1. Some holdouts on the Boston Celtics were saying “Let me know when they beat a good team”. Does a 48-point road win over the Philadelphia 76ers work for you? And before you counter with “They didn’t have James Harden”, let’s stop you to remind you that James Harden doesn’t make a 48-point difference.
This was a statement game and the Celtics delivered a complete whooping.
Boston never trailed and they led by as many as 51 points. The Celtics starters didn’t see the floor in the fourth quarter. And the only reason any rotation regulars played in the fourth is become the team was shorthanded.
If that’s not enough for you, let’s note that Boston was without Robert Williams and that Marcus Smart got hurt in the first half.
If you aren’t onboard now, it’s because you’re stubbornly holding out for whatever reason makes sense to you. But that’s you a problem, not a Celtics problem. As a matter of fact, the Celtics don’t have many problems at all at the moment.
2. Jaylen Brown said this game was one the team had talked about being one they had to win. And Brown delivered on that talk right from the jump.
First set of the game, a simple down-screen to free up Brown for a jumper, showed the Celtics are happy to attack the weakest defender in any lineup, no matter who it is:
If a smaller player is the only thing between Brown and the rim, he’s off to the paint. Notice his patience with the dribble, as Brown lets everyone space so help can’t come:
When you’re feeling it like Brown was, you can 100% let a heat-check fly:
Two defenders to keep Brown from beating the buzzer? Good luck:
In all, Brown scored 26 points in the first half on 9-of-14 shooting, including 5-of-5 from behind the arc. In a statement game, Brown delivered statement play.
3. Jayson Tatum finished the night with 28 points, but we’re going to focus on his non-scoring efforts. First off, Tatum grabbed 12 rebounds. He’s up to a career-best 8.5 rebounds per game on the season. He’s regularly turning in points/rebounds double-doubles now.
Tatum is also getting to the point where he’s a nightly triple-double threat too. Passes like this are why. Tatum attacks quickly, reads the helper coming to double to find Grant Williams wide-open:
Tatum’s defense has been outstanding this season as well. He regularly locks his own man up, but he’s come a long way as a help-defender too. This is a perfect read to drop off a non-shooter to help at the rim for the block:
This play shows how far the Celtics and Tatum have come at making the right plays and the unselfish plays. Two paint attacks and then Tatum makes the extra pass at the end. This is beautiful basketball:
4. Without Robert Williams, it was going to be a tall task for the Celtics bigs against Joel Embiid. Embiid got to the free throw line a lot, because that’s what he does. But outside of the freebies, he was neutralized by the trio of Al Horford, Grant Williams and the re-debuting Daniel Theis.
That threesome held Embiid to just 3-of-9 from the floor and forced three turnovers. That’s how the Celtics bigs will get you: in waves and with their versatility of style.
Rob Williams was missed, because he’s been terrific this year, but not as much as he could have been. That’s because the two vets and Grant Williams more than capably held down the paint.
5. Let’s stick with the bigs for a bit. Grant Williams’ spot-up shooting has been absurd. He’s up to second in the NBA at 44.1% on three-pointers. As we’ve pointed out before, that’s causing teams to really close on him hard at the arc. That’s giving Williams the space to make plays like this off the bounce:
6. This one felt good for all the Celtics, but no one more than Al Horford. He played a big role in keeping Joel Embiid in check and delivered on the glass, as well. Horford is also rediscovering the range on his jumper. Over the last month, he’s at 36% from behind the arc, after a terrible slump to open the season. Open looks like this help. If Boston meets a drop-coverage team in the playoffs, this is a shot Horford will have to make:
7. Last, but certainly not least, welcome back Daniel Theis! Theis did exactly what the Celtics need him to: play defense, screen, keep the ball moving and hit the occasional jumper. Five points, nine rebounds, two assist and four blocks is one heck of a re-debut. This play was a nice reminder of what Theis can bring to the team:
8. Boston’s other new addition couldn’t be fitting in any better. Derrick White was an absurd +41 in 28 minutes, and it felt like it. He was constantly racing up and down the floor and into the jerseys of the Sixers players.
The addition of White could take on even more importance, as Marcus Smart rolled his ankle and had to leave the game at the end of the first half. As much as it would hurt to be without Smart, the presence of White eases the mind considerably.
9. Aaron Nesmith scored a career-high 18 points. Yes, a good chunk came in garbage time, but Nesmith got early minutes and delivered as well. Postgame, Ime Udoka called out Nesmith’s activity as a positive during his initial stretch.
Getting this transition triple to drop was great to see for the second-year wing. Soft touch too, as it nestled through:
This one is a good read from Nesmith. The defender is positioned the wrong way on the closeout. Nesmith blows right by before finishing with a well-contested floater:
10. Ime Udoka had praise for his bench. The reserves have been shaky at times when it comes to holding big leads. Not only did they hold this one (had they not, it would have been full-on panic time!), but they increased it.
The backups played the entire fourth quarter. And Brodric Thomas helped to make a little Celtics history. This shot was the 25th three-pointer of the night for Boston, which set a single-game franchise record:
Also: this was really good ball movement too!
11. Nine in a row. The Celtics are now within striking distance of homecourt advantage in the first round of the playoffs. Not only that, but it’s not entirely out of the realm of possibility that they could push to the top of the conference.
But all that is to be decided. The one-game at a time approach is working. So, it’s back to Boston and “on to the Pistons” to see if the Celtics can hit the break on a 10-game win streak.