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Eight straight: 10 Takeaways from Celtics-Hawks

Boston won their eighth straight game despite being down some key contributors in Atlanta

Boston Celtics v Atlanta Hawks Photo by Scott Cunningham/NBAE via Getty Images

1. This game felt like it was where the Boston Celtics win streak would end. The Atlanta Hawks are a good team, and they were at home. Boston was undermanned without both Marcus Smart and Malcolm Brogdon against one of the better backcourts in the NBA in Trae Young and Dejounte Murray.

But instead of the streak ending, the Celtics cruised to a blowout victory. Outside of a couple of mini-runs, Atlanta never really threatened Boston after halftime.

Eight wins in a row now for the Celtics. Eventually, they’ll lose another game. But until it happens, this group has to step on the floor believing they’re the best team every single game.

2. Jaylen Brown ran into some foul trouble, otherwise his homecoming to Atlanta might have been a huge night. Brown got things going early by attacking John Collins in transition:

On the next trip, Brown went to what might be his signature shot now: the midrange pullup. If the big hangs back in drop coverage, even a little bit, Brown is pulling up:

A little later in the quarter, Brown drew Collins again. Brown tried to drive him, but Collins cut him off. Brown stayed patient and got to this nice fallaway that he’s taking and making regularly now:

3. Derrick White got the call to run the offense with both Marcus Smart and Malcolm Brogdon out. White delivered with 10 assists, to go along with 16 points, five rebounds and a block.

True to his Spurs days, White likes to play in transition. He’s always pushing the ball and looking for even a little edge. Sam Hauser does a nice job flaring out here, while Luke Kornet gets just enough of the defender on the screen:

This is a very delayed pick-and-roll, but the result is the same. White gets into the paint and stays patient enough for Kornet to get inside against Aaron Holiday for the easy lob:

White also knows he can attack Trae Young. On this play, Kornet never even really has to set a screen. White gets downhill, draws two and leaves it for Kornet at the rim:

This play starts with an outstanding block by Al Horford. From there, White picks on Young again. White knows Young isn’t going to pick up Grant Williams on the basket cut in transition. The result is an easy layup for Williams:

4. Derrick White wasn’t the only making plays as a passer. Jayson Tatum couldn’t find the range on his shot, so he did more playmaking than usual.

Tatum has started to develop a nice chemistry with Luke Kornet in the pick-and-roll game. This is a nice setup to get Kornet the dunk:

Later in the first quarter, Tatum came off a Kornet screen and rifled a crosscourt pass to Payton Pritchard for a deep three:

Tatum still scored 19 points, but without his jumper falling, he had a huge impact on the game with his passing, rebounding and defense. That’s an MVP candidate getting it done on both ends of the floor.

5. At various times, we’ve bemoaned some of Boston’s depth. Do they have enough up front? Do they need another wing? Who can score off the bench besides Malcolm Brogdon?

It’s only a month into the season, but a lot of those questions have been answered. The bigs are all doing enough to get by. And Brad Stevens has given Joe Mazzulla some versatility within his big man group too. That’s shown up the last few games.

On the wing, Boston is still playing Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum a bit too much, but Sam Hauser has locked down a rotation spot, and eventually more three-guard lineups will likely emerge. The latter is because Payton Pritchard needs to play even when Brogdon and Marcus Smart are back.

And bench scoring is still going to be primarily Brogdon’s deal, but Derrick White and Payton Pritchard are both capable of big scoring nights too. And, if he’s hot, Hauser can rip off a string of triples.

The season may still show a need for more depth. But, for now, the Celtics have enough to get by.

6. A key answer to the depth questions has been Grant Williams. He’s done well as a reserve and a starter this season. He’s poised to play a big part in things, no matter what role he’s tasked with.

In this one, Williams had a stretch of three consecutive three-pointers to really help Boston hold off an Atlanta run.

This first one came off a fake after a drive-and-kick from Derrick White:

Off an offensive rebound, Williams again got John Collins in the air, before sidestepping for the triple:

A little later, Williams showed he’s more than a spot-up guy. This is a fake DHO into a step-back. High-level stuff from Williams here:

7. In several of the clips above, Luke Kornet was finishing plays at the rim. He did plenty of protecting the rim on the other end of the floor too.

On this play, Kornet picks up Trae Young on a switch. If Kornet is going to play, he has to hold his own on plays like this. Mission accomplished:

This time, Kornet draws De’Andre Hunter on a switch. He stays down on the initial fake and then stays in front of Hunter on the drive before meeting him at the rim:

15 points, eight rebounds and four blocks for Kornet in 25 minutes. Outstanding night for the backup big man.

8. Al Horford did a ton of the little things to help Boston to this win. You would think at this point in their respective careers that De’Andre Hunter could defend Horford off the dribble, but no:

Horford has been one of the better passing big men since he got to the NBA. This is a perfectly timed kickout to Payton Pritchard:

When you play the right way, the ball tends to find you. This is an unselfish extra pass from Derrick White to get Horford a corner three:

9. Payton Pritchard gets kudos from his teammates and coaches for staying ready, even when he’s not a part of the rotation. The back half of that equation needs to change. Pritchard needs to play even when the team is healthy again. He delivers an element of deep range and shooting that no one else in the backcourt can quite match.

This was Pritchard beating the halftime buzzer with a bomb:

Pritchard is also one of the Celtics best off-the-dribble shooters. And he knows how to use a screen to get his look too. Pritchard uses the screen from Al Horford here, and the big is drifting just enough that it’s all the space Pritchard needs:

10. Eight in a row. Now, the Celtics are headed to New Orleans for a matchup with the Pelicans. It’s unknown if Marcus Smart or Malcolm Brogdon will play, but Boston has enough if they don’t. They’ve proven that.

The fun part? Smart and Brogdon will be back, sooner rather than later too, according to Joe Mazzulla, who was unbothered by the veteran guards’ injuries. The really fun part? Rob Williams’ return is looming too. He’s doing most everything on the court and his timeline remains unchanged. Williams is about eight weeks through the original 8-to-12-week timeline he was given.

The really, really fun part? Boston is 12-3 and atop the NBA standings. And that’s despite being down some key contributors. The rest of the league is on notice. The Celtics are all grown up now and they’re coming for Banner 18.

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