1. Another game against another playoff team and another Boston Celtics blowout win. The Minnesota Timberwolves aren’t the Wolves we’re used to. This version is pretty good. They’ve actually rivaled Boston atop most metrics over the last month, including record.
The Celtics didn’t seem to care all that much.
This 22-3 stretch has lifted Boston to first place in the Eastern Conference. The many runaways during that stretch has upped the Celtics scoring margin to +6.8. That’s now second in the NBA behind only the Phoenix Suns, who have been dominant all season.
2. We have to start here, because the most important takeaway is that Robert Williams got hurt. As of this writing, we don’t know the severity of what the Celtics are calling a sprained left knee. Williams exited late in the third quarter and was ruled out for the night shortly thereafter.
Ime Udoka said Williams was unsure when he got hurt, but that following the game he was in “quite a bit of pain.” Boston already ruled Williams out for the back-to-back in Toronto on Monday.
When he was in there, Williams was effective. This play here is why Udoka has him playing that off-ball roamer role:
Williams continues to clean things up on the offense glass. This is good activity to get the and-1 off the offensive rebound:
And now we hold our collective breath as we await the inevitable news on how long the Celtics will be without their talented young big man.
3. The Celtics have climbed up to eighth in offensive rating. A big part of that is pushing the ball to find easy offense in transition. Marcus Smart finding Jaylen Brown on a backdoor cut before the defense is set is becoming a regular thing:
Smart also does a good job with the hit-ahead pass to find mismatches like this:
And when you embrace chaos, things like this happen:
4. Payton Pritchard is so dialed in that he could throw a watermelon through a keyhole right now. The second-year sniper went 3-for-5 from deep to raise his three-point percentage to 41.5% on the season. Pritchard is really good about getting to his spots and patiently waiting. This is also a high-level read from Jayson Tatum to whip it to the corner:
Pritchard and Derrick White have developed a really good chemistry. Pritchard made the hard push and when White drove the closeout, Pritchard relocated for the three:
5. In the first quarter, Karl-Anthony Towns took advantage of Al Horford being out. Towns scored 12 points on 5-of-8 shooting. For the rest of the game, Boston held the All-Star center to just seven points on 3-of-7 shooting.
Grant Williams did the bulk of the defending against Towns, but with foul trouble and the absence of Horford hurting the Celtics bigs, Jayson Tatum stepped up too. Tatum defended Towns for 15 possessions. During that time, Towns went 0-for-4 and turned it over once.
The Celtics also mixed in a variation of double-teams and Daniel Theis pitched in one-on-one too. But Tatum stepping up to defend the Wolves best player was further proof that he’s deserving of MVP votes and an All-NBA First Team nod.
6. On the end of the floor where everyone knows Jayson Tatum is really good, he delivered. This is a coast-to-coast play where Tatum reminds everyone who the best player on the floor is:
And how about a four-point play to end the third quarter and basically finish the Wolves off with a whole period to play?
7. Derrick White is shaking off that shooting slump he had been in. He’s gone 13-of-26 from the floor over the last three games, including 5-of-12 from three.
Here’s White and Payton Pritchard teaming up for a steal. Then White proves again that he’s one of the craftier finishers the Celtics have, as he paused to draw the and-1:
If you watch this clip without sound, you can hear Tommy Heinsohn chortling with utter glee. Marcus Smart pushes, White catches and passes without ever hitting the ground for Daniel Theis to get the dunk:
8. Aaron Nesmith was the playing time beneficiary with Al Horford out and Nesmith made the most of it. This was one of his classic “Crash” plays. Nesmith keeps the rebound alive and ends up with the finish:
This play actually started the Smart-White-Theis lob from the previous takeaway, but it was so good from Nesmith that he gets his own for his part. After Jayson Tatum’s coast-to-coast dunk, the Wolves pushed in transition. Taurean Prince thinks he has an easy layup, but Nesmith has other ideas:
This is really good stuff from Nesmith too. He could have shot this, but he sees the lane to attack the rim before he even catches the ball. Nesmith also does a good job using the rim to protect the shot by going to the reverse:
9. We’re closing with this one, because this is the sort of stuff you can do when you’re demolishing everyone on a nightly basis:
10. The Celtics are off to Toronto to face the Raptors on the second night of a back-to-back. As of this writing, we have no real idea who will play in that game on Monday night.
And that’s ok!
Yes, Boston just moved into first place, but health matters more than seeding. We know Robert Williams is out. Al Horford doesn’t sound likely to play as he handles a personal matter. Both Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum made reference to sore knees after the game. Both said they would be fine, but it was enough to land them on the injury report before Sunday’s game.
Don’t be surprised if this is a throwaway, schedule loss moment for Ime Udoka. No one will care if the Celtics are the top seed if they aren’t healthy when the playoffs start. This could be a night to throw one away, let the kids play a lot and get back to work on Wednesday against the Miami Heat.
Then again, these Celtics seem to embrace adversity and relish the fight. Either way, don’t get too worked up if Monday night doesn’t go Boston’s way. Keep the long-term in mind over the short-term.