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Boston has some work to do: 10 Takeaways from Celtics/Thunder

The Celtics were sloppy on both ends of the floor in their first game back

Oklahoma City Thunder v Boston Celtics Photo by Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images

Before we even get to the Takeaways…how great is it to have a game to even write the Takeaways about? It feels almost normal. As always, thanks for reading!

1. Jaylen Brown has become a pretty diverse scorer. It used to be only drives to the rim or catch and shoot jumpers. He’s added pull-ups, floaters and post-ups to his game. Because they force a lot of switches, Celtics wings often find themselves defended by a smaller guard. Brown’s ability to go up and over Chris Paul with the turnaround like this is just another sign of his burgeoning offensive game:

2. Brad Stevens has talked a lot during the restart practices about Jayson Tatum learning to handle blitzing and his growth as a passer. Here’s two good examples of Tatum’s passing eye improving. First, no blitz, but a quick cut by Gordon Hayward and Tatum finds him on the backdoor:

This second one is a perfect example of Tatum reading the blitz. He gets rid of the ball before it even comes. You can see what the Thunder are going to do. Everyone is cheating up, minus the strong-side corner. If Tatum tried to use the Brown screen, they would blitz and trap him. Instead, Tatum reads it and sees the cross-court pass to Hayward:

This is great stuff. Tatum’s size as a ballhandler should allow him to see the floor better than most. It’s just about reps and doing it, as teams are going to do what they can to get the ball out of his hands.

3. Daniel Theis has shot a career-high 56.5% from the floor, despite a fairly pedestrian 32.1% from behind the arc. But Theis’ willingness to shoot the three opens make him someone you have to guard. That opens up his ability to put the ball on the floor to drive closeouts, as he does here:

4. As could be expected, the Celtics were a little sloppy early. They had some careless turnovers and missed some wide-open shots. So far, players have raved about the gyms at Walt Disney World as being “shooter’s gyms” because of the confined space and dark backgrounds. Maybe that comes to pass for Boston eventually, but in their first game they were just 5-of-24 from deep.

5. Marcus Smart was one who struggled to shoot it, as he missed all five of his three-point attempts. But, of course, he made a Smart Play and for a moment, all was right with the world:

6. While they didn’t shoot it well, the Celtics ball movement was solid. They had 25 assists on 36 baskets, which is a terrific ratio. At times the ball was popping around the perimeter and they did a good job finding cutters and rollers. On this play, Gordon Hayward and Daniel Theis look like they’re in midseason form:

7. Another area the Celtics were sloppy in was with their defense. Boston switches a lot, including jump switches and switch-backs to avoid mismatches. For that to work, the team needs to be connected and communicative. They were neither in this first game back. That led to several breakdowns, most often resulting in Steven Adams getting easy buckets inside.

After the game both Brad Stevens and Jaylen Brown had thoughts. Stevens called out Oklahoma City guard Chris Paul and said, in the quiet gym, Paul “controlled the game with his voice”. Stevens went on to explain that Paul was calling out plays and coverages on both ends of the floor and had complete control of the game.

Brown put some of the breakdowns on Boston’s conditioning saying “We aren’t in the shape we thought we were.” It’s certainly a bit of both communication and conditioning. That’s something the Celtics will focus on in the coming week before real games start.

8. Stevens plan was to play the starters only in the first half and he stuck to it. That meant ample time for the Celtics youngsters in the second half. Romeo Langford was out with a stomach bug, but the rest of Boston’s kids had some moments.

Tremont Waters didn’t supply many highlights, but he was steady. He’s a pure point guard and seems to be in line to fight for the backup job behind Kemba Walker next season.

Carsen Edwards played a lot, and while his shot remained off (2-of-8 shooting), he made some plays as a passer. This find to the cutting Enes Kanter is a pass Edwards would not have made earlier in his rookie season:

9. The Williamses showed up too. Both are smart, willing passers. A big-to-big handoff into a screen for a three-pointer? Yes please!

And then Grant Williams paid it back by finding Robert Williams for the alley-oop:

10. Time Lord also showed off a new willingness to shoot. He took three shots from 10 or more feet and made two of them. If Williams can make jumpers from 10-to-15 feet on a semi-reliable basis, it will really open up his game. The best part was that he showed no hesitation in taking any of the three shots either:

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