1. It seems fair to say Kemba Walker is back to being Kemba Walker. Over his last six games, Walker is averaging 23.5 points and 5.5 assists per game. He’s up to 38.3% from behind the arc and drawing four free throw attempts a night during that period as well.
Walker’s most dangerous shot remains his pullup jumper. If the big lays back in pick-and-roll even a little, Walker is letting it fly:
The Clippers are in zone here. One way you can beat a zone is to screen to top defenders for shots or to create driving gaps. Look at how quickly Walker goes here. He runs to the screen and right into the pullup triple:
2. The Celtics have seen Serge Ibaka enough from his Toronto years that they know exactly how to attack him. Ibaka doesn’t want to come up and guard on the perimeter at this point in his career. Walker got him in the first clip. Here’s Jaylen Brown, who has developed the second-most reliable pullup on the team, getting a dropped Ibaka. The nice thing for Brown here is his patience to work to this shot. It’s a screen/re-screen action with Tristan Thompson to create the open pullup:
Offensive rebounds create some of the best looks you can find. Daniel Theis and Tristan Thompson keep the play alive. Then it’s Brown to Walker and back to Brown for the open three against a scrambled defense:
3. If you tuned in late, or only looked at the box score, you might have through the first half featured no defense. The defense was actually pretty good. It was just even better shot-making from both teams. Walker, Brown, Paul George and Reggie Jackson all had it going. Many of their makes were fairly well-contested, but it didn’t matter. It was really fun to watch early on.
4. Brad Stevens has been asking his bench to be aggressive and to play with force. Over the course of this three-game win streak, Stevens has gotten what he’s asked for. The reserve group of Robert Williams, Payton Pritchard, Semi Ojeleye and, surprisingly, Jeff Teague has been very good. Occasional contributors like Javonte Green and Aaron Nesmith have had good moments as well. That reliability is key, as Stevens doesn’t have to be overly reliant on his star trio to create everything.
5. Speaking of Pritchard and Williams, they’ve developed some really good chemistry. Pritchard is working well with Williams as a screener to create shots for him. And Pritchard has learned, when in doubt, to just throw it towards the rim:
They hooked up again later in the game. This time, Williams shows his soft touch to guide the ball in:
6. Robert Williams did more than just catch lobs. He finished with 13 points, eight rebounds, four assists and three blocks. And, once again, Williams was part of the closing rotation with Daniel Theis. Had it not come down to free throws at the end, Williams likely would have closed the game by himself.
It’s not easy to block three-pointers. It’s even harder to do it when you’re man-to-man and your guy takes a step-back:
Oh, what the heck…let’s finish with one more lob! This is just silly. You can’t defend this without fouling or leaving someone else open. Look at where Kemba Walker throws this pass from. Vertical spacing to the max here:
7. One last play from the bench bunch. Jeff Teague has put together a string of good games. He said that he wants to be aggressive and attack and let the chips fall where they may. Here’s a great example of that mindset:
8. It wasn’t a masterpiece from Jayson Tatum. He had a couple of rough plays down the stretch. But he also made the last two big baskets for Boston before they closed it out at the free throw line. If you gamble like this, Tatum is going to make you pay. This wide-open corner three is like a layup:
Boston won the Washington game because Tatum went to the basket. This late basket is another good finish in traffic inside. This is also a nice, quick pass from Robert Williams to get it to Tatum in a scoring position:
9. Over the game’s final two minutes, the Clippers made just one basket. The finished the game 1-of-4 from the field against some tough Boston defense. The Celtics communication was evident as you could hear multiple players talking and calling out coverages down the stretch. The switching was good and the defense was connected. That’s something that’s been lacking, especially late in games. It was encouraging to see it show up against a very good opponent.
10. Boston is scheduled to play Toronto on Thursday in the final game before the All-Star break. The Raptors are coming to TD Garden to play the Celtics as a bit of a mess. They are currently going through what so many others have with players sidelined due to COVID. In addition, most of their coaching staff is also out.
Boston got back over .500 with the Clippers win. If they can beat a shorthanded Raptors squad, the Celtics will hit the break with a four-game winning streak and they’ll be a couple games clear of break-even. 19-17 overall is disappointing, but what’s in the past is in the past. The team should get healthier post-break and they’re playing good basketball now. that should be the focus. Brighter days ahead for Boston.