1. That was one heck of a start to 2022 for the Boston Celtics. And maybe it helped serve as a turning of the page for this inconsistent group. 2021 was littered with bad losses, as Boston had been blown out, lost to bad teams and they had their share of blown leads.
This time, the Celtics did the coming back and got a win they needed to have.
As Jaylen Brown said postgame “We just needed to f*cking win.” And win they did. In a game where it felt like “Here we go again”, Boston flipped the script and refused to lose to the Orlando Magic.
2. Jaylen Brown wasn’t the only reason the Celtics beat the Magic, but he was the major one. Brown scored 50 points on 19-of-29 shooting. In the fourth quarter, Brown scored 21 points. He simply willed Boston back into the game.
Brown’s big game got started early, but it got started with some off-ball work. This is how Boston can take advantage of Brown’s athleticism and help him get easier scoring opportunities. He’s already got a head of steam to the paint by the time he catches the ball. One dribble and it’s a layup:
This play starts with Payton Pritchard hitting the paint for a kick to Sam Hauser. Then Hauser swings to Brown for the corner three:
With a little rhythm, Brown can go to work. Boston empties the entire left side of the court for Brown to attack Gary Harris here:
Late in the game, Brown simply took over. This is a big-time finish through contact:
When Brown catches this ball, he’s already turned to head towards the rim. No one is stopping him from getting there:
By this point in overtime, Franz Wagner knows Brown has gotten to the basket at will. He doesn’t want to get beat that way again. But Brown is too good of a shooter to go under the screen on him like this:
50 points. A new career-high when Boston needed every single one of them.
3. The above was a snippet of Jaylen Brown’s scoring flurry. After he hit for 50, Brown didn’t take another shot. Instead, he became a playmaker. When you’re feeling it, you can go behind-the-back to get your teammate a layup, especially when it’s the only way to deliver this pass:
Watch till the end of the clip for the primal scream from Brown.
After a dubious four-point play, Boston needed a bucket. No one would have blamed Brown if he took the shot here. Instead, he trusts Al Horford and Brown makes the right play:
A couple games after Brown was wildly inefficient as a playmaker and scorer, he willed the Celtics to victory in both ways.
4. Marcus Smart also helped guide the Celtics to victory. Smart was asked postgame if he enjoys when games get chaotic. He gave the most Marcus Smart response possible: “I love a dogfight. And I’m the biggest dog here.”
While he was great in the endgame moments, Smart started things early. This is an incredibly difficult defensive play. Smart somehow closes out and double-contests this miss by Gary Harris. And then Smart hits the corner three of his own:
If you’re going to make a crazy comeback, you need to make plays. Smart makes two of them here. First, he comes up with the key steal. Then, this is a perfectly placed bounce-pass on the break to Jaylen Brown for the layup:
5. This space has regularly criticized Dennis Schroder. But credit where credit is due: Schroder played a pretty good game. It took him a little while to get going, which was expected after just being activated. Once he did, he looked good.
This is Good Schroder. The quick push after a stop. And this is an absolutely gorgeous pass:
This is also Good Schroder. Draw the bigger, slower defender and punish him by getting to the rim:
21 points and seven assists after being out for a while due to the protocols is good stuff. Hopefully Schroder can keep it up, because Boston needs him to drive some easy scoring opportunities.
6. This takeaway is brought to you by the letters “T” and “O”, which are why the Celtics needed to make such a crazy comeback in the first place. 22 is an absurd number of turnovers. It’s even odder that Boston was able to win while serving them up like the local baker.
For the season, the Celtics are right in the middle of the pack in turnover rate. Turnovers around the league are up, likely due to every team dealing with regular player absences and little lineup continuity. Still, 22 turnovers are a lot. And against a good team, there’s no way Boston wins giving the ball away like that.
The good news? The Celtics had only three over those 22 turnovers in the fourth quarter and overtime. They cleaned up the ballhandling when they had to.
7. Back to the good stuff… It feels like Josh Richardson has been automatic when he uses the hesitation dribble to get to this left-handed scoop shot:
Richardson continued his good play with another strong game in a string of solid outings.
8. Al Horford has become a complementary offensive player now. Boston can, and does, run a good chunk of the offense through him, but that’s because of his passing and not his scoring. Defensively, Horford continues to be a major plus. He had five blocks against the Magic and did a good job controlling the paint as the lone big for long stretches. And every once and a while, we still get really strong finishes like this from Big Al:
9. Let’s talk about the comeback, because it was pretty crazy. Franz Wanger hit a layup with 4:20 to play in the fourth quarter to put the Magic up 96-82. Ime Udoka called timeout and visibly tried to rally his guys.
Whatever Udoka said worked. Boston outscored Orlando 18-4 over the remaining four-plus minutes. During that stretch, Jaylen Brown shot 6-of-7 and scored 14 points. During that same period, Orlando hit just two shots and turned it over three times.
For a change, Boston made all the plays late in a game and overwhelmed an opponent with their defense.
10. 2021 ended on a high note and 2022 got off to a good start. The Celtics now have a couple of days off, after which the team should be a fairly full strength. Most of the rotation regulars have come out of the health and safety protocols and the others shouldn’t be far behind.
That’s key because the next stretch features several winnable games, but the schedule is very condensed. Boston will play seven games in an 11-day period from January 5-15. That includes two home-and-home sets against the New York Knicks and Indiana Pacers.
The last two games of that run features a tough back-to-back at Philadelphia and then home for Chicago. Those two games are two of only three games the entire month of January that feature opponents with winning records, with the other coming at the end of the month against Miami.
We’ve said January is the time for the Celtics to make a run. It wasn’t pretty, but they got the win on Sunday to start the month off right. Now, it’s time to keep that momentum moving forward.