second quarter. They were down personnel and their man-to-man defense wasn’t stopping anything. The zone was Boston’s kryptonite for large portions of last season’s playoffs. They figured it out as they went along and it wasn’t an issue by the end of their run.
Here, the Celtics saw it right away and knew immediately how to attack. Jaylen Brown sits in the middle to start the clip, while Tatum handles on the wing. Everyone else is in the right spot: Jeff Teague is at the top of the key, ready to split the zone. Semi Ojeleye is spaced to the opposite wing, one pass away from Teague. Robert Williams is in the weakside dunker spot, ready for a pass or rebound.
As the play develops, watch Tatum lift the strongside corner defender with him, that’s his gravity with the ball at work. Brown sees it, relocates to the corner and Tatum hits him for Brown’s easiest three-pointer of the night:
4. With Tristan Thompson sitting out to manage his still-recovering hamstring, Boston opened the game with just one big. The Celtics went small and Jeff Teague drew his first start. That seemed to get both him and Daniel Theis going.
Teague didn’t have a big scoring night, but he snagged four steals, grabbed five rebounds, and dished out four assists. He looked comfortable as more of a playmaking point guard than a scoring point, which has been his role off the bench.
Theis played his best game of the short season, despite jamming his thumb early in the first quarter. Following the game, Theis spoke about being more comfortable as a five than playing at the four. As a four, his game is to space the floor as a spot-up shooter. As a five, he’s able to play more as a roller, where he excels. This is a good example of Teague and Theis taking advantage of being in more natural roles:
5. It’s been a bit of an understated start to the season for Marcus Smart. He said he was going to focus on his shot selection, and it’s paying off. So far, Smart is at a career-best 42.9% from behind the arc on 5.6 attempts per game. He’s scoring 11.6 points and handing out 5.6 assists.
Brad Stevens talked about guys being the best version of themselves vs trying to replace someone else. Here is Smart doing something that only he can do among Celtics guards. None of the other guards can work in the post and find cutters for easy buckets like this:
6. It was a big night for Payton Pritchard. His stats weren’t eye-popping, but he’s played so well that he wasn’t even a part of the extensive garbage-time minutes in this game. He also has a fun nickname debate going: Fast PP, 8 Mile or P-Rabbit (the latter is this author’s favorite). And he did make this really pretty pass to Daniel Theis on a baseline drive:
7. Speaking of pretty passing, Robert Williams was in his passing bag last night. On these back-to-back trips he made these beauties. First was controlled this tip-pass off a lob to get Marcus Smart a triple:
Next trip, was this perfect bounce pass to Jaylen Brown. Williams catches on the roll, but knows exactly how the play is developing.
Oh, Williams also had a ho-hum 10 rebounds, four blocks and six points too. He’s coming along very rapidly now.
8. Aaron Nesmith got some playing time and it was…not great. Multiple times Nesmith was out of position on defense and looked lost. A handful of times, he had to have teammates position him on the floor to start offensive sets. It seems like the rookie’s head is spinning right now and that’s likely why he’s not playing.
On a positive note, the only Celtics who can make this shot are Jayson Tatum and maybe Jaylen Brown (if this shot-making off the bounce is real from Brown). This is a skill and one Boston can use if Nesmith can figure out the rest of the game:
9. It’s always fun when everyone contributes in a blowout victory. The Celtics had 13 players active for this game and all 13 scored at least two points. Even more fun? 9-of-13 had at least one steal!
10. Big picture, this was a win Boston needed. The Grizzlies came in down, and the Celtics kept them there. It was a chance to get some young players some minutes and get the rotation guys off their feet. With a mini-series in Detroit over the weekend, the Celtics have a chance to really get rolling before some tougher matchups come next week.