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Ball movement and timely defense key win: 10 Takeaways from Celtics-Bulls

Boston is once again at .500 on the season after coming from behind to beat Chicago

NBA: Chicago Bulls at Boston Celtics Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

1. One of the Boston Celtics best forms of offense this season has been to lob the ball to Rob Williams. Boston got a lot of mileage out of such plays in their win over the Chicago Bulls. Nikola Vucevic is neither fleet of foot, nor a leaper. Jayson Tatum takes advantage here by getting downhill and then going over the top to Williams:

Different set here, but similar result. Tatum gets into the paint and draws Vucevic up, while Williams slips behind for the alley-oop:

Similar-ish look here. Dennis Schroder beats his man off the dribble. Because Williams is so athletic, it only takes Vucevic taking that slight step towards Schroder to open up the lob:

2. Rob Williams does plenty delivering of the ball himself too. The big man finished with six assists, including being on the opposite end of pass for a dunk than usual:

We’ve begged for the Celtics to incorporate more off-ball cutting. It allows them to use the passing skills of their big men. Here’s a gorgeous give-and-go backdoor cut by Jaylen Brown and a perfect delivery from Williams:

3. Overall, the Celtics had 27 assists on 44 baskets. Four starters had between four and eight assists. When the number of assists isn’t offset by turnovers in the high teens, it usually means good things for Boston.

4. Jaylen Brown made some big plays on offense to help the Celtics to this win. This is simple, but smart basketball. Brown draws the defense and opens up Josh Richardson for the three:

Ime Udoka has confidence in Brown delivering in the clutch and isn’t afraid to call Brown’s number. This BLOB (baseline out of bounds) play is a good example. Boston runs the elevator doors play and Dennis Schroder puts the pass right on Brown for the jumper:

5. Jayson Tatum came up with some big defensive stops late in the game. He’s beat initially on this play by Coby White, but Tatum uses his length and athleticism to deny the layup:

On this play, DeMar DeRozan is taking the clock down and looking for a go-ahead shot. Tatum is on an island against DeRozan, who has played at an All-NBA level this year. You can’t defend a perimeter scorer better than this:

6. The above stop helped Boston reverse course with their late-game woes. The Celtics had against suffered a fourth-quarter collapse, as the Bulls took control. After Chicago went up 112-106 with 1:57 to play, Boston clamped down and made plays to win.

The Celtics closed the game on an 8-0 run, including four clutch free throws from Rob Williams. Instead of falling completely apart late, they took control and got the victory. Nice course reversal for a change.

7. It wasn’t a huge performance by Payton Pritchard, but he made back-to-back late-clock shots when the Boston offense was really scuffling. This was the first one, right off the catch and from 30 feet:

On the next trip, Pritchard ran down the jump-ball tip and buried this pullup:

8. The best way to describe Josh Richardson’s season is “solid”. He’s rarely spectacular, even less rare is a bad game. Richardson is just good almost every night. This is an outstanding play to not get picked off by the screen and to rear-contest the three:

And this shot has been money for Richardson all season:

9. Enes Freedom is a difficult player to peg. He struggles so much defensively against most matchups, but his offensive output can offset that. It’s pretty rare to see Freedom take a dribble and drive the ball, but this is a nice finish:

This is the more traditional type of finish from Freedom. Solid board-work here for the putback and-1:

10. It hasn’t always been pretty, but the Celtics have now won six-of-nine. They are once again back to .500 on the season. A split of the Philadelphia-Chicago back-to-back was the hope and Boston accomplished it.

Now, the Celtics have three home games this week, and all are winnable. In fact, the next seven games are all winnable for Boston. They won’t likely win all seven, but if they can go something like 5-2, that will put the Celtics in good shape before playing against Miami to close out January.

It’s been a roller coaster, but this stretch in January, after a very difficult December, has always pointed to being a spot to climb up the standings. It’s about winning as many of the winnable games as possible and stacking wins now. No matter who they come against, and no matter how you get them.

Reminder: Monday’s special Martin Luther King Day matchup against the New Orleans Pelicans is a 12:30 PM ET tip!

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