1. Brad Stevens went back to the two-big lineup with Marcus Smart sidelined. Tristan Thompson rejoined the starting lineup alongside Daniel Theis. Overall, it was a productive night for Boston’s frontcourt. Theis was +24 and good on both ends. Grant Williams came off the bench for a nice night (more on that later!).
As for Thompson, it was his best offensive night of the season. He made all five of his shots from the field and looked like he found some rhythm. This won’t be a regular thing, but Thompson being able to overpower opposing bigs on occasion is a welcomed addition:
2. While the bigs had a nice all-around game, the guards had some issues without Smart. The main one was staying attached to Stephen Curry. Curry shook loose for three very early three-pointers and just like he was out of the box. Postgame, Brad Stevens talked about Boston’s struggles with Curry and how it caused them to go to some zone defense at points.
The other place Smart was missed was with his playmaking. He’s been the Celtics best playmaker for others this season, as Smart has absorbed some of Gordon Hayward’s former role in the offense. Boston had just 16 assists on 39 baskets vs the Warriors. Most of the attack was done via one-man possessions. That’s hard to make work against good defenses.
3. Jayson Tatum is really good. And he has one of the prettiest jumpers in the NBA. Because he’s so tall and long, it becomes this flowing shot that is just beautiful to watch.
I call this one the “rock-a-bye baby” move. Tatum looks like he’s setting up a crossover, but it’s just a rocking, slow, loping motion right into his jumper as he stares down the defender:
Because he’s so long, Tatum gets to step-backs no one else does. He goes from the top of the key to behind the arc in motion. No, it’s not a travel. It’s two steps after he picks up his dribble. It’s just impossible to guard:
Because Tatum drove the ball a good amount in this game, the defense had to respect that. Once he’s feeling the jumper, combined with the ability to drive, it’s over. Kelly Oubre Jr. has no chance here:
4. Kemba Walker got off to a good start and bounced back after the rough game against the Lakers. He’s still finding the rhythm with his jumper, as it’s come-and-go right now.
With Marcus Smart out, Boston may need Walker to do more as a passer. This is classic drive-and-kick point guard stuff here:
Walker has really great chemistry with Daniel Theis. He’s figured out how to play with Theis like he did with Cody Zeller with the Charlotte Hornets. This is simple, but effective basketball:
5. Jeff Teague is going to play a decent amount over the next few weeks. Kemba Walker is still ramping up and it’s unknown if he’ll play in back-to-back games yet. Payton Pritchard is due back soon, but he’ll probably be somewhat limited initially. Marcus Smart is out for at least three weeks, and given Boston’s history of caution, probably a touch longer.
Teague is going to play and he has to be better. He had moments against the Warriors, but looked awful at other points. If he can’t carve out an actual rotation role, his roster spot could be in jeopardy when the rest of the ballhandlers are back up to speed.
6. Boston is getting better on defense. This looks like the Celtics defense we are used to, and it’s keyed by Kemba Walker. First, he jumps up on Draymond Green, who functions as Golden State’s primary playmaker. Then Walker hands off Green to Daniel Theis, who challenges him. As Green dumps it to Kevon Looney in the paint, Walker slides over with Jaylen Brown to challenge at the rim:
This is connected, well-executed defense. Good to see it back.
7. Brad Stevens says Grant Williams wasn’t out of the rotation, but that the bigs are based on matchups. Williams got his turn against the Warriors and delivered. He’s now at 46.9% from deep on two attempts per game. Williams teammates trust he’ll deliver, as he does off this gorgeous skip pass from Jayson Tatum:
Grant step-back? Grant step-back!
And then here’s what will really earn him more minutes. Big time rim protection from Williams on this one:
8. Javonte Green continues to play well when given the chance. He doesn’t see regular time, but against certain teams, Green is a good matchup play. And he’s always active. He’s become Brad Stevens’ change-of-pace guy off the bench when the Celtics need an energy boost.
9. It was the rare off-night from Jaylen Brown shooting-wise. He stayed engaged defensively though and attacked the rim. Here’s him doing both. Frist, the strip at the rim followed by the hammer in transition:
10. This is a tough road trip for the Celtics. Four challenging games. Sacramento on Wednesday night is tough because it’s a back-to-back, possibly without Kemba Walker. Then it’s Clippers, Suns and Jazz. Getting this win gives Boston a chance at a pretty good trip. 2-3 would be fine. 3-2 good. Anything more would be gravy. Getting this first win was key for the trip to be a successful one.