1. Fair warning: This is going to be a clip-heavy version of the Takeaways. There was so much good stuff, and some of it from unexpected places, that we wanted to capture a lot.
It’s not unexpected to see Dennis Schroder putting up points. What was a nice change of pace was…well…his change of pace. Schroder himself called out that the team is better when he plays fast and he’s on the attack.
This play starts with Schroder attacking the paint. It also shows good trust that if you make the right play, the ball will find its way back to you:
Schroder knows that C.J. McCollum can’t stay in front off him off the dribble. Instead of dribbling into the screens at the top of the key and searching out an ISO mismatch, Schroder blows by McCollum for the layup:
A couple plays later, the result is the same, even if the setup is different. The instant Schroder sees Ben McLemore hang on the pick, he’s off to the rim:
This was probably Schroder’s best all-around game for the Celtics. He scored more against the Bucks, but this game was better in terms of pace and playmaking. And a shorthanded Boston team really needed it too.
2. Jayson Tatum seems to be finding a rhythm. When he’s making shots off the snatch-back crossover, Tatum is feeling it:
And this was positively Dirk-like. The shot at least. Not sure how many spin-dribbles Nowitzki pulled off like this:
3. Jayson Tatum made some plays as a passer too. This cross-court dime to Marcus Smart is a more difficult pass than it looks like:
This play is a good example of what Ime Udoka has been preaching all season. Tatum grabs the rebound and immediately pushes the ball to find Grant Williams on the runout:
4. Speaking of Grant Williams, he had another strong game. Williams is starting to show more and more things he didn’t, or couldn’t, do in his first two seasons. Because he’s been a deadeye shooter from the corners, Williams is drawing hard closeouts now. This is good job of him driving the closeout for the under-control floater:
This is another great drive of the closeout. And it came off gorgeous ball movement, where all five players had a touch:
5. The Celtics needed Robert Williams to step up, as Al Horford missed the game due to back soreness. Aside from some early foul trouble, Williams delivered. A lob from Marcus Smart seems to be almost a set-play to start games now:
If you’re going to score over Williams in the paint, you can’t try to get cute:
Sometimes going straight up doesn’t work either:
When Williams stays disciplined with his defense, as he did after a couple of bad fouls early, he’s a dominant defender.
6. We’ve mentioned players stepping up a few times already. This was a game where almost the entire roster took steps forward. Both Williamses played well. Dennis Schroder had a big game. Josh Richardson chipped in some good defense. And the deeper bench contributed as well. It’s a few of the deeper reserves that we’ll focus on to finish this one.
7. It was a happy homecoming for Enes Freedom in Portland. He’s talked often about how playing for the Trail Blazers changed his career. Freedom scored nine points, grabbed 15 rebounds and blocked two shots against his former team. In a game where Boston needed more than usual from him, Freedom delivered. He also delivered a highlight dunk, of all things, to beat the halftime buzzer:
8. This was Aaron Nesmith’s best game of the season. With Jaylen Brown and Romeo Langford out, Nesmith played 22 minutes and was able to find a rhythm that has eluded him so far this season. It started with this perfect high-low, reversal to find Enes Freedom for the layup:
Later in the game, Nesmith drives a closeout. Remember how we said the ball finds you if you make the right plays? It does here for the sophomore:
This is a nice pass in transition to find Robert Williams on a fastbreak:
Now, Nesmith is feeling good. This is the kind of shot the Celtics envisioned him making with regularity when they draft him. Catch-and-shoot triple in rhythm off a screen. Good stuff here:
9. Payton Pritchard had the happiest homecoming of all. Pritchard hasn’t been able to find a consistent role, as he’s behind both Marcus Smart and Dennis Schroder in the point guard pecking order. When he has played, Pritchard has rarely taken advantage of his minutes. He showed up back home in Oregon. This deep three was commonplace during Pritchard’s rookie year:
In the fourth quarter, Pritchard went off. He scored 16 of his 19 points in the final frame, including hitting four three-pointers. This one sent the Celtics bench into such hysterics that they received a technical foul:
It was a fitting capper to a big night for both Boston and Pritchard.
10. The Celtics have a couple of days off now as they head down the coast for a back-to-back set on Tuesday and Wednesday in Los Angeles against the Lakers and Clippers. The hope is that may give Jaylen Brown time to heal up enough to play, but Ime Udoka said they won’t play Brown until he’s 100%. Al Horford is expected to be good to go, as is Romeo Langford.
We wrote after the Utah loss on Friday night that Boston needed to get this game to have a shot at a good road trip. The Celtics took care of business in Portland. Now they need to do the same in Hollywood.