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Celtics-Cavaliers: halftime hot takes

Celtics lead the Cavs 63-48 as both rosters remain ravaged by COVID

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

Tacko Wednesday

With Cleveland’s prolific defensive duo of Evan Mobley and Jarret Allen out of action, we might assume the Celtics could attack the rim with ease. Enter 7’6” Tacko Fall. The former Celtic looks more spry this season, staying lower to the floor and not looking like he’s walking on stilts. He had a comically disrespectful block on Dennis Schroeder, and deterred several other Celtics from attempting shots at the rim. He even looked good running the floor, as his filling the lane on a 2nd quarter fast break led to an open Denzel Valentine three.

The Kevin Love / Lauri Markkanen combo is far less imposing. Jaylen Brown easily got to the basket while a Marcus Smart and Dennis Schroeder would drive-and-dish to open shooters in the corner. Boston must continue to attack when Tacko is off the floor, and force him to defend the perimeter and switch onto guards when he’s playing. Tacko has played 14 minutes tonight and will certainly break his 19 minute career high from last season. His first half numbers weren’t overwhelming — 4 points, 9 rebounds, and 2 blocks on 2/5 shooting — but the eye-test says he’s having an impact on both ends.

The Jays must find a way

Jaylen Brown had 16 first quarter points. That’s great, but Tatum had 0. In the second quarter, Tatum had 11, while Brown scored only 4. I don’t know how many times they’ve scored 30 in the same game, but it can’t be more than ten. Brown and Tatum must find a way to optimize their output while they’re sharing the floor. “Your-turn-my-turn” isn’t a sustainable basketball strategy. Cleveland has so few competent wing defenders (with all due respect to Dean Wade and Cedi Osman), and this is a great opportunity for the Jays to both have 30 point nights.

Let freedom ring!

Joe Johnson’s triumphant return

Even though he didn’t play in the first half and likely won’t make an impact during his 10-day contract, I was ecstatic hearing the Joe Johnson news earlier today. The over-30 Celtics fans like myself certainly remember when he was drafted 10th in 2001 and played 48 games in green before getting shipped to Phoenix for Rodney Rogers and Tony Delk. It was arguably the most shortsighted trade in team history.

It was painful watching him blossom into a young star with the Steve Nash “seven-seconds-or-less” Suns. Before the 2008 Celtics won the title, they needed seven games to take down Iso Joe’s Atlanta Hawks in the first round. And for one season, in 2014-2015 with Brooklyn, he teamed up with Paul Pierce. They would have been and outstanding complementary combo if they played together in their primes.

In 2016, after getting waived by the Nets, the Celtics were rumored to sign him on the buyout market. I thought it would come full circle, with Johnson joining the team that drafted him. Instead, he joined the Miami Heat, and had a few more productive seasons before retiring from the NBA in 2018.

In a 2017 podcast interview with Rob Mahoney, Johnson revealed his feelings about being traded from Boston. The team was 31-23, the best record since Larry Bird was regularly walking through that proverbial door. It took Johnson a few years to understand the trade, how he was viewed as an asset, and the Celtics wanted veteran help to make a playoff run.

I loved seeing the grainy pregame clips from 2001, with a rookie Joe Johnson wearing #31. That number – which was previously Cedric Maxwell’s – was retired the next year after Wyc Grousbeck bought the team.