1. For the first time this season, the 2022-23 Boston Celtics felt like the Finals version of the Boston Celtics from last season. The offense did more than enough, but the real callback was the defense. This was the first time this season’s Celtics brought it on defense for 48 minutes.
The Washington Wizards shot 38.8% from the field, including just 7-of-32 on three-pointers. If it wasn’t for some garbage-time filler, Washington might not have cracked the mid-80s in points.
Simply put: these are the Celtics we’ve been waiting for.
2. Boston got things started early on offense. First play of the game early, in fact. This is a nice set to open the game. Jaylen Brown first loops around the double-screen from Al Horford and Jayson Tatum. When the defense handles that, it flows right back into a second double-screen, this time with Tatum popping out for an open three:
Having hit his first jumper, Tatum is ready for more. Kristaps Porzingis needs to lay back in transition, so Tatum doesn’t blow by him to get to the rim. Porzingis also trusts his own length to get out. But Tatum is pretty long himself, and he has a high release, so the late contest doesn’t bother him:
3. Jaylen Brown wasn’t far behind Jayson Tatum in getting going early on the scoring end. Because Brown is making jumpers at a high rate, he draws hard closeouts like the one he gets from Monte Morris here. With the floor so well-spaced, including Kristaps Porzingis up the floor on Al Horford, Brown has an easy rim attack:
This play is a good example of Brown’s improved handle, and also his patience. Brown uses a crossover to get Kyle Kuzma moving, but he also uses one extra lefty dribble to get Kuzma leaning. That extra lefty bounce opens up the spin to the rim:
4. It’s also really fun when Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown hook up for a play. This got TD Garden rocking:
5. The early-season Celtics have shown a knock for beating the buzzer. They did it twice more in this one. First, it was Grant Williams from an awkward angle at the end of the first quarter:
Then, Jayson Tatum had this gorgeous lefty bullet pass to Malcolm Brogdon to beat the halftime buzzer:
Let’s use this spot to shout out Brogdon. He was so good in this game with 23 points in 23 minutes off the bench. It wasn’t just jumpers either. Brogdon was able to get downhill for a few layups and he drew eight free throw attempts too. Good stuff all around for the Celtics sixth man.
6. Boston was back to the switch-everything defensive looks that defined last year’s team. Communication was good, players were up into the ball and Washington got very few uncontested looks.
Defensive rebounding remains a problem. There are going to be some offensive boards available when your opponent misses a whopping 60 shots. But allowing 15 offensive rebounds (25%) is simply too many. The main issue remains the guards and wings need to block out better and help the bigs on the glass.
7. Speaking of that good defense, here’s three reserves making good plays. Sam Hauser on an island against Bradley Beal should be advantage Washington. Hauser does a great job keeping Beal in front of him before contesting the jumper:
Closing out to shooters has been a challenge so far this season. Not here. Great closeout and block from Grant Williams:
Luke Kornet earned minutes in this one by playing really well against the Cleveland Cavaliers last time out. This is good stuff by Kornet. He takes away the roller, before going vertical against Will Barton, only dropping his hands late for the block:
8. The Celtics had the ball moving really well in this one. This play had come after Washington made a run to make it a game. Instead of Boston panicking and going into ISO ball, they played their game. Drive, kick, swing is the best offense for this team. Good paint attack by Jaylen Brown, followed by a good skip pass from Derrick White to Al Horford:
Grant Williams draws those hard closeouts now. He’s shown the ability to attack them off the bounce. This was a nice drive-and-kick to Brown:
Once more, hit the paint, get the defense moving and find the open man. This is just good basketball:
9. We’re going back to Luke Kornet, because he showed why the Celtics have so much faith in him in this game. There was a good chance Kornet could have started to open the season, or been the backup center, had he not gotten hurt at the start of training camp. Now, he’s finding his form.
Kornet could (should?) be a bit more aggressive trying to score around the rim. But it’s hard to quibble with kicking to a wide-open Grant Williams in the corner:
And this one was basically the capper. A fake into the side-step triple? The Green Kornet strikes!
This UniKornet on Unicorn crime got TD Garden on their feet in celebration of a victory.
10. The Celtics needed a game like this. They showed they still have it defensively and that they can take a worse team and run them out of the gym. It was also nice to see the guys in green respond to a run without falling apart.
Joe Mazzulla was also able to keep minutes down because of the blowout. No one topped 30 minutes. Boston now gets a couple of days off before a three-games-in-four-days stretch to close the week.
Have a safe and happy Halloween filled with only treats and no tricks!