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Balance and bench boost Boston: 10 Takeaways from Celtics/Raptors

The Celtics hit the All-Star break on a four-game win streak

NBA: Toronto Raptors at Boston Celtics David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

1. Playing against a depleted Raptors team that played small most of the game, the Celtics downsized early. Brad Stevens subbed Daniel Theis out fairly early in the first quarter. In the second period, Theis saw only a short stint. Overall, the Celtics big man mainstay played just 7:12.

Stevens said postgame that he knew Boston was going to go small and this was a chance to get Theis kind of a night off. Stevens emphasized Theis’ importance to the team, but said “This just wasn’t a game to play two bigs”.

2. Boston’s ball movement was good once again, as it has been for most of the four-game win streak. The Celtics had 25 assists on 45 baskets, and five different players had at least four assists.

Jayson Tatum continued his development as a passer, with a couple of nice dimes. This on came early on nifty lefthanded bounce-pass to Tristan Thompson:

Later in the first quarter, Tatum did a nice job to find Payton Pritchard for a three-pointer in transition:

Robert Williams only had one assist, but it was a beauty:

The Celtics haven’t given Tommy Heinsohn many reasons to smile down on them this season, but you know Tommy loved this play:

3. As you could see from a couple of the plays above, Boston’s bench was very good again. They scored 51 points, including Grant Williams (17), Jeff Teague (14), Payton Pritchard (10) and Robert Williams (10) all reaching double figures. Beyond scoring, they all contributed in other ways too. Pritchard and Teague each had four assists. Robert Williams filled the stat sheet with seven rebounds, three blocks and a steal. And Grant Williams made the most of his opportunity with four rebound and some decent defense.

4. It’s cliché to use this term for a small, white player, but Payton Pritchard really is scrappy. He’s already one of the better offensive rebounding small guards the Celtics have had. He takes this ball away from Aron Baynes to get Grant Williams an open three-pointer:

Pritchard also has some pretty nice natural point guard skills. Here’s a nice drive and drop-off to Robert Williams for an easy finish:

5. Robert Williams has become a nightly force. He’s blocking shots, rebounding and scoring at an impressive clip. Here’s two of the three in one sequence:

6. Jeff Teague put together another strong game off the bench. He showed up as a playmaker and scorer. Here’s Teague slipping a pass to Tristan Thompson for an easy bucket:

Teague’s confidence never wavered, even when he wasn’t getting minutes. He said his goal is to play aggressively and let the chips fall where they may. This late-game play is a good example of Teague just playing his game:

7. Balance won the game for Boston. Eight Celtics scored in double-figures in points, ranging from 10 to 27. No Celtic took more than 15 shots and seven had at least five field goal attempts. That type of balance, even in a game where the defense was questionable, makes Boston hard to beat.

8. Kemba Walker has had a few plays over the last couple of weeks that make you say “He’s back!”. This one really stands out. Walker is a maestro at using screens and re-screens to get himself open. But you know he’s feeling pretty good when he’s willing to reject a screen to get himself a jumper:

9. This was a fun Jayson Tatum scoring game, because he showed off all the tricks. He might have learned this loud follow-up from Robert Williams:

It can be a little confounding when Tatum drives and tosses up something soft while seeking contact. What’s not bothersome is when he goes hard to the rack like this. Also, peep the behind-the-back dribble to lose Aron Baynes as a helper:

Late-game Tatum may be the best version of Tatum of all. His size-skill combo makes him a lethal scorer, a la Kevin Durant. This is patient and skillful stuff:

This is just great offense beating great defense. Stanley Johnson defends Tatum as well as he can without fouling him. Nothing you can do but tip your cap after it swishes through:

10. It’s the All-Star break. Boston sits exactly at the mid-point of their regular season schedule. 19-17 isn’t where anything expected them to be, but fourth in the East feels about right. With better health, and maybe a trade for some reinforcements, the Celtics best basketball feels like it’s ahead of them.

Enjoy the break everyone. See you on the other side!

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