After their roughest patch of the season, the Boston Celtics came out with a defiant performance on Christmas Eve’s Eve, beating the Minnesota Timberwolves 121-109 Friday night to snap their three-game losing streak. With the win, Boston has now leapt back into first place in the Eastern Conference, and will face the Milwaukee Bucks on Christmas Day on Sunday, 5 pm EST tipoff.
The Celtics were led by their star duo of Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum, who each had 30+ points for the 17th time in the regular season, passing Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen for 3rd place all-time for the most 30-point games by a duo. Brown scored 23 points in the fourth quarter to close out the victory for Boston, and the Celtics stars reset the energy for the team ahead of their showdown with the Bucks.
That was the 17th regular-season game in which both Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum scored 30+ points, which pushes them past Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen into 3rd place all-time for most 30-point games by teammates. pic.twitter.com/vepPJ2rb6l— Taylor Snow (@taylorcsnow) December 24, 2022
“We needed a win,” said Jayson Tatum in his postgame interview. “We hadn’t been playing great. For everybody to contribute and for us to finally get back in the win column, everybody feels a little better about themselves after tonight, and hopefully it continues.”
The biggest thing for Boston is how they would respond to adversity, and while the three-point shots weren’t falling for them, the team kept hustling and got back to what worked best for them. This tough stretch of poor performances was clearly taking a mental toll on the Celtics, so to have them come out and play the way they did before a big game on Sunday was crucial.
Jaylen Brown wasn’t the only Celtics player with a bounce back game, with Al Horford and Derrick White chipping in big contributions. White had an especially important game, scoring 18 points on 8-of-13 shooting along with five rebounds, three assists, and two blocks. Since hitting a tough stretch of shooting, it was important for White to see some shots go down, and his aggressive play was massive in Boston’s win over Minnesota. With a fresh new haircut and rediscovered confidence, Derrick White looked more like the player we saw at the beginning of the season, slashing and finishing at the rim.
Jayson Tatum says Derrick White look a little "younger" with his new haircut pic.twitter.com/gAs93JNrWM— Celtics on NBC Sports Boston (@NBCSCeltics) December 24, 2022
Jayson Tatum joked about White’s new look and said, “he cut his s*** off. He looks good. He looks a little younger.” Tatum went on to praise White’s performance, and overall spoke glowingly about him as a teammate. “D-White is the ultimate teammate and somebody that everybody would love to play with,” said Tatum “Just letting him know that we need him.”
When this roster has performed at its best, the team has been confident in themselves and each other, and if Tatum’s statements on White are any indicator, the Celtics are aware of that, too.
Marcus Smart crashed Jaylen Brown’s interview following the game, and reminded him that this is how he needs to play and to stop hanging his head. When criticisms are mounting during the team’s first bout of real adversity, the state of being constantly under the microscope takes a mental toll on players.
The Celtics know how they need to play, and they certainly know when they aren’t playing up to snuff or getting the best out of each other. When everyone is telling you when and how you’re screwing up, it’s important for someone to tell you what you’re doing right, whether that be a teammate or a coach. For Boston, their win over Minnesota is a step towards getting themselves on track, and with Sunday’s matchup looming large, a win couldn’t hurt their confidence in the slightest.