1. In a game where, outside of Semi Ojeleye, they played only players who have been in the NBA for two or fewer seasons, the Boston Celtics were blitzed by a good Houston Rockets team. That’s not a surprise. Nor should it be a surprise that the Celtics kids have potential, but outside of a few flashes, Boston doesn’t want to have to rely on most of these guys in the playoffs.
Grant Williams has proven he’s a rotation player. Brad Wanamaker has been a solid backup guard all season, despite his lack of flash. Robert Williams brings energy when he gets his chance. Ojeleye has his moments, but is very matchup dependent. Beyond those four, there are a whole bunch of questions.
Brad Stevens regularly tries to keep at least two of his top-four players on the floor at all time, as he alternates duos with Jaylen Brown, Gordon Hayward, Jayson Tatum and Kemba Walker. That’s by design to keep four scoring playmakers on the court, but it’s also necessary to mask Boston’s relative lack of depth, especially on the wing.
If anyone but Wanamaker or either of the Williamses or Ojeleye in certain matchups is playing big minutes in the playoffs, the Celtics are in trouble.
2. Grant Williams was Boston’s best player in this one. He said after the game that he spent a lot of time working on his ballhandling during the hiatus. That’s shown up so far in Orlando. On this play Williams does a nice job of driving the closeout and making a nifty behind-the-back pass to Javonte Green for the three:
3. As his offense comes along, it will only serve to complement Grant Williams already excellent defense. He’s not the most athletic defender, but he sees things that players at the end of their rookie year rarely see. Old friend Jared Weiss captured it perfectly in this clip:
Special stuff here from Grant seeing Romeo fall in transition and figuring out how to possibly close out to two defenders at the same time and give his team a chance to catch up and defend the shot. Grant solves problems in real time like a 12 year vet as Brad likes to say. pic.twitter.com/JpUPV6LkJn— Jared Weiss (@JaredWeissNBA) July 29, 2020
Williams sees Romeo Langford fall. He has to cover both the weakside wing and corner. Williams feints towards Ben McLemore to make him pass, but stays with Eric Gordon in the corner. That makes the pass go back to McLemore, who misses the more difficult above-the-break attempt versus the easier corner three Gordon would have had.
That’s high-level stuff from a rookie. That’s why Williams has forced his way into minutes while his fellow rookies are still figuring things out.
4. Robert Williams has been up and down with health and production, but his activity level never wanes. You know when Time Lord is in the game, because he makes things happen. It’s not always good, as sometimes his overexuberance takes him out of plays. But, more often than not, that same bouncy energy allows him to make a few plays that no other Celtic can make. Look for Brad Stevens to put Williams in during the playoffs when he needs to change the energy, especially on the interior.
5. Tremont Waters is someone we wrote glowingly about in previous Takeaways, as well as on the site as a whole. He’s got potential as a pure point guard, but one thing he’s going to have to clean up to make it in the NBA are his turnovers.
Waters has a frustrating tendency to telegraph his passes. At times he’s like a quarterback staring down a receiver only to get the ball picked off. On this play, he’s got Javonte Green in his sites as soon as he has the ball. He never looks off Green and James Harden picks it like a free safety:
6. Javonte Green made the NBA because of his athleticism and work ethic. Several highlight dunks at Summer League caught the eye of folks around the NBA. What will keep Green in the NBA is developing the rest of his game. He needs to shoot it better from deep. Green also needs to grow as a passer, especially when he drives.
The good news is the second one seems to be coming along. He made two really nice passes against the Rockets. This drive and dish to Tacko Fall was a nice read. In addition, Green kept the ball high where Fall wouldn’t have to reach for the pass and had an easy finish:
Later in the game, Green brought it up himself in transition and spotted Robert Williams for the lob at the rim:
7. As the game went along, the same thought kept creeping in: Wherefore are thou Romeo? On a night where shots should have gone up free and easy, Romeo Langford had only seven attempts on nine shooting possessions. He took less shots than any other member of the starting five.
We have no idea who will replace Gordon Hayward when he has to leave the team in September for the birth of his son. It would have been nice to see Langford step into that role, but he doesn’t look ready. It looks like a “wait ‘til next year” situation for Langford.
8. Carsen Edwards has had a tough rookie year. He’s a shooter who hasn’t shot well. Hopefully he comes along in that area next season. Until then, we’ll have this lefty hammer over James Harden and Russell Westbrook to tide us over:
The best part? Harden and Westbrook looking at each other and shrugging after the play.
9. Next time it’s for real. The Celtics will open their eight Seeding Games against the Milwaukee Bucks on Friday at 6:30 PM ET. The game will be broadcast nationally on ESPN. Many are picking Boston as the team most likely to upset front-running Milwaukee. If that’s to be the case, a strong showing Friday would go a long way towards building confidence.
10. Lastly for today: Thanks for reading! You have no idea how much writing the Takeaways means to me. It’s one of my favorites. I love going back, re-watching the game and comparing it to my live notes and picking up on things I missed. I hope you’re enjoying reading them as much as I am writing them. Here’s to eight more sets of Takeaways and hopefully many more during a long playoff run!