1. As we’ve come to expect over the years, Boston is somehow better when they are down a couple of key players. The Celtics got Enes Kanter back, but Marcus Smart sat this game out, continuing the “get one back, lose one” trend. Kemba Walker sat out a second game in a row as well. Boston opened the game without a traditional point guard (Javonte Green got his first career start) and played a lot of funky lineups throughout against a very small Atlanta team. But the Celtics got the win. That’s the goal in these midseason games against bad teams. Doesn’t matter how you get there, just win baby!
2. Jaylen Brown was named Eastern Conference Player of the Week earlier in the day and proceeded to make a strong statement for a second straight honor. Brown’s handle and patience are paying off in big, big ways now. He was able to get wherever he wanted on the floor against the Hawks. Too early plays showed just how calm Brown is now. On the game’s first play, Brown drove, stopped on a dime, faked Damian Jones off his feet and finished strong:
Later in the quarter, Brown broke down Jones off the bounce and again showed patience to clear space for the layup:
These are the types of plays that took Brown from exciting prospect to All-Star candidate.
3. Jayson Tatum scored a team-high 28 points in all the ways you expect: jumpers, layups, spinning turnarounds, etc. But what really stood out was Tatum’s decision-making as a passer:
A year ago, Tatum shoots an off-balance floater or drives all the way into a contested layup. Now, he trust his teammates and leaves it for Enes Kanter to finish.
Then in transition, you have to love how Tatum draws the Atlanta defense and then looks them off to find Brown for a dunk:
4. It was a good night for Boston’s passing, despite having less than a 50% assist-rate. Gordon Hayward is the team’s best playmaker. He shows that off here by dumping it off the Daniel Theis instead taking the pull-up jumper:
Here, Hayward has Trae Young pinned under the hoop. Theis finds him and John Collins doubles. Hayward doesn’t force it and kicks it back out to Theis for the open triple:
In the middle of the fourth quarter, Hayward took over. He scored back-to-back buckets when the Hawks cut the lead to just two. And then he hooked up with Grant Williams in pick and roll. This left-handed bounce-pass through traffic is way harder than Hayward makes it look:
No real point guard? No problem.
5. The above clip was Hayward paying Williams back for finding him on this backdoor cut earlier in the quarter on a perfect Brad Stevens ATO:
Williams wasn’t the only big to show off his passing, as Kanter found Tatum on the short-roll for the open triple:
If Stevens has Kanter making on-point passes off the roll, is there anything he can’t do with a role player?
6. No real signature highlights like stuffing one on Joel Embiid, but Brad Wanamaker stepped up again. Without Walker and Smart, Wanamaker was the best point guard option for the Celtics and he delivered with 16 points on 5-of-9 shooting and five assists. Wanamaker has had a few rough games, but, more often than not, he’s been steady as a backup for Stevens.
7. Let’s spend time with Grant Williams, because he was awesome! With Marcus out, someone had to provide “Winning Plays” and Williams did it. This first play is really encouraging because he shows patience in the post. He gets Collins off-balance with the fake and then uses his body to shield his layup attempt:
Look at how deep he pins old friend Evan Turner here. Turner has no chance of defending this play:
We love to talk about “grown man plays” and Williams delivered a couple. This offensive rebound is big time stuff:
As is this one, complete with the loud finish:
And then it was Williams who put the game away by driving right past John Collins for the layup:
Danny Ainge loves gritty guys who will sacrifice their body and stats for the good of the team. Smart is the archetype. Williams is cut out of that same mold.
8. Tremont Waters was called up from Maine for additional depth and he was a little up and down. He made some nice plays, including picking Trae Young’s pocket for a breakaway layup. He also had some nice passes. But, despite the steal on Young, Waters was a mess defensively. He was doing far too much reaching vs moving his feet to stay in front of the ballhandler. The potential is there for Waters to become a good backup point guard, but this was always a development season for him on a Two-Way contract.
9. Outside of Williams doing Smart-like stuff, this was the best play of the night for the Celtics. Tatum drives and kicks to Wanamaker, swing, swing and Hayward gets an open three. When the ball moves like this, even the best defenses will struggle to stop Boston:
10. Boston got really sloppy for a large chunk for the fourth quarter, but managed to pull themselves together for the win. Big reasons why were dominance in scoring margins in two areas: points in the paint and fastbreak points. The Celtics outscored the Hawks 66-50 around the basket and 22-8 in transition. That’s finding easy offense and a winning recipe.