1. We’ll start the Takeaways by checking in on our 3 Questions from pregame. First up was the vaunted Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown vs Kawhi Leonard and Paul George matchup. Well…we got half of it!
Brown (sore knee) and George (sore foot) were both out with injuries, but Tatum and Leonard stepped up. Tatum scored 34 points and Leonard had 28. Both made several big plays throughout the game. It wasn’t the two-on-two battle we hoped for, but that half certainly delivered.
Somewhat unfortunate for fans was that Tatum and Leonard only checked each other briefly during the game. Most of the time they guarded other players. This is mostly because both carry such huge offensive usage, that they don’t pick up the number one option on defense. It would have been fun to see them actually go head-to-head more. One of the few times they did, Tatum got the better of Leonard. More on that later!
2. Sometimes it feels like Brad Stevens likes to mess with Celtics fans a little bit. No Jaylen Brown, so two bigs was probably definitely happening. But you know what? Let’s go three bigs! Grant Williams drew the start alongside Daniel Theis and Tristan Thompson and it was a moderate disaster.
Williams ended up playing a nice game with 11 points, including 3-of-4 from deep to up his percentage to 48.7% from behind that arc. But together, those three were a mess. Unfortunately, Daniel Theis had some knee soreness of his own and didn’t play after halftime. The silver lining was that let Thompson and both Grant and Robert Williams get in a groove and all three put together good performances.
3. The guards behind Kemba Walker went about as expected. Payton Pritchard returned and played 19 solid minutes. Jeff Teague played 17 minutes, as with Jaylen Brown out, two-point-guard lineups were common. Teague wasn’t necessarily good, but he wasn’t a disaster either. That’s a step in the right direction...maybe?
Pritchard, on the other hand, picked up right where he left off before getting hurt. First, he drilled a step-back as calmly as if it was a layup:
Later in the game, Pritchard does a nice job running the break here. This relocation after the pass is simple, yet smart play. He ends up wide open and buries it:
4. Carsen Edwards was too good to not get his own takeaway. This was the best game he’s played as a Celtic. As Brad Stevens said postgame “he changed the complexion of the game”. Edwards hasn’t had a chance to get consistent run, because he’s a 6-foot-1 scoring guard. You have to be really good in that role to play a lot. Friday night, Edwards was.
Ignore the scoreboard, as the score was later corrected, but this three came with the Celtics down 12 and the Clippers threatening to make the game a blowout. No hesitation from Edwards as he lets it rip:
Next trip, after a nice steal and find from Jeff Teague, Edwards drills another one:
When all was said and done, Edwards scored 16 points on 5-of-8 shooting in 30 minutes off the bench. It was good to see him be a major factor in a big win.
5. Also good off the bench was Robert Williams. As is par for the course with Timelord, you have to take the good with the bad. Let’s start off with a bad moment. Williams does an ok job of containing Lou Williams initially here. But the big fella can’t get bodied off the shot this easily by a small guard:
Fortunately, that was about the only bad play Timelord had. This play is great because Williams doesn’t bite on the fake from Marcus Morris not once, but twice! Good closeout and keeps his feet. Then he stays down on Morris’ initial fake in the lane. Then Williams contests the shot anyway:
And to add to the good defense, Williams knocked down a couple of jumpers. He confidently took both in the rhythm of the offense. This is nice range for the big man:
6. It’s funny how good Jayson Tatum has become that finding highlight clips seems difficult, because it’s all commonplace for him now. That said, this was the point in the game where Tatum had enough and decided he was taking over:
Of course, Tatum made a whole bunch of big shots (and a couple of boneheaded turnovers late), but his biggest play was on defense. Here, Tatum Kawhis Kawhi Leonard:
7. Jayson Tatum went 40 minutes in this game. With Kemba Walker still limited to the low-30s in minutes and Jaylen Brown out, Tatum carried the Celtics. That made for a few touch-and-go moments when he sat, especially in the fourth quarter. But Boston hung in and made enough plays to not let go of the rope while Tatum was out.
8. Semi Ojeleye’s box score is nothing special. As a matter of fact, his shooting line is bad. But to look at the box score only misses his great defense on two crucial plays late in the game. First, with Boston nursing a one-point lead, Ojeleye stays in front of Kawhi Leonard and then contests the jumper without fouling:
Next time down, with the Celtics up by three, Ojeleye first denies Leonard the inside touch (LA was trying to go for a quick two initially). Then he again gives a great contest on Leonard’s potential game-tying three:
9. For the first time this season, Kemba Walker was looking for coffee. It’s percolating here:
Coffee is for closer. Kemba gets coffee:
10. This win gives the Celtics a chance at a winning road trip. They would have had it anyway with a loss, but winning games in both Phoenix and Utah is a tall order. Now, Boston just needs one win. Pending Jaylen Brown’s availability, it seems like that should be doable. A 2-3 trip is a fine result. A 3-2 trip would be good. 4-1? Why not dream a little bit?