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Utah couldn’t miss: 10 Takeaways from Celtics-Jazz

Boston played well to open their road trip, but Utah couldn’t miss from deep

NBA: Boston Celtics at Utah Jazz Jeffrey Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

1. This was one of the weirder Boston Celtics losses in franchise history. The Celtics shot over 51% from the floor. They scored 50 points in the paint, against one of the NBA’s best rim-protectors no less. Boston had only six turnovers in the game. On the flip side, the Celtics snagged nine steals as part of forcing 20 turnovers and had a 31-10 advantage in points off turnovers.

And none of it mattered because the Utah Jazz shot 27-for-51 on three-pointers.

Ime Udoka and Al Horford were correct in their postgame assessment that this wasn’t an effort issue. The Celtics were playing hard. The Jazz just couldn’t miss. Several times, especially late, Boston was right on top of shooters as they dropped in yet another three. As Horford said, “Sometimes you just tip your cap”.

2. Despite the loss, there were a lot of positives to take from this game. Big-to-big passing was something that stood out, almost no matter the combo. The Celtics first hoop came off Al Horford finding Robert Williams for a short jumper:

Grant Williams is starting to flash some increased playmaking chops. He’s always been a good stationary passer, but this is a high-level find off a drive-and-kick:

3. It may not be the full-on breakout game we’ve been waiting for from Jayson Tatum, but he stepped up with 37 points, six rebounds, five assists and zero turnovers. Tatum had a stretch in the third quarter where he took over as a scorer. It started with this crossover dribble into a drive for an and-1:

Tatum does a good job of using the screen and rescreen from Robert Williams to shake Royce O’Neale. Then he finishes the play with a filthy inside-out dribble into a pullup over Hassan Whiteside:

On the next trip, Tatum buried a pullup three off a screen. This was good because it was quick and decisive. No hesitation here:

4. Jayson Tatum also made some plays as a passer. This one came right before his scoring run. Great cut by Marcus Smart through the backdoor and terrific vision from Tatum:

This one came right after that scoring binge. Tatum finished off a possession that featured some good ball and player movement. Instead of dribbling into a fallaway around the paint, Tatum gives it up to Smart for the open three:

This is fun. Josh Richardson brings the ball up the floor. He looked to give it up to Dennis Schroder, but on the Boston broadcast you could hear Schroder say “No! You go! Attack!” and Richardson did. He found Tatum, who drove and dished to Robert Williams for the dunk. This was a good example of attacking before the defense can get set:

5. The Celtics ball and player movement has improved greatly over the last few weeks. Marcus Smart probably should take the layup on the break here, and Josh Richardson will usually take this open three-pointer. But Richardson makes the nice extra pass to get Romeo Langford the dunk:

This is good patience from Dennis Schroder. First, he circles back to make sure he can get the ball in a position to attack the big off the bounce. Then, Schroder doesn’t settle for a contested jumper. He makes the smart read to Grant Williams for a three:

Again, good patience from Schroder here. No forced shot. He kicks it back to Al Horford, who does a good job of drawing the defense to open Smart up for the triple:

6. This was one of the more active games for Boston as perimeter defenders. That may seem odd, given Utah rained down threes all game. But the Celtics forced 20 total turnovers, nabbed nine steal and they had a whopping 17 deflections.

On the shooting: The Celtics contested 41 of the Jazz’s 51 three-point attempts. Utah simply couldn’t miss. Mike Conley and Donovan Mitchell buried some bigtime shots against pretty good defense.

7. Earlier in the Takeaways, Romeo Langford showed up with a fastbreak dunk. Here’s two more good examples of Langford being aggressive. Rudy Gay struggles to guard on the move at this point his career. Langford does a nice job of going right by him for the floater in the lane:

It was a similar result on the next trip, but with an easier finish at the rim:

Unfortunately, as has happened too often in his young career, Langford got hurt just when he seemed to be rolling a little. Langford sprained his ankle on a transition drive shortly after the above plays. He initially stayed in but exited the game for the night at halftime.

8. Marcus Smart played a fairly under control game in this one. He got the Celtics into their sets and worked as a ball-mover and spot-up shooter. He was also really solid defensively, especially in terms of steals and deflections. And he had the best dunk of his career too:

9. Grant Williams is up to 44.2% on three-pointers on 3.3 attempts per game this season. He’s playing with a whole new level of confidence as a shooter. On this play, Williams makes the pass-fake and calmly drills the step-back triple:

10. Let’s have a quick discourse on Dennis Schroder…Is he a great value at $5.9 million? Absolutely. Is his production as a scorer good? Yes. 17.3 points per game off the bench is huge and fills a hole Boston has had for years. Has he made some great plays to help Boston win games? Again, yes.

Does Schroder have a misplaced “I got this” sense of the moment? Yes. Does he make some of the worst turnovers of a primary Celtics ballhandler in recent memory? Yes. Is his defense, and defensive effort, average at best and poor at worst? Unfortunately, yes. And does Schroder make some boneheaded decisions late in games, where it’s unclear if he understands the situation? Absolutely, yes.

Schroder was a fine signing. However, it wasn’t some masterclass in working the 29 other teams. By the time Schroder signed, there was very little left for him in terms of money, and even less left in terms of a key role on a good team. In short, the Celtics got fairly lucky to snag a productive player due to fortunate circumstances on their end.

But it’s time to stop talking about his contract. That’s in the past now. It doesn’t need to be a talking point on a nightly basis to defend him putting up points. The reality is that Schroder was available at that number for reasons that are plainly evident when you watch him play. He can score, albeit relatively inefficiently. He can do some work as a passer, but his turnover rate is far too high for a primary playmaker. And too often he’s featured too prominently at the end of tough losses.

11. Boston now heads to Portland for a back-to-back. The Trail Blazers are really banged up, as Damian Lillard, Anfernee Simons and Nassir Little will all miss the game. Portland has also been scuffling along around .500 all season.

If the Celtics want to have a chance to come home from this trip with a winning record, or even 2-3, this is game they should get. Portland isn’t bad, but they aren’t exactly good either. Boston should be able to put up more than enough points, especially if they play as they did in Utah. And it’s safe to say the Blazers won’t have a historic shooting night like the Jazz did either. Good chance for a bounce-back win here.