1. The 2021-22 Boston Celtics have proven to be impossible to figure out. Heading out west, the team looked like they were figuring things out. After a disastrous 1-4 road trip, they limped back home. So, of course Boston handled the Milwaukee Bucks with ease in the second half.
It’s beyond time to think we know what this team is. Some of it is health-related for sure, but even when healthy this team has been inconsistent. More than any other Celtics team in recent memory, it’s a game-to-game experience with this group.
2. Jayson Tatum’s early-season slump is now just a mere memory. Tatum was dominant against Milwaukee. He scored 42 points on 16-of-25 shooting, including 7-of-13 from behind the arc. Tatum also chipped in with five rebounds, four assists and three steals. He got it going early by Eurostepping his way to the rim:
Later in the game, Tatum juked multiple Bucks on this play before another Eurostep for the layup:
When Milwaukee tried to go to a zone defense, Ime Udoka stationed Tatum at the nail to do work:
It’s safe to say Tatum is feeling unguardable when he’s making moves like this:
3. Jaylen Brown was back and looked good. Brown was active early on, before a brief scare when he banged knees with Bobby Portis. Brown came back on the floor and continued to look just as good as he had before. More importantly, he said he felt different and more confident in his leg than he did the previous time he returned from the hamstring strain.
It was also pretty great to see Boston do what they could to get Brown engaged early. This was the first play of the game:
Later in the game, when the Celtics were scuffling, Ime Udoka drew up an ATO for Brown to get another three:
If Brown can stay healthy, we might start to get a better sense of the Celtics ceiling as a team this year.
4. Boston’s ball movement was on-point. The Celtics had a non-overtime season-high 31 assists on 43 baskets. This is good passing and the ball hits the paint twice before finding its way to Grant Williams, who is up to an absurd 57.8% on corner threes:
This is again good ball and player movement. It also shows the value of Robert Williams attracting attention at the rim to keep defenders home. And this is a great find by Grant Williams to Romeo Langford in the opposite corner:
Towards the end of the game, the Celtics had one more possession of sharing the ball to put a capper on the win:
5. In the clip above you see Marcus Smart picking up his game-high 11th assist. Smart didn’t shoot it well, but controlled the game for the Celtics. His 11 dimes came against zero turnovers. He also grabbed five rebounds and played some really good defense on Khris Middleton.
Smart’s shooting ranges somewhere between inconsistent and bad, but the rest of his game almost always shows up. He’s important to Boston and when he’s controlling the game from the point guard spot, good results usually follow.
6. Romeo Langford has started to show up as a regular contributor. This play is fairly unremarkable in its simplicity, but shows a lot about Langford’s growth. He sees Rodney Hood’s closeout is poor and has left a path to the basket. Instead of rushing, Langford takes a couple of dribbles and gets right to the rim for the easy layup:
Wing minutes are hard to come by in Boston, especially with Jaylen Brown back. It’s up to Langford to keep producing to get Ime Udoka to keep calling his number.
7. In the first quarter, the Celtics were playing hard, but were a step slow to contest the Bucks at the arc. Milwaukee shot 6-of-14 from deep in the first quarter. After the opening period, Boston picked up the contests and held Milwaukee to 5-of-22 from behind the arc the rest of the way.
This is a great block by Al Horford against Bobby Portis. Notice how Horford times it perfectly, while also keeping his body from contacting Portis:
This is a good example of just how athletic Robert Williams is. He knows DeMarcus Cousins is a standstill shooter at this point. That allows Williams to drop to the paint to protect against the drive from Giannis Antetokounmpo. Because he’s so long and athletic, Williams is also able to take just one step and leap to contest Cousins’ shot:
8. Grant Williams has shown up in the couple of the clips above, but deserves his own Takeaway too. Williams is up to 45.3% on three-pointers this season. And it’s on a healthy 3.4 attempts per game too. Overall, Williams is shooting 51/45/87 for the year.
Beyond the shooting, Williams is starting to make some plays as a passer too. Boston is using him in sets where they usually use Al Horford or Robert Williams, especially on the short-roll. And with the loss of weight over the offseason, Williams is back to being an impactful defender.
All around, the difference from his sophomore season to his third season is remarkable for Williams.
9. The real capper for the night was Two-Way player Sam Hauser scoring his first NBA points. Hopefully it’s just the first of many for the sharpshooting forward!
10. The Celtics now have three days off, which is basically a mini-vacation in-season. The best part for Boston is that those come at home, where they’ll be able to work out, get treatment and sleep in their own beds. On Friday night, the Celtics will welcome the Golden State Warriors to town, as the challenging December schedule continues with the NBA’s best team.
Author’s Note: I want to thank all of the faithful readers here on CelticsBlog who understood when the Takeaways were absent for a couple of games while we enjoyed the remaining time we had with our dog Matty.
I also want to thank everyone for your kind comments on the Takeaways from life with my best friend, tweets and emails. Many of them made my family and I smile and laugh. A few made us cry. All were appreciated. Thanks for helping to brighten a really hard weekend for the Smith Family.