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Kemba’s back and rookies shine: 10 Takeaways from Celtics/Suns

Kemba Walker returned and looked like himself for Boston

Phoenix Suns v Boston Celtics Photo by David Dow/NBAE via Getty Images

1. After the first scrimmage, Brad Stevens talked about how Chris Paul controlled the game with his voice by calling out plays on both ends. Stevens owns that his team is a quieter group, but implored them to be more vocal. The Celtics got the message and the defensive communication was pretty good. Boston’s bench was also loud throughout the game as well.

On this clip you can see the team scramble and take away drives and passes. When the kick-out goes to Devin Booker, both Jayson Tatum and Kemba Walker run him off the shot. Tatum then scrambles to take away a passing lane, as the rest of the Celtics shut everything down. The end result is a tough look for Booker:

2. You saw him in the clip above, but Kemba Walker is back! And he looked pretty good in his brief appearance too. You know Walker is feeling good when you can see the burst. He could have settled for the corner three against DeAndre Ayton, but he uses his quickness to get to the rim for an and-1:

3. As he was in the first scrimmage, Jaylen Brown was Boston’s best player. He scored 21 points and did it in a variety of ways. Here he drives on Ayton, who shuts him off. Brown doesn’t panic and doesn’t force anything. He pivots a couple of times into a nice fall-away jumper:

We harp on Brown’s improved patience in this space, because it’s arguably the biggest improvement he’s made. Here in transition he doesn’t try to power through the defender for a no-hope finish. He takes the contact, hangs and gets the and-1:

Bonus: Check out Grant Williams make Ayton double-clutch and miss a layup at the beginning of the clip!

4. As nice as Brown was in transition offense on the above clip, the Celtics transition defense was really bad. The Suns had 27 fastbreak points. Twice in the first quarter, Boston’s first defender back got a stop, but the rest of the team didn’t hustle down the floor and Phoenix got an easy put-back.

After the game, Brad Stevens was asked by John Karalis of MassLive what he thought of the bad transition defense. That led to this humorous exchange that made it clear what Stevens thought:

Stevens: “Is that your word? Bad?”

Karalis: “In public, yes.”

Stevens: “Well, whatever word you were going to use, that’s what I thought of it.”

5. Jayson Tatum is knocking the rust off. He had a period where he knocked down three consecutive step-back jumpers in a row. At that point, the Suns started trying to get the ball out of his hands. This pass is a great example of Tatum learning to read the traps that are coming his way. It’s late in the shot clock, but he doesn’t panic and finds Brown for the open triple:

This isn’t an easy pass to make from the deep baseline to the opposite side wing. Seeing him make shots was nice, but this is the great stuff from Tatum.

6. Gordon Hayward is clearly feeling good as things pick back up. You know this is the case when he draws the big on a switch and pulls the ball way out to attack off the dribble like this:

And, just as a reminder, this little fall-away in the paint has become Hayward’s signature shot with Boston:

7. Despite the good clips here, the Celtics starters weren’t great. Most of that came with their struggles in transition defense. Between talking on defense and getting back, Brad Stevens has plenty to harp on over the next few days before Boston plays their first seeding game.

8. The bench was really good however. Especially some of the younger Celtics. One of the best parts of watching a team every game is seeing the kids do things they wouldn’t or couldn’t do earlier in the season. Here’s Romeo Langford making a nice drive and kick to Carsen Edwards for a three:

And here’s Edwards repaying the favor by driving and kicking to Langford:

Two rookie, shoot-first guards figuring out how to be passers is fun stuff!

9. Robert Williams hasn’t gotten much run with the main units. He’s been his typical active and energetic self though. This sequence is something no other Celtic can match. He blocks a jumper, then recovers for a steal:

Those kinds of plays are why Brad Stevens will put Williams in the game when he needs an energy infusion.

10. Speaking of energy infusions, one of the Stevens’ go-to moves has been to put his third point guard in when the team needs a pick-me-up. Phil Pressey and Shane Larkin were the forefathers, but Tremont Waters is next up. Waters is pesky on defense and is maybe the purest point guard on the roster. Here Waters breaks down the defense and makes the pretty backdoor pass to Langford:

Then he had this drive and dish to Grant Williams:

And then Waters and Langford hooked up again through the backdoor on the other side:

Waters may yet have an impact before this season is over. That’s not something you could have expected from a Two-Way player.

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