When the rotation regulars were in, basically through the third quarter, the game was a blowout. The Celtics held an 18-point lead before a lineup of mostly deeper bench options let go of the rope in the final period.
While not as dominant as the win over the Charlotte Hornets, this outing was just as good. Toronto is a very good team. They’ll be in the mix for homecourt advantage in the Eastern Conference. Yet, rotation group against rotation group, Boston was able to do pretty much whatever they wanted. A good sign indeed.
2. Jaylen Brown is ready for the regular season to start. He’s looked dominant through two preseason games. His handle looks tighter, and Brown’s patience is now a skill. He’s never in a rush.
Here’s a good example of Brown getting exactly where he wants to be and not forcing a drive to the rim. This pullup shot has become a real weapon for him:
While Jayson Tatum has had the step-back since he came into the league, it’s a shot Brown had to develop. Brown gets to his in a slightly different way. Tatum uses his size and length. Brown uses his staccato dribble to get the defense leaning, and he’s up into the shot. This is a good example:
3. Speaking of Jayson Tatum, we want to see him be stronger in and around the paint. That includes functioning as a playmaker from the mid-post area. This is a good find from Tatum, as he lets traffic clear and before picking out Brown on the opposite side of the floor. Good down-screen from Derrick White too:
We’re going to hammer the “Brown and Tatum need to cut more” point a lot this season. It’s such an easy way for them to find offense, and Boston has the passers to facilitate it too. This is good stuff all around. Nice cut by Tatum and a good pass by Malcolm Brogdon. And Tatum shows nice craft and patience with the fakes to finish the play:
4. Wing-wing pick-and-rolls are a staple of some of the best teams in the league. Boston needs to use more of it with Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum. It started to get worked in more last season because both improved enough as ballhandlers and passers to make it work. Look for at least a few actions like this per game this season:
5. The Celtics defense looks pretty locked in, even while being without Robert Williams. If anything, they’ve amped up the switching even more. There really isn’t a place for an offense to target when Boston rolls out a Horford/Tatum/Brown/White/Smart lineup. Especially for a similarly-sized Toronto team, who was at 36% shooting overall and 2-of-18 from three in the first half.
6. Derrick White has gotten the start in the first two preseason games. Joe Mazzulla has cautioned everyone to not read too much into who starts, but it’s at least sort of notable. Boston seems to want Malcolm Brogdon to get really comfortable in the sixth man role, so starting White makes a lot of sense.
White looks like he’s sped up his release and picked up his release-point on his jumper. He’s looked confident letting shots fly through these first two games. And his decision making remains elite as a “0.5 seconds” playmaker.
And, as we already know, White can make plays like this as a defender. He absorbs the contact from Fred VanVleet, but still comes up with the strip:
It’s making tough runners through contact like this, along with knocking down jumpers, that will make it hard to take White off the floor:
7. Malcolm Brogdon is exactly what the Celtics needed in the Finals. Simply put: he’s just steady. Brogdon is already fitting in perfectly with his playmaking. This is a good drive and dish to Noah Vonleh for an easy finish:
Brogdon and Sam Hauser seem to have some sort of UVA connection that was just inherent. Brogdon has picked him out for open perimeter jumpers like this multiple times through two games:
On Hauser…leave him open at your own risk. He’s been more or less automatic when he has even the slightest bit of space. That’s something Boston lost with Danilo Gallinari getting hurt. Hauser doesn’t the ability to score off the dribble or punish mismatches like Gallo, but he has the potential to be the designated shooter replacement.
8. Grant Williams has been a lot more off the dribble so far in the preseason. Like, a LOT more. That said, not sure anyone was expecting the transition hesi from Grant:
9. Boston’s ball movement through these first two games has been tremendous. It’s resulted in some turnovers, but the Celtics have piled up 72 assists through two games. Plays like this should come with regularity this season. Good ball and player movement, excellent spacing and a nice extra pass from Marcus Smart to Jaylen Brown:
This is another good example. Drive, kick, relocate into space:
10. The Celtics are approximating a regular season schedule this week, as they have an off day before traveling south for a rematch with the Charlotte Hornets. With only two preseason games left, it will be interesting to see how Joe Mazzulla approaches playing time.
Justin Jackson and Brodric Thomas didn’t do much to aid their causes in winning roster spots with a poor fourth quarter against Toronto. Do they get another chance? Or will Jake Layman and Luka Samanic get more minutes?
Blake Griffin was reportedly close to playing against the Raptors. With an extra couple of days around the team, it’s likely we’ll see Griffin make his Boston debut in Charlotte.