The Celtics needed a bounce back win after a disastrous night against the Nets.as they had to turn around quickly after a disaster the night before against Brooklyn. But because of a lack of fire power with three starters on the shelf, they needed someone to step up on the offensive end. It was Semi Ojeleye who took this opportunity and made the most of it, notching a career-high 22 points on an incredible night shooting.
He went 8-for-11 shooting from the field and 5-for-8 from three-point range. Another positive of his night was the efficiency he displayed through all of this. Ojeleye knew he had the hot hand, but instead of firing up questionable looks, he was balanced in his approach and did not force anything. It was impressive discipline that the Celtics desperately needed as this game went back and forth all night long.
This output somewhat came as a surprise from Ojeleye as this year has been a bit rocky. His minutes have decreased and he has not had consistent opportunities. This proved to be a much needed performance from him and you could tell from his emotion and reactions after he hit a few of his first threes. He built up the confidence to keep launching and find his sweet spots from behind the arc. There have been versions of this Semi here and there, but it really shows what kind of contributions he could bring down the road.
Ojeleye’s offense was crisp throughout the game. The second clip was perfect team ball movement that set him up for his corner three. Ojeleye can thrive in this role if the consistency is there. He started out hitting his three-point attempts he took and built off the Cavaliers throwing double teams at Tatum most of the night. This opened up Ojeleye to sit open on the three-point arc waiting for the ball to come to him. Or, as seen in the first clip, he could just turn to his isolation game that everyone obviously was expecting. It was great to see him shoot with confidence when the Celtics needed all hands on deck to produce.
The outlook of Ojeleye’s contributions in the future will be determined by this three-point shot. If this continues, he will be able to gain his minutes back from Grant Williams who has struggled finding his offensive impact on games. Both are 6’6” small ball bigs who play a similar role. There were times last night where both were on the court at the same time, but coach Brad Stevens has shown he has them both slotted for a similar role. Williams has been getting the minutes recently because of his basketball IQ that fit better on the defensive end. Again, if Ojeleye can flip this and become consistent on both ends, he may cut into Grant Williams’ minutes for the rest of the regular season or even the playoffs. It’ll be an opening for more of the Semi Shimmy.
Another aspect of Ojeleye’s game that he showed off against the Cavs was his defense. His defense has been spotty a few times this season with how he positions himself in the schemes. He has the strength and size to guard some of the bigger players in the league, but if he is switched onto a wing, he sometimes struggles with this lateral quickness. In Cleveland, he did a great job staying in front of most ball handlers he had to face. His biggest strength is that versatility to switch off a wing to a big man, so seeing him contest quicker guards/wings is promising going forward.
All in all, Semi Ojeleye’s big night will be huge for his confidence going forward. It was an efficient, career night for him which he needed after a rocky season thus far. He needs to build on this and show Stevens he can adapt to his role and be there to knock down threes when called upon. That is his niche while being a brute force against big men. It was great seeing this type of game from Ojeleye, and it will be important to jump off this and see it down the line.