1. Are the Warriors the WARRIORS anymore? Nope. Is it still a good win when you withstand 47 points from Stephen Curry while playing without Jaylen Brown, Robert Williams and Evan Fournier? Yup.
At this point in the season, every win matters. Doesn’t matter who they are against or how the Celtics get them. As Brad Stevens says “They all count for one”. By staying focused on only the game in front of them, and not worrying about what’s in the past or what’s to come, Boston has gotten their season on track. Six straight wins is good stuff, no matter how you slice it.
2. Remember last year, shortly before the season shut down, when Jayson Tatum was playing out of his mind? He’s even better now. Tatum is scoring in just about every way imaginable at this point. Here’s a selection from his 44-point night.
Tatum got started by driving a closeout for an and-1:
This shot to beat the buzzer before the half was ridiculous. The defense is right on Tatum, but he completes Boston’s mini-run to keep them in the game at halftime:
Over the last few weeks, Tatum has started working off post-ups more. Andrew Wiggins is a solid defender, but he has no chance when Tatum goes this quickly off the catch:
Tatum’s a complete, three-level scorer at this point. The jumper has always been there. The mid-range game came along a couple of years ago. Now, Tatum is beating defenders off the dribble to get to the rim. More importantly, he’s finishing through contact when he gets there:
Wiggins defends this as well as you possibly can. He’s right on it. Doesn’t matter:
3. With Stephen Curry going off, and Andrew Wiggins and others chipping in scoring, Jayson Tatum was going to need some help. That came in the form of Kemba Walker. Walker stepped up with 26 points of his own to help Boston keep their streak alive.
Postgame, both Walker and Brad Stevens said the management plan for Walker has worked. It’s got him playing his best ball of the season right now. Walker said it took a while to trust his knee enough to get back to making moves that caused him pain last season. This type of hard drive, where Walker uses contact to create space, is an example of that:
Over the last few weeks, Walker has really been pushing pace. He grabs this rebound and he’s off. By the time Walker draws the and-1, only four seconds have come off the shot-clock:
Because Walker had it going, the Warriors started running traps at him. Walker reads this quickly and Tristan Thompson makes the nice secondary read to find Marcus Smart for the open three:
4. The most unlikely source of offense for the Celtics in this one? Jabari Parker. Parker was only signed late on Friday and Boston threw him into the mix immediately with other players out. Brad Stevens said “We needed some points and he gave us an opportunity there.”
Parker got started right away with a dunk off an offensive rebound for his first points as a Celtic:
With the shot-clock running down off this miss, Parker gets right into his mid-range jumper:
At this point, Parker was playing so well that Stevens called his number for a post-up off an ATO. Parker delivered with a pretty move for the bucket:
Overall, Parker finished with 11 points on 5-of-6 shooting and four rebounds (all offensive). That’s a pretty nice debut and showed exactly what he can bring the Celtics off the bench.
5. In the second half, Boston went away from their “switch everything” defense. Stephen Curry is one of the few players who can cause the Celtics to change things up from their preferred style of defending. The biggest change was on off-ball actions. Boston usually combats off-ball screens by not chasing. They just switch it and live with the resulting matchups.
Because Curry was so hot, Smart stayed attached to him. It didn’t result in Curry missing very often when he did get the ball, but it did help keep him from getting some touches. When a guy is molten like Curry was, denying him the ball is about the best you can hope for defensively.
6. With Jaylen Brown and Evan Fournier sidelined, we saw some messy offensive lineups for Boston. Brad Stevens kept Jayson Tatum and Kemba Walker on the floor at all times, but when it was just one of them, the offense had some troubles. One player who helped to rectify that was Payton Pritchard.
Pritchard has had a green light since he got to Boston. He takes this shot from Curry-range:
Later in the game, after digging out yet another offensive rebound, Pritchard beat the clock with this step-back triple:
Pritchard admitted recently that he hit the rookie wall. He’s working through that now, but his confidence has never waned. That will serve him well throughout his career.
7. The Celtics don’t win this game without three big plays from Marcus Smart, Jayson Tatum and Kemba Walker down the stretch. First up is Smart.
Smart makes Smart plays. There’s nothing but Warriors in the picture here. Who comes up with the ball? You already know:
Then, after Tatum reads the trap, Smart fakes the swing pass. The defense bites and Smart finds himself more open than perhaps he ever has in his life. Smart said “I took my time because I had been missing short all night. I wanted to make sure I would make it.” Make it he did:
8. Remember what we wrote earlier about Jayson Tatum going quickly and getting downhill to the rim? He does that here to put Boston ahead:
9. Coffee is for closers. Kemba gets coffee:
10. The Celtics have now won six straight games. They’ve pushed up to fourth in the Eastern Conference. More importantly, they are playing Celtics basketball again. They get down and fight back. They dig deep and make plays at the ends of games. And, as Brad Stevens, Marcus Smart, Jayson Tatum and Kemba Walker all said postgame: “We stayed together”. That trust and belief in each other through all the down times this season is paying off now. Boston is rounding into form and seems to be peaking at the perfect moment in this strange season.