1. Once again the Celtics were shorthanded, as Daniel Theis joined Kemba Walker and Marcus Smart on the sidelines. Once again it didn’t really matter. Boston’s wing trio of Jaylen Brown, Gordon Hayward and Jayson Tatum combined for 74 points on 50% shooting from the floor in the team’s fifth straight victory. They were also a big part of the Celtics outscoring the Magic by a 50-34 margin on points in the paint. Right now, against almost any opponent, Boston has an advantage on the wing, and usually a sizeable one.
2. Jayson Tatum was at it again last night with 33 points. As per usual, they came in a number of ways. This drive and finish though contact is something Tatum is much-improved at:
His patience to beat the third quarter buzzer was something else. Tatum doesn’t rush into a fallaway, but uses his size to get to the layup:
Then as part of his 15 fourth quarter points, Tatum went to what I’ll call his side-step step-back, not once but twice:
Look at how he creates the separation with the shoulder before not only stepping back, but also slightly to the left to get the clean look. The side-step is even more visible on the next play, as Tatum drains the jumper in the face of Michael Carter-Williams:
Lastly, it was nice to see him complete a highlight pass to Jaylen Brown this time instead of whatever the heck that lob was he threw on Monday night:
Bonus: nothing is more fun than watching one of the Jays hammer one on a defender who knows it is coming and makes a business decision to get out of the way.
3. Tatum’s partner in crime in scoring was Gordon Hayward. He put up 17 of his 23 points in the second half, but had an impact all game long. This finish off the wrong foot over the big man is a lot harder than it looks:
In the fourth quarter, Hayward hit what has been his pet shot: the hard drive into the short turnaround:
When he draws the big, as he does against Nikola Vucevic, and backs the ball out like this, you know something good is coming for the Celtics.
Hayward’s rebounding and passing were also on-point, as seven rebounds and seven assists. His chemistry with the Boston bigs has been good, no matter who is manning the pivot. First, he found Enes Kanter for the layup:
Later he hooked up Vincent Poirier, who gave the Celtics the best minutes he’s played this season:
4. Romeo Langford got the first start of his NBA career and shared a humorous story about sharing his excitement with his parents, who assumed he meant he was starting for the Maine Red Claws of the G-League. Nope, Langford started for the Celtics and he delivered some good plays. This kind of one-on-one defense to block Evan Fournier (who has been great this year for Orlando) is the stuff that will earn Langford more minutes:
In the second half, Langford drove the closeout and showed good instincts to use the rim to protect the ball as he finished inside:
It’s been an up-and-down season for the rookie wing, but the flashes of potential are enough to get you really excited for what’s to come.
5. One of Boston’s other rookies just keeps making plays. Grant Williams has clearly been watching and learning from Daniel Theis and Enes Kanter, and of course Marcus Smart. This seal for Jayson Tatum was positively Theis-like:
Then he showed his own cobra-strike ability on this block on Aaron Gordon:
Before the block, look at how well Williams moved his feet to stay in front of Gordon on the drive. That’s really good stuff.
And then he showed off his Kanter-like instincts to get to the offensive glass for a putback:
6. Speaking of Kanter, he continues to flash some passing chops. Look at him pump his fist in pride after finding Tatum for the dunk:
7. Brad Stevens likes to talk about process over results. Sometimes the right play is made without a great result. When Boston was in Orlando a couple of weeks ago, Jaylen Brown worked on this lefty pass to the opposite corner for about 10 minutes. Here it is in game action. Forget about Tatum missing the shot off the swing. This pass from Brown to Langford is really difficult and only happens because Brown put the time into practicing it:
8. Stevens is sure to pick on Tatum a bit, even after a big night, for this lackadaisical defense to start the game:
Aaron Gordon is tough to stop in transition with his size and athleticism. But Tatum just sort of gives up and commits a bad foul to boot. Guaranteed someone will show him this play at some point.
9. Another night, another solid performance off the bench from Brad Wanamaker:
Boston could use a solid scorer on the second unit, but Wanamaker probably shouldn’t be the guy to go to get whoever that player is. He’s good and inexpensive, which is something an increasingly expensive Celtics roster needs.
10. The NBA trade deadline is today at 3:00 PM EST. Boston has been active. No blockbuster deals are coming (the Clint Capela trade talks were brought to Danny Ainge, not Ainge seeking him out), but the Celtics might do something small. They want to add some bench scoring and maybe another big with range. Challenge is finding something workable, as Ainge doesn’t have any big salaries to move. Boston was in on Alec Burks and Glenn Robinson III, but the Warriors weren’t taking any salary back, and the Celtics don’t want to waive any players who have guaranteed money into 2020-21 to free up roster spots. Lack of roster spots is working against Boston a little bit today, but if there is a deal to be done, they’ll do it. The title contention window is starting to creek open and with the right deal, the Celtics could push it fully open.