1. The Boston Celtics kept the good times rolling with a ninth consecutive victory. The latest victims were the New Orleans Pelicans, who rallied a few times but were never able to get over the hump to truly challenge Boston.
The Celtics are now 13-3 and lead the Milwaukee Bucks by 1.5 games in the Eastern Conference. It’s still too early to be on “standings watch”, but the wins all count the same. That Boston has been able to stack this many victories together while being without key contributors is huge. It’s a guarantee that will matter when we get to March and April and start watching the standings daily.
2. The Celtics went 20-for-46 from behind the arc in this game. It was another game in a string of big efforts from downtown. In terms of volume and accuracy, Boston has been the league’s top three-point shooting team.
In this game, the Celtics took advantage of the way the Pelicans were defending the arc. In pick-and-roll actions, Jonas Valanciunas is almost always going to drop to protect the paint. That left Al Horford wide-open to begin the scoring:
But it wasn’t just Valanciunas. Every Pelicans defender was laying back in the screen game. Here, Jayson Tatum walked into an open pullup:
And sometimes the Celtics had to work for their triple. This is a good job by Sam Hauser to keep the ball alive before Luke Kornet kicked it out to Derrick White:
3. Jaylen Brown led the Celtics with 27 points, but it was his playmaking that stood out. (Yes, we’ll talk about the turnovers, but that’s coming later.)
Brown can be so patient now. That starts with his initial attack off the catch but continues all the way through. When he draws multiple defenders, Brown makes the easy kickout to Grant Williams:
A couple of plays later, Brown is trying to overpower Jose Alvarado here. That draws Naji Marshall to the paint to help. Brown sees Marshall coming and makes the simple pass out to Derrick White:
4. Derrick White…there just isn’t much more to say. He was outstanding in this game. With Marcus Smart out again and Malcolm Brogdon working his way back, White stepped up with 35 big minutes and some great play on both ends of the floor.
White may be one of the best players in the league at the rear-contest block. Shooters get by him, but White never quits on a play:
If he’s not Boston’s best transition player (that’s probably Jaylen Brown or Jayson Tatum), White is the Celtics most opportunistic transition player. On this play, White sees the only player between him and the rim is rookie Dyson Daniels. After a good push, White spins and floats it in:
Because of Boston’s outstanding spacing, White is able to really attack mismatches. Jonas Valanciunas is a fish out of water here. He has no chance of stopping White on this play:
5. As mentioned above, Malcolm Brogdon was back. His timing on his shot was clearly off. That will probably take a couple of games to get back. But Brogdon made an impact as a passer with four assists in 18 minutes off the bench.
This is a veteran taking advantage of a rookie on a SLOB play. When Dyson Daniels doesn’t get his head around to see the ball, Brogdon zips it by his ear to get Derrick White a layup:
This is a great read of the floor by Brogdon. It’s one of the rare times Jonas Valanciunas came up to the level of the ball. C.J. McCollum is in the paint as Luke Kornet starts his roll, but Sam Hauser’s gravity as a shooter pulls McCollum away. Because Payton Pritchard and Jayson Tatum have the court spaced well, their defenders can’t help either. That’s easy money for Brogdon to toss it to Luke Kornet for the dunk:
6. When he was drafted, Grant Williams was billed as an all-around player. It’s taken a few years, but that’s exactly what Williams has evolved into on the NBA level. No, he’s not a star by any means, but Williams is a jack-of-all-trades player who does a lot of things pretty well.
The most glaring improvement has been with Williams’ off-the-dribble game. Williams is a known quantity as a shooter now, so he draws the hard closeouts. This is against Herb Jones, who is one of the NBA’s better perimeter defenders too. Also, notice how Williams gets his body into Jones to protect his shot as he goes up for the layup:
Midway through the third quarter, Williams missed a floater so badly that everyone sort of froze and he got his own rebound with ease. But Williams being committed to making the floater work is what makes shots like this one so satisfying:
7. The Celtics had 28 assists on 41 baskets. They continue to ping the ball around unselfishly to find the best shots. This is just gorgeous basketball. Drive and kick out of pick-and-roll, followed by driving a closeout for a kickout, followed by a swing pass for the best look:
You know Jayson Tatum wants to attack C.J. McCollum here. We’ve seen that a million times in his career. But Tatum also knows Herb Jones is drifting towards that mismatch to help. That opens up Sam Hauser, who needs very little time and space to let it fly:
8. In an effort to be balanced, Jaylen Brown was a mess for a large portion of the second half. Six of Brown’s seven turnovers came after halftime. There were a few giveaways where it looked like Brown had never handled a basketball before.
But Brown more than made up for it late. He played a part in three scores to help Boston hold off New Orleans. First was this nice fake to Grant Williams on the break before leaving for Al Horford for the loud finish:
A couple of plays later, after a bad turnover, Brown got to his spot for the pullup jumper:
And this was pure hustle and effort from Brown to stick with it:
Brown took ownership for the turnovers and said he and the Celtics need to be better with the ball. But making up for it in the moment is what really matters, and Brown came through.
9. It wasn’t a huge scoring game from Jayson Tatum, but he made a lot of plays as a passer, in addition to a couple as a scorer. This was Tatum’s best individual play of the night, as barely anyone breaks Herb Jones down off the bounce like this:
Late in the game, Tatum delivered too. This was a huge play, because the Pelicans had just cut the Celtics lead to six. Tatum could have forced this, but he trusts his teammates and finds Grant Williams in his corner office:
A little later, Tatum did it himself by muscling over C.J. McCollum for the floater to finish off New Orleans:
10. Nine wins in a row. It’s really remarkable how well Boston is playing right now. Next up is a trip to Chicago to play the suddenly reeling Bulls. Chicago has dropped four straight to fall to a disappointing 6-10 on the season.
But the Celtics know nothing comes easy for them against the Bulls. The good news is that Boston has the weekend off before playing in Chicago on Monday night. Is a double-digit win streak on tap? Tune in Monday to see if it’s 10 in a row for the guys in green.