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Defensively dominant in chippy, physical win: 10 Takeaways from Celtics-Warriors

Boston got their west coast trip off to a good start by putting the clamps on Golden State’s offense

NBA: Boston Celtics at Golden State Warriors Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

1. This was a physical, chippy game and the Boston Celtics didn’t shrink from the moment. As a matter of fact, Boston hasn’t shrunk from the moment when playing the Golden State Warriors since they became the WARRIORS. The Celtics have won six of their last seven road games against the Warriors in either their new or old building.

After falling short against the Dallas Mavericks on Sunday, this was a more complete game. The defense was even better than it was against Dallas, which is saying quite a lot. And the offense turned things way up in the second half in this victory.

Golden State tried a similar tactic to the Mavs by doubling Jayson Tatum, but this time around the Celtics were ready. They had players in better positions to react to the doubles and it resulted in a lot of really good looks throughout the second half of the game.

2. Since defense was the story, of the game, let’s start with a guy who should be on the All-Defense team: Robert Williams. The ball may have needed reinflated after this volley-ball spike:

Williams gets beat backdoor on this play, but he’s so quick and athletic, that he recovers to pin the ball on the glass. Note the push the other way for the transition triple too:

A minute or so later, Jordan Poole beats Jayson Tatum backdoor, but Williams is there to clean it up:

And then there was this absurdity in help defense:

Monster game for a monster player.

3. Speaking of All-Defense guys, Marcus Smart had another solid game. On both ends, too. In addition to his always great defense, Smart added 20 points on 8-of-12 shooting and eight assists. This was one of Smart’s signature “cobra strikes”:

Look at how small the window is to get this pass to Jaylen Brown on the backdoor cut. And-1:

This is a good example of the Celtics reading the Warriors doubling Jayson Tatum really well. Smart gets into a good spot and finds Brown on a well-timed cut for another and-1:

If you trail Rob Williams even a little bit on a basket cut, Smart’s throwing him the lob. And Smart throws this one from the edge of the logo:

4. It was another weird Jaylen Brown game. He double-clutched a wide-open three early in the first quarter. He often seemed to drive without a plan. Then other times, he was assertive with his drives and cuts and made plays.

This was a really good, patient play by Brown. He set up the defender with the dribble and used a nice little head/shoulder fake to get the flyby for the layup:

This play was not good, and a sign of how Brown is just sort of out of rhythm. Backing the ball out to attack the big on the mismatch is great. You just can’t do it with under 10 on the shot-clock. You end up with a shot like this:

Overall, Brown’s numbers were solid. And he wasn’t exactly bad. He just seems a little out of sorts over the last couple of weeks.

5. The Celtics dominated the Warriors defensively. Boston is the only team in the NBA holding opponents under 50% shooting on two-point shots (49.3%). After holding Golden State to 11-of-48 from distance, Boston is atop the NBA’s three-point defense at 33.5%. They also now lead the league in Defensive Rating.

The Celtics defense has been excellent for a couple of months now. But this was a special performance against a really good team. This, more than almost any other factor, is why you should have hope for a deep playoff run.

6. It wasn’t one of his signature scoring performances, but Jayson Tatum still got to 26 points. The sign of Tatum leveling-up his scoring is that he gets to the free throw line more than ever now. After Wednesday night’s 11-for-12, Tatum is up to 6.3 free throw attempts per game, which is a career-best.

The jumper remains pretty good too. This one came off a nice ATO set called by Ime Udoka:

But this is how Tatum is taking over games now. If he gets his shoulders past the defender, it’s over. This is a very strong finish through contact:

7. Let’s be momentarily nitpicky, shall we? Golden State scored 32 points in the first half. The Warriors dropped 37 in the third quarter. Now, to be fair, the Dubs are the NBA’s best third quarter team. They regularly take over games after the break.

But…this is two games in a row where Boston’s defense was shaky coming out of the locker room. And it was two games in a row it sort of happened in the same way.

The switching defense is great, when the communication is good and Boston is scramming out of mismatches. The Celtics got sloppy after halftime with their connectivity and communication and Jordan Poole, like Luka Doncic did on Sunday, made them pay.

Boston figured it out and got back on track in the fourth, but let’s leave this one as something to keep an eye on.

8. Payton Pritchard came up big in the fourth quarter. He scored all 10 of his points in the final frame. And he’s competing on defense too. This is really good stuff from Pritchard here against a much bigger player in Klay Thompson:

And this sort of range is helping to open up Boston’s offense in a major way when teams double Jayson Tatum:

9. Nik Stauskas scored his first basket as a member of the Celtics, and it was a perfect capper to a great night for Boston:

10. Boston is off to Sacramento on Friday to continue the west coast trip. As well as the Celtics have played against the Warriors in recent years on the road, they have a weird history against the Kings in Sacramento.

We said a 2-2 was the goal for the trip. 3-1 would be gravy and 4-0 a dream.

Go ahead and dream a little bit. This team has earned it.

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