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Rob-less bigs lead the way to a win: 10 Takeaways from Celtics-Cavaliers

Al Horford, Enes Kanter and Grant Williams all played a big part in Boston getting back to .500 once again

NBA: Boston Celtics at Cleveland Cavaliers David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

1. Al Horford has been the Boston Celtics most consistent player this season. He’s been a defensive force and a calming presence on offense. In this game, when the offense was ragged early on, Horford did a good job of forcing ball and player movement. And Horford showed he’s got plenty left in the legs, as he drove this closeout for a dunk:

2. With Robert Williams exiting the game at halftime due to knee soreness, Ime Udoka unearthed Enes Kanter. Kanter made the most of his eight minutes. This was a nice set to get Kanter a good look. He missed it, but stayed active and finished off the pass from Jayson Tatum:

One thing Boston has missed with Tristan Thompson being traded and Kanter not playing is a killer screen setter. One of those blocks of almost immovable granite to free up teammates. The kind of picks where the defender knows he’s going to feel it in the morning. Kanter sets a great screen here and forces Isaac Okoro to shove him just to try to contest against Tatum:

On this play, Kanter cleans up for Tatum at the rim:

Overall, this was a productive stint for Kanter. Ime Udoka said Monday morning that Kanter wasn’t playing due to basketball reasons and how Boston is switching on defense. This game showed that as coverages change up, there’s room for Kanter to make a positive impact.

3. Grant Williams also showed up in this game. Williams hit a couple of corner three-pointers early on when Boston’s offense was really scuffling. That puts Williams at 52.9% from the corner on the season. Overall, Williams is knocking down 41.5% of his triples this year.

Williams is also a heady passer and good enough ballhandler to run stuff through. This is a really good fake DHO into a reverse pivot to find Aaron Nesmith back-cutting the trailing defender:

4. It was another game of jump-shooting struggles for Jayson Tatum. Postgame Tatum said he’s never lost confidence in himself and believes his shot will start to fall. The good news is that the last couple of games, Tatum has started to attack the rim more. This is a good play from Tatum to go coast-to-coast for an and-1 to open the second half scoring:

Later in the third quarter, Tatum goes quickly here for the dunk:

Both of those plays are good examples of Tatum being decisive. No holding and surveying the defense. No 10-dribbles moves into a step-back. Good, quick attacks to the basket.

5. Jayson Tatum also worked well with Al Horford in the passing game. Here’s Tatum setting up Horford for a three-pointer out of a quick set:

This is another quick go by Tatum in transition that results in Horford getting a wide-open corner three:

Doing things quickly and decisively seem to be working for Tatum as a scorer and passer. That’s something he can rely on until the jumper eventually starts dropping.

6. There were some good Marcus Smart moments in this one. The Celtics have run a lot of flex actions this season, because it allows them to take advantage of having bigs who can pass. The Flex Offense relies on tight screens, passes and cuts around the paint. This is a good cut by Smart and a patient finish:

This play is a heads-up find to Grant Williams. The Cavs defense is focused on Enes Kanter as the roll-man, while Smart sees he has Williams cutting down the weakside of the lane:

7. Unfortunately, as often is the case with Marcus Smart, there’s a major give and take. For a long stretch of the fourth quarter, Ime Udoka called for Smart to run the offense. Then, with just three minutes to play, Smart took this terrible shot. It’s a step-back long two-pointer with a ton of time left on the clock. This is not smart basketball, no pun intended:

Following this shot, Smart was relegated to screens, cuts and spotting up for the remainder of the game, as Udoka put the ball in Dennis Schroder’s hands.

8. Before we go through the end-game actions that clinched the victory, we’re going to flash back to the first quarter. To this point in his career, Romeo Langford has been a “drive to score” guy. This is growth, as Langford is a “drive to get a score” guy here:

9. (Insert cheesy 80s movie sound effect here) Now, back to the end of the game…Dennis Schroder took the Celtics home to a win. On three consecutive trips, Schroder created scores for Boston in the game’s final minutes.

First, he showed patience to back the ball out to run pick-and-roll for a second time to set up Al Horford:

On the next trip, Schroder comes off the screen and blows by Dean Wade for the layup:

Then, to cap off his run, Schroder uses the turnaround pullup to put Boston up five:

This run was all Schroder. The best part? Everything happened fairly quickly. There weren’t a million dribbles before throwing up a contested jumper as the shot-clock expired. This is when Schroder is at his best.

10. Once again, the Celtics are back to .500 on the season. They now head south to play an Atlanta Hawks team that is starting to show some life. Then it’s home for four straight before hitting the road again after Thanksgiving.

It’s time to start banking some wins, especially in the limited home games for the next month or so. Then, it’s about weathering the road-heavy schedule. In mid-December, things tilt towards more home games. That’s when this team might really take off.