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Jayson Tatum returns to key a team effort: 10 Takeaways from Celtics/Bulls

Tatum was back and looked like himself as Boston won two in a row

NBA: Boston Celtics at Chicago Bulls Quinn Harris-USA TODAY Sports

1. Boston was almost whole again. Almost! Kemba Walker sat out the second night of the back-to-back. If him bouncing around the bench area all game is any indication, he would have liked to be out there with his teammates. He’s fine. The Celtics are simply being cautious with him.

Payton Pritchard was also out, as he recovers from a sprained right knee. Fortunately, he avoided anything worse.

You know who was back? Jayson Tatum! And other than leaving a couple of jumpers short with shaky legs after long stints, Tatum looked like himself. In case you forgot, here’s what he can do:

Tatum said postgame that he felt like his conditioning was “pretty good for the most part”. He clearly looked it.

2. Jaylen Brown put up nearly an identical shooting line as Tatum. There were a few (thankfully, only a few!) murmurs about how Brown would do with Tatum back. The answer was: just fine. There are plenty of touches to go around. And that includes when Kemba Walker plays as well. Essentially, the lesser players will get fewer shots, while the better ones get more.

For Brown, you can’t drop on him anymore. Lauri Markkanen doing this might as well give Brown a layup right now:

3. Part of why Tatum and Brown work so well together, and will have no problem incorporating Walker, is both can function as playmakers for others now. First, we’ll take a look at Tatum.

This pass is ridiculous. Even better, is how easy Tatum makes it look. Left-handed off the dribble to the corner? Good luck dealing with Tatum in the pick-and-roll game if he’s got this now:

This is a fun one, because it’s late-clock. Tatum doesn’t force up that ugly floater of his. He keeps his head, recovers and finds Daniel Theis for the easy layup:

4. Now it’s Brown’s turn as a passer. Here, Brown uses the hesitation dribble to drive and draw the defense. That opens up Aaron Nesmith for the triple:

This one comes after Chicago had made a little run to cut the lead to 10. Brown does a nice job to save the ball from going out. When he drives the baseline, he doesn’t give himself much of an angle, but he’s on-time to Grant Williams anyway:

5. It was a pretty good night for the rest of the Celtics too. For a second straight game, Tristan Thompson wasn’t really involved in the offense except as a screener. He took no shots, but played pretty good defense and grabbed 10 rebounds.

Daniel Theis had another strong game with 19 points and three blocks. He’s looking more comfortable at the four with each passing game.

The Williamses were 50-50. Robert Williams was having an off night, so he played short minutes. That’s fine. He was good last time out, and consistency will come eventually. Grant Williams got back in there and made some big plays late. Looks like having a game or so out of the rotation allowed him to clear his head.

Jeff Teague did a nice job running the second unit. Nothing flashy, but solid. And Javonte Green made the most of his minutes again.

6. Two other contributors were a non-surprise and a surprise. Marcus Smart played the role of floor general again. He took only six shots (making four), but ran the show. He had 11 assists and five rebounds and he took Coby White completely out of the game on the other end.

The surprise was Carsen Edwards. Brad Stevens said that Edwards looked so good when he was playing in ramp-up games alongside Jayson Tatum that he wanted to get him some minutes. Edwards was the first guy off the bench and looked comfortable for a second straight game.

Here’s Smart and Edwards hooking up for a pretty bucket off a backdoor cut:

7. Aaron Nesmith played a second straight strong game. He scored nine points on 3-of-5 from downtown. With the way Boston struggled against the zone last season, this is good to see. Tatum works in the middle of the zone and Nesmith busts it:

As good as it was to see Nesmith make a few shots, his best play came after a miss. Nesmith misses deep in the corner. Watch to the end of the clip to see him sprint back to take away the easy layup from Zach LaVine. This is the good stuff that will earn him more minutes:

8. Semi Ojeleye has gone from standstill shooter to a guy who will occasionally attack off the dribble. Now, he’s making passes that he wouldn’t have seen, attempted or even dreamed about in his first three seasons:

9. This is a very simple play, but sometimes simple is best. Jeff Teague hits the paint and Javonte Green buries the three. The key is this came after the Bulls had made a little comeback. This shot started a 10-0 Celtics run to regain control of the game:

10. Before the game, Brad Stevens was asked about Boston’s plans for Wednesday’s game at the San Antonio Spurs. The Spurs game vs the New Orleans Pelicans on Monday was called off due to health and safety protocols. Stevens said he preferred not to even travel to San Antonio, until the Celtics had a better idea if the game would be played or not.

If the game is postponed, it will give Boston some much-needed practice time. The Celtics wouldn’t play until Saturday night against the Los Angeles Lakers in Boston. Following that game, the team has two more days off until the start of a west coast trip next Tuesday, February 1.

It’s not ideal to pile up postponed games into the second half of the season, but that’s the reality right now. The silver lining would the Celtics getting some practice time with a mostly healthy roster for the first time this season. That should pay off at least in the short-term, while building more for the future as well.

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