Without Marcus Smart or Malcolm Brogdon, the train kept rolling for the Celtics on Wednesday night as they bulldozed the Atlanta Hawks 126-101. The biggest difference so far for the Celtics has been their ability to lean on their bench. Their role players continue to answer the call time and time again, outscoring the Hawks 44-to-23 on 17-of-25 from the field, including 10-of-16 from deep along with 20 rebounds, 6 assists, 5 blocks, and a steal.
“We got a lot of guys that can do a lot of things. That’s just a credit to the depth we have,” said Derrick White after the game. “Every person that goes out there, we think can contribute and do good things, and we came here on the road and got a good win.” White got the start with Smart and Brogdon out, and delivered 16 points on 6-of-11 shooting with 5 rebounds, 10 assists and a block.
When asked if starting the game changed anything for him, White said, “not really. I’m just trying to go out there, compete, have fun, and make the right play. I was able to do that tonight.” It wasn’t unfamiliar territory for White, as the guard had been starting regularly for San Antonio, especially the season that Celtics acquired him at the trade deadline.
On the team’s blistering shooting, White said, “we’ve got a lot of guys that can really shoot it. Sam...Sam for the season is one of the best shooters I’ve ever seen. Grant, I just see the work he’d put in, and everybody else on the team. So, we keep getting good looks, and we’re going to make most of them. It’s a credit to the offense and the flow that we’re doing it, and we just gotta keep going.”
“Every time they come in, I feel like they just change the game,” said White on the bench’s performance. “Energy, effort, playing the right way...we’re gonna lean on them a lot this season, and they were big for us.” So far, that’s exactly what the Celtics have done with multiple injuries and rest days being built in for guys like Al Horford. But with Brogdon and Smart missing the game in Atlanta, Payton Pritchard has continued to capitalize on the opportunity and his importance to the team cannot be overstated. Sam Hauser’s shooting abilities have also been on full display, and he’s morphed into one of the best shooters in the league.
“Hearing that, it gets a little fire going in your body,” said Sam Hauser of the early concerns about the bench. “Wanting to get better, wanting to work hard in the offseason and wanting to show and prove yourself out there. I think even Payton too, he was a part of the rotation last year and he’s been playing really really well these last few games that he’s gotten opportunities. I think everyone kinda taking it personal a little bit and it’s showing out there.”
White echoed a similar sentiment, and said, “It’s a long season, there’s gonna be injuries and people out, so I’m gonna need everybody...a lot of the same guys from last year who, going through what we went through, just came together during the off season and wanted to do something special. So, just understand that it’s a process and we can’t do it by ourselves. We need each and every one person, so just trusting everybody and making the right play, and playing the game the right way, it’s fun.”
With the pace that the Celtics have managed to play at, they look more together and formidable than ever for other teams to deal with. The “next man up” mantra has held true for Boston so far this season, and if this is what a team that is missing three of its top six players looks like, then they are going to be an absolute monster to stop at full strength.