1. The Celtics defense was as locked in as they have been all year. Orlando shot the lowest percentage from the field that any Boston opponent has all year at 38.1%. This wasn’t just a team missing a bunch of open looks either. The Magic shot a fairly respectable 11-of-34 from behind the arc.
This was about the Celtics challenging shots. They were connected on defense. The communication was better than it has been all season. The switching was on point.
The next takeaway will cover the ball and player movement. It was one of the few times this season that the Celtics have looked like the Celtics. The key, as Brad Stevens said postgame, is doing this for a few weeks in a row.
2. Boston piled up 27 assists on 40 baskets. That’s a better rate than we’re used to seeing from the Celtics this season. It’s not just about guys being willing passers, but the player movement being better as well. Here’s an example of a good pass from Daniel Theis and nice cut from Jayson Tatum to open the scoring. It’s great to see Tatum make this cut vs waiting for the ball to come his way for a perimeter shot off the dribble:
This was a fun, inverted give-and-go between Marcus Smart and Theis:
This was the best the ball and players moved all game. Theis gets to the paint and hits Smart on a cut. Smart pitches it out to Kemba Walker, who makes the extra pass. Waiting for the open three-pointer? Aaron Nesmith:
3. This was the second game in a row that Nesmith saw significant minutes. He hit only that one shot above, but was competitive defensively and did a good job with getting to right spots offensively. The one thing Nesmith could stand to make better judgement on is chasing no-hope offensive rebounds. It’s not that he should never crash the boards, because he’s got a knack for finding the ball. But he needs to be a bit more discerning on where and when he goes to the offensive glass, otherwise it takes him out of the defense.
4. The Magic played most of the first half in a drop defense against pick-and-roll. This allows Nikola Vucevic to be a presence near the rim, while preventing him from getting beat off the dribble. Here’s an example of Jayson Tatum punishing the drop late in the first half:
Because Boston was shredding the drop, Orlando had to start pressing up. They did so by involving a third defender in pick-and-roll coverage though. Watch this play develop. Boston ran this same basic action a bunch in the first half, including the play above. This time around, Vucevic comes up to the level of the ball, so Tatum can’t walk into a three. On the backside, Aaron Gordon has to drop to the paint to pick up Theis on the roll. That leaves Jaylen Brown all alone for a wide-open three:
It’s a nice example of the Celtics seeing a change in coverage and adjusting their own tactics to attack in an effective way.
5. This was a much-needed blowout for Boston. It’s a morale-builder for sure, but it goes beyond that. This game kicked of a five-games-in-seven-days stretch for the Celtics. Keeping minutes relatively low, and stress-free, is important. You take rest when you can get it this season.
6. Jaylen Brown was excellent, but somehow, he felt this wasn’t his best shooting game. Brown said he missed several open three-pointers, but that seems like a player being critical of himself. Brown hit 10 three-pointers, falling one short of tying Marcus Smart’s team record of 11 threes in a single game.
This was Brown’s eighth three, to set a new career-best. It came after Orlando had a run to cut Boston’s lead down to 10 points. Staggered double screens to get Brown a look is a good sign of Boston recognizing the hot-hand:
This was Brown’s ninth triple and this is confidence brimming over:
7. Maybe it was the good offensive night having him engaged, but this was one of Brown’s better defensive performances. He did a nice job staying attached to his man, plus battling against bigger players on switches. And the rare times when Brown got beat, he stayed in the play. Here’s an example of that one, as he challenges Evan Fournier’s layup attempt:
8. Brown and Theis seem to have developed their chemistry quite a bit this season. Like Walker and Tatum before him, Brown has learned how to use Theis as a screener now. Here’s a nice pick-and-pop play:
Next basket was Theis making a good skip pass to Brown for a corner three:
This is really good execution. Staggered double screens into a DHO. Theis immediately rolls as Brown drives and finishes with the lefty flush off the lob:
9. Marcus Smart was a little understated in this game, but in the best ways. It was a solid all-around performance. His defense was good and he made a bunch of plays as a passer. This quick-hit to Brown on the duck-in is the kind of pass that only Smart makes on this roster right now:
10. The Celtics get right back at it on Monday night in Memphis. Kemba Walker won’t play on the second game of a back-to-back. The Celtics are also likely to be without Tristan Thompson and Romeo Langford. It will be interesting to see who joins the starting lineup for Boston in place of Walker for the night, as they look to create a little positive momentum.