clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

No sleeping in Brooklyn: 10 Takeaways from Celtics-Nets

Boston got a shorthanded win behind a strong team effort to push the win streak to five

Boston Celtics v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

1. The Boston Celtics are rolling again. Yes, the Brooklyn Nets were without Kevin Durant, but Boston was without Jaylen Brown and Al Horford. And the Celtics still put the clamps on the Nets before pulling away late for their fifth straight victory.

The Celtics are going to be without Brown for somewhere between one and two weeks. With five of the next seven games on the road, it’s a tough time to be without an All-Star, but Boston has to make it work. They’ve built a little bit of cushion atop the Eastern Conference standings, but a bad week or two could see that undone.

However, against a tough opponent on the road, Boston buckled down and figured it out. They’re winning differently than early in the year, when a historically good offense was propping up a shaky defense. Now, the defense is supporting a middling offensive attack. Mostly, we’ll take it as a sign the Celtics can win different ways, and that’s comforting ahead of what we hope is a long playoff run this spring.

2. With Jaylen Brown out and Al Horford resting on the second night of a back-to-back, someone had to step up for Boston. Instead of someone, it was a whole bunch of someones. Six players scored in double-figures and the team had 23 assists on 41 baskets. Jayson Tatum did his thing, despite an off-shooting night, but all of the “other” Celtics really played well.

This is what the guys in green will need over the next week or so, while Brown is out. Other players are going to have to score, defend and make plays. So far, so good.

3. After a pretty rough December, Malcolm Brogdon has found his form. He’s averaged 15.1 points on 48/48/96 shooting splits in seven January games thus far. And Brogdon has kept up steady rebounding and playmaking in his 23.8 minutes per night too.

When it comes to scoring, Brogdon is doing a bit of everything. Brogdon uses his strength and size here to get to a nice little fallaway in the paint:

One of the appeals of adding Brogdon to this roster was his ability to play off the ball. He’s a good spot-up guy, as he shows here by finishing off some nice ball movement:

On the next trip, following a great rear-contest block by Grant Williams, the Nets defense dropped too far off Brogdon. The result is an easy pullup three in transition:

This was a good steal by Brogdon, followed by the hard push in transition for what should have been an and-1 layup:

4. Luke Kornet is poised to play a big role for Boston in the second half off the regular season. Rob Williams and Al Horford are going to be spotted some rest/maintenance days. Joe Mazzulla can feel comfortable doing that when Kornet produced like he has in the last two games.

This isn’t the cleanest pass and catch here, but Kornet doesn’t panic. He settles himself before confidently turning into the jump hook:

When he first came into the NBA, Kornet earned the “UniKornet” moniker because he was a 7-footer who mostly shot threes. He hasn’t taken as many longballs while with Boston, but he can certainly still space the floor better than most fives:

11 points and five rebounds in 16 minutes against the Nets, after some really solid defense against the New Orleans Pelicans the night before. Boston has four capable bigs, even if Kornet has a limited role some nights.

5. Marcus Smart continues to excel at running the Celtics offense. After missing a couple of games, Smart picked right up where he left off. 16 points, 10 assists, six rebounds, two steals and some outstanding individual defense on Kyrie Irving in the fourth quarter is the Celtics leader stepping up when his team needed him most.

Larry Bird didn’t need to see passes to know they were there for the making. He just did. Smart has some of that in him too:

At least once per game now, Smart throws a halfcourt or three-quarter-court pass to a teammate that leaves you wondering “How did that get there?”:

Smart is also great about throwing the lobs to his bigs. After breaking down the defense, he’s perfectly happy to let Luke Kornet finish the play:

This is just beautiful basketball. Jayson Tatum outlets to Smart, who pushes hard up the floor. Grant Williams dumps it into Rob Williams, who reverses it back out to Smart. Then, notice that Smart knows he has to get it to Derrick White quickly, or the defender will close to the corner. Gorgeous stuff:

6. Obviously, with two starters out, Joe Mazzulla was going to have to make some rotation tweaks. As noted above, Luke Kornet played more, but Mazzulla had to go beyond that. Sam Hauser would have been the logical choice to eat up more wing minutes, but the Nets were making an effort to go at him on defense. (Hauser isn’t holding up quite as well in isolation defense as he did earlier this season.) So, Mazzulla pulled Hauser from the rotation, played Grant Williams a lot more, Jayson Tatum a bit more and gave real minutes to Payton Pritchard.

Yes, the lack of timeouts can be irksome, but Mazzulla is making in-game adjustments. And he does them on an every-game basis with the rotation or with strategy. He deserves a lot more credit for being a good in-game coach than he’s gotten.

7. Speaking of Payton Pritchard, he was terrific. There’s room for him to play a lot while Jaylen Brown is out. Most of Boston’s upcoming opponents don’t play with great size, so Pritchard should see the floor for regular minutes. And if he plays like he did in Brooklyn, there’s no way to keep him off the floor.

On this play, both Pritchard and Sam Hauser use their shooting ability to put Joe Harris in a tough spot. As Malcolm Brogdon pushes, Harris has a choice to make: stick with Hauser on the wing one-pass away, or drop to take away Pritchard in the corner. He can’t do both, but he tries to split the difference. The result is Harris running out to Hauser, who makes the nice extra pass to Pritchard:

Late in the third quarter and early fourth quarter, Pritchard kind of took over for a couple of minutes. This play started with Pritchard holding up inside as T.J. Warren tried to post him up. Then he sprints the floor, but doesn’t settle for the contested jumper. Instead, Pritchard attacks hard for the layup:

Boston did well in non-Tatum minutes by going +13. Part of that was plays like this. Pritchard reads that Nic Claxton has picked up Brogdon on his drive and stayed with Brogdon as he floats outsides. With no shot-blocker back, Pritchard is off to the rim again:

On the next play, with the floor spaced well, Pritchard gets into the paint for the rainbow pullup:

Nine points in 15 minutes is really good production for a guy whose playing time yo-yos from game to game. And Pritchard kept up his impressive league-leading offensive rebounds per inches tall production (a totally made-up stat) with three more offensive boards.

8. Derrick White had another really productive game. If anyone can be described as steadily solid, it’s White. He also might be the best shot-block guard in the NBA, with ample consideration given to Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.

White’s victim in this one was T.J. Warren. This isn’t a block from behind, nor a strip, but White stepping up to provide rim protection like he’s a traditional 4 or 5:

On the other end of the floor, it was Mr. White in the corner with the dagger:

9. In the above clip, you saw Jayson Tatum quickly make the swing to Derrick White in the corner. That was one example of Tatum making non-scoring plays to help the Celtics to the win. He got started early by blocking Kyrie Irving’s step-back three:

A little later, Tatum showed again just how much he’s leveled up as a passer with this crosscourt find to White:

Like Marcus Smart, Jayson Tatum also enjoys throwing lobs to his big men, especially Rob Williams:

10. Five straight wins. On top of the East by three games. Best record in the entire NBA by two games. The Celtics are rolling heading into mid-January. A month out from the trade deadline, things are somewhat quiet around Boston’s roster. Maybe they could use another wing. But beyond getting and staying healthy, there isn’t a whole lot the Celtics need.

They’ve got a mini-series in Charlotte, including a matinee game on MLK Day, before getting back home for the rematch with the Golden State Warriors. The Celtics can’t look past the Hornets, as beating even bad teams twice in a row can be hard. But if there’s a spot to be without Jaylen Brown for a bit, these next two games are probably it.

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for the Celtics Blog Daily Roundup newsletter!

A daily roundup of Boston Celtics news from Celtics Blog