1. It’s been a season largely devoid of fun for the Boston Celtics. On Wednesday night, the Celtics delivered some fun for the holiday season. Despite being down several rotation players (just like 2/3 of the NBA), Boston handled the Cleveland Cavaliers with relative ease.
And it was needed.
Not just the easy win, but the fun that came along with it. The Celtics needed to feel good during a win. On Wednesday night, they did.
This is a clip-heavy version of the Takeaways, because there was a lot of good stuff and it’s been too few and far between that we’ve been able to say that this season.
2. Jaylen Brown said postgame that the Celtics knew whoever was guarding Robert Williams was going to be laying back on screens. Brown said, “We knew if Rob set a good screen, we’d come off naked and have a shot.” Brown worked off a Williams’ screen to open the scoring:
Brown has been a little loose with his handle since returning from the hamstring injury. Not so here, as he put Lauri Markkanen on skates to get the jumper:
In the second half, it was backing to working off screens. Great pick by Williams here to free up Brown for what has become a pretty good shot for him:
3. The Celtics racked up 24 assists on 43 baskets. A greater than 50% assist rate has been a relatively accurate barometer of success. All told, five Celtics had at least three assists in this one.
Marcus Smart has this point guard stuff figured out. Not only does he not take the shot, which he could have, but Smart also takes one dribble towards the middle of the floor. That extra bounce pulls the defense just enough to leave Jaylen Brown open in the corner:
This is a delayed roll by Robert Williams, but Jaylen Brown pays the big man back for his work as a screener:
This is a low-clock, sideline out-of-bounds (SLOB) play. Boston knows Cleveland will double Jayson Tatum on the catch, because of the clock. As soon as Tatum catches, Robert Williams makes the dive to the rim:
4. Robert Williams had an all-around field day in this game. He scored, he rebounded, he passed and he defended. He even broke out a new move with this Eurostep for the fastbreak dunk off a steal:
Williams had a career-high seven assists in this one too. His passing acumen is so good, especially when picking out cutters, as he does here with Romeo Langford:
When your bigs can pass, as Boston’s can, you can get a ton of mileage out of backdoor cuts:
5. Romeo Langford got the start and delivered his best all-around game of the season. In the Celtics switch-heavy scheme, Langford has to hold his own against much bigger players. He’s giving up about eight inches here, but Langford holds off Lauri Markkanen and then gives a great contest on the shot:
Jaylen Brown battles for the rebound here, before diming up Langford, who was in the right place at the right time:
Langford is one of the Celtics best cutters. The best part of this play is him using his strength to seek out and finish through contact:
6. Much like his rookie year, it took Aaron Nesmith time to get going. Now, he’s showing signs of breaking into regular rotation minutes. Drilling threes of drive-and-kick passes is a good start:
Confidently stroking pullup jumpers off screens like this will get Nesmith on the floor, even when the team is healthy:
7. Payton Pritchard has played well for a few games in a row. He’s been good enough that Ime Udoka called his number on a set-play to open the second quarter. The focus is on Jayson Tatum and Dennis Schroder, but the real stuff is happening away from the ball. As Schroder drives, Pritchard relocates to the corner behind a double screen for the three:
This play starts with Pritchard grabbing a strong rebound (after the good contest we called out from Romeo Langford in Takeaway 5). Pritchard goes coast-to-coast for the layup around the big man. This is the kind of pace Ime Udoka wants:
Bonus: As the Cavs called timeout, look at Ime Udoka immediately dap up Langford for his good work on the defensive end.
8. When you think of fast pace and the Celtics, you immediately think of…Enes Freedom?
This sprint to finish with the hammer dunk had TD Garden shaking.
9. This play blew the roof of TD Garden:
Joe Johnson dressed for his first game in a Boston Celtics uniform since February 19, 2002. Johnson was a DNP that day, as a trade was being arranged to send him to the Phoenix Suns. That means this basket was Johnson’s first for the Celtics since February 16, 2002 in a road game against the Seattle SuperSonics.
As Johnson said pregame, this might it for him in the NBA. If so, it was pretty cool to get this full-circle moment.
10. The Celtics now have two days off to rest and recover before a Christmas Day matchup with the Milwaukee Bucks. There’s a chance that several of Boston’s players in the health and safety protocols could be back for that game. Milwaukee is still awaiting a status update for several of their players, as well.
Since this space won’t come back to you until after the holiday, let us take this opportunity to wish all those celebrating a very Merry Christmas. If you aren’t celebrating, at least enjoy the basketball on Saturday!