1. Remember when the Boston Celtics turned things around, but the narrative went “They haven’t played anyone!”? Yeah, that was dumb.
Boston has won 19 of their last 22 games. Of those 19 wins, 13 have come against teams that will be in the NBA’s postseason.
More simply put: The Celtics beat good teams. The Celtics beat bad teams. And more often than not lately, they are destroying teams.
2. Jaylen Brown had another big game. It’s good to see Brown put together back-to-back good games after a series of uneven performances.
In this one, Brown showed off his three-level scoring. He opened the game with a step-back three-pointer:
Later in the first quarter, Brown pushed the ball in transition to get an and-1:
Then, Brown did a nice job getting to the midrange pullup off the dribble:
This sort of ability to score at all three levels is going to be big in the playoffs, especially when Boston sees different sorts of coverages.
3. Marcus Smart likes throwing the “Rob Lob” more than anyone, but Al Horford might be second.
This is a terrific play design. Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum stay equally spaced to the opposite wings. Nikola Jokic and Jeff Green do a nice job initially of taking away Robert Williams’ roll to the rim. But because Marcus Smart keeps his dribble alive, Jokic has to hedge. That allows Horford to pop free, Green follows, Rob is open for the lob:
Also, this is a reshare (we’d give credit if we knew who created it!), but it’s so apt and captures the emotions around the Celtics perfectly right now!
4. Playoff series are about adjustments and then adjustments to those adjustments. Teams aren’t going to let Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown walk into shots. They also aren’t going to want to let Boston beat them by lobbing the ball to the bigs at the rim. That makes this a shot Marcus Smart has to take and make:
5. Ime Udoka has made a tweak from the eight-man rotation that helped turn the season around, by expanding it to a nine-man rotation. Grant Williams, Derrick White and Payton Pritchard are all playing the heavier bench minutes, but Daniel Theis seems to be a permanent member of the group now too.
There’s room for all of them, because they bring different skills. But all four have contributed and have helped ease the burden on what has been a somewhat taxed starting group. The next few takeaways will focus on the reserves and their efforts in the win over the Nuggets.
6. Robert Williams and Al Horford both got into a little early foul trouble trying to handle Nikola Jokic. That meant Ime Udoka had to call on Daniel Theis and Theis delivered. Hitting the pick-and-pop jumper is part of what Theis does best:
Sneaking through the backdoor for dunks and layups is also a skill Theis has. This is a good read by Derrick White too:
Those two baskets were part of Theis scoring seven-straight Celtics points, as Boston took control of the game at the end of the first quarter.
7. Grant Williams made it known that he’d like to be called Batman, much to the confusion of Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum. The reasoning seems fairly sound though: Batman locks up the Joker. Grant Williams locks up Nikola Jokic. Draw your own conclusions!
But no matter what we call him, we can call Williams a good, and important, basketball player. We’ve talked about Williams driving closeouts, but this sort of power finish is a new one:
How about a little skill to go with the strength?
This is a heads-up play by both Williams and Payton Pritchard. Good offensive rebound and a spot-on relocation by Pritchard to get an open look:
And if you do stuff like this to the Joker, you can be Batman:
8. Payton Pritchard’s shooting ability is huge for the Celtics offense. Yes, they need shot-makers. That’s obvious. But Pritchard’s ability to space from well beyond the arc is a real key to opening up driving and passing lanes. This is a good example of how much room he creates before draining the jumper:
One of Kemba Walker’s best attributes was his outstanding pullup jumper. Boston hasn’t had a ballhandler who does it consistently this season. But Pritchard is figuring it out. Drop against him if you dare. This sort of shot will be huge against a couple of different Eastern Conference playoff teams:
9. Jayson Tatum wasn’t on the floor at the end of the game, but he still closed it out. First, Tatum hit this three-pointer to basically end any chance Denver had at a comeback:
Then, Tatum sent the in-person Celtics fans, of which there were a lot (Like, a whole lot. Shoutout to Denver-area Boston fans for bringing the noise all game long.) into hysterics with this hammer dunk:
10. It’s right back to work for the Celtics, as they travel east to play at the Oklahoma City Thunder on Monday night. That’s the final game of this four-game road trip.
When the trip started, we said 2-2 out west was the goal, 3-1 was gravy and 4-0 was a dream. Well, start dreaming.
As a matter of fact, start dreaming about all sorts of stuff. It’s ok. Go crazy! Dreams are good things. After all, dreams are what get you through the darkness.
Postgame Jaylen Brown said one of his favorite quotes is “Winter always turns to spring”.
It’s springtime. If the Celtics keep playing like this, they might take us straight on till summer.