1. The main takeaway from the Boston Celtics season-opening double-overtime loss to the New York Knicks is that Jaylen Brown looks ready for a monster season. Brown scored 46 points on 16-of-30 shooting, including 8-of-14 from behind the arc.
This shot from Brown shows just how far he’s come as a shooter. This is a good closeout by Evan Fournier, but Brown rises and fires like he’s not there:
Brown used to be strictly a driver when he caught the ball in the mid-post area. Now, he can patiently work into a fallaway:
The good news in addition to the above? Brown’s driving game is stronger than ever. That’s in part due to an improved handle. But Brown is also strong enough to shoulder through a defender, as he does here:
And the Celtics don’t get it to overtime without this ridiculous bomb:
2. We’re going to stick with Jaylen Brown, because he did more than just score. He also dished out six assists on the night. This play is great, because Brown shows faith in Grant Williams and makes the correct read vs throwing up a contested shot in the lane:
Boston ran a lot of stuff through Jayson Tatum at the elbow/free throw line. That’s a spot where the defense almost has to send a second defender. This is a good initial read by Tatum to get it to Brown, but the swing to Marcus Smart for the corner three is even better:
3. Robert Williams had a wildly impressive night, as he’s claimed a starting spot for the first time in his career. Williams nearly put up a 5x5 game, as he had 16 points, 10 rebounds, five blocks, three assists and three steals.
This kind of play is what we can expect from Williams. He deters Mitchell Robinson initially, then Williams makes a great recovery block on Evan Fournier:
The above play is good, but this one is great. Julius Randle can feast on pullups. Williams’ timing to block this shot is something that very few players have in their skillset:
4. Let’s talk about the Celtics defense for a bit…There were moments of brilliance punctuated by moments of ineptitude. Ime Udoka started out with an extreme version of “switch everything” defense. It didn’t matter the resulting matchup; Boston was switching every action. That worked OK for a while. Then the Knicks slowed things down and started picking out secondary attacks.
Late in the game, in an attempt to slow down Julius Randle, Udoka went to switching 1-4, with Williams staying put on Randle. Williams did his part. He held Randle largely in check late in the fourth quarter and throughout most of overtime. Where things well apart were with the other Boston defenders.
Udoka, Williams and Jaylen Brown all said the Celtics blew multiple coverages where Randle screened for a ballhandler. Evan Fournier in particular took advantage of this. It looked like Boston was going under on the screens, but really, the non-Williams defender was acting as if they were still switching. That’s communication that needs cleaned up.
5. If Jayson Tatum has merely a bad shooting night vs a horrendous one, the Celtics would be 1-0 today. Tatum was just 7-for-30. Per NBA tracking data, Tatum was a miserable 6-of-22 on uncontested attempts. Postgame, Tatum said, “I usually have one game like this each season. Hopefully tonight was it.”
This isn’t an attempt to spin Tatum’s awful night into a positive, because that’s not possible. But call it a silver lining of sorts…It was great to see Ime Udoka’s offense get him the ball off cuts and on the move. Tatum didn’t have a lot of straight ISO plays, and he only worked out of pick-and-roll a limited amount. That kind of variation to his game is good to see, and it’s a welcomed wrinkle from Udoka.
6. Dennis Schroder didn’t have a great shooting night, but it’s easy to see what he’s going to bring to the Celtics off the bench. Eight assists off the bench is really good playmaking. On this play, the ball moved side to side, and then Schroder hit the paint. This is a nice cut by Grant Williams too:
This is also a money shot for Schroder. If the defense sags off him in transition, Schroder will pull up right away:
7. Grant Williams has featured in a few of the clips above. That’s because Williams played a solid all-around game. Was his defense perfect against Julius Randle? No, not even close. But he was a part of holding Randle to 12-of-27 from the floor.
It was the rest of the game where Williams showed up. He made his open shots (6-of-9 shooting), he moved the ball (four assists) he was on the glass (six rebounds) and he set solid screens.
This was a nice first game in what is poised to be a bounce-back season for Williams. And the bet here is that Williams will look even better when he’s the third big in a rotation with Robert Williams and Al Horford.
8. Speaking of bounce-back seasons, Romeo Langford got his third year in the NBA off to a good start. This clip starts with Langford playing good defense against Julius Randle. Then he lets rip a one-dribble pullup three in transition? That’s good stuff:
With his confidence flowing, Langford didn’t hesitate to shoot when he was open. The one thing he needs to work here? Get behind the line young fella!
9. Marcus Smart had kind of a Marcus Smart game, but it all came crammed into the fourth quarter and overtime. Throughout the game’s first three quarter, Smart was somewhat understated. His defense was solid, but nothing flashy. On offense, he was setting the plays, but not overly involved.
In the fourth quarter, Smart was doing too much to try to make things happen. That rarely goes well. Well…until there was only minimal time left. Then Smart played the role of hero at the regulation buzzer. And he was good throughout overtime.
Eliminate the “I’ve got this” stuff, and Smart should have a really good season as the team’s primary point guard.
10. The Celtics are now taking a needed day off on Thursday. They’ll get back at it against the Toronto Raptors in the home opener back in Boston on Friday. It’s not a must-win game, but getting that first W would go a long way towards getting everyone feeling good.