clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Flipping the switch: 10 Takeaways from Celtics-Hornets

Boston extended their streak to six straight wins with a big second half in Charlotte

NBA: Boston Celtics at Charlotte Hornets Nell Redmond-USA TODAY Sports

1. Talk about flipping the switch. For most of the first half, the Boston Celtics seemed to be going through the motions, and the Charlotte Hornets took advantage. With about two minutes to play before the break, Boston locked in. That carried over to the second half, and the Celtics never looked back.

From trailing by as many as 16 points to leading by as many as 18 points, to running away with a 16-point win, Boston flipped the switch in a major way.

Sure, you’d prefer the Celtics showed up ready to dominate from the opening tip. But that’s simply not how it works. Some nights that will bite you. You let the opponent out of the box and can’t cram them back in. Some games you can’t get it together in time to make the rally. But on other nights, you figure it out and pull away for a win.

Coming off a string of impressive victories, we aren’t going to look down on the Celtics for not having it together against a far lesser opponent for 48 minutes. It’s easy to say “What if they didn’t rally?” and to be negative. But that’s missing that Boston did, in fact, rally. They woke up and took care of business in an impressive way in the second half, especially so considering they were down two starters.

2. Even when the Celtics defense was leaving a lot to be desired, the offense was pretty dialed in. Boston tallied 35 assists on 47 baskets. The first half featured a lot of great ball movement where everyone was getting a tough, while the second half was the more traditional drive-and-kick, pick-and-roll and running the break stuff.

Kickout pass, swing pass, extra pass, splash:

It’s unfortunate that Derrick White got hurt (suffered a neck sprain after a collision with Marcus Smart in the first quarter), because he was off to a terrific start.

The plays where Boston moves the ball best often end in an open three-pointer, but sometimes they finish at the rim. Good job by Luke Kornet to keep this ball alive to start the play. From there, Marcus Smart makes a great pass to the cutting Malcolm Brogdon, who leaves it for Kornet to finish off with the dunk:

That same trio connects here. Kornet does a nice job being big and in the way on the handoff to Smart. When he goes up, Smart is going to shoot this, but he finds Brogdon. Because Kornet is taking up space, the Hornets can’t help the helper. And the weakside wing isn’t leaving Al Horford, who already hit a couple of threes. The result is an open triple for Brogdon:

In late-clock situations, it’s common for the ballhandler to try and do it himself. Here, Brogdon draws the defense and drops it off to Rob Williams. Now, to be balanced, Williams should have just dunked this. No reason to make things harder than they need to be Instead, Williams kicks it out to Jayson Tatum, who fires the one-handed swing pass to Horford in one motion. Horford knows the clock and flips it to Brogdon, who relocated to the corner after passing to Williams to start the cycle:

3. We’re going to pause here to give some love to Malcolm Brogdon. This was his best game as a Celtic, and it came when the team really needed it. Jaylen Brown was out due to his sore adductor, and Derrick White was lost early in the first quarter.

That meant Brogdon had to see an uptick in minutes and production. In 31 minutes, the veteran guard dropped in 30 points on 11-of-17 shooting, including 4-of-6 from behind the arc.

You’ll see Brogdon sprinkled in a lot of the clips we pulled, but there aren’t a ton of true “wow!” plays from him. He’s just steadily solid. Nothing flashy, but more often than not, Brogdon makes the right play. Boston is very lucky to have him.

4. As much as Malcolm Brogdon’s play helped get the Celtics going, Rob Williams is the one who really got things turned around for the Celtics.

Early on, Williams did his vertical spacing thing on back-to-back trips. This is casual excellence, as Jayson Tatum flips the lob to Rob:

If the big cheats too early when a Boston ballhandler drives off a screen, Williams is coming in the backdoor for the lob:

While the lobs are fun, it was Williams’ energy and effort that changed the game. This monster offensive rebound and putback for the and-1 finished off a possession where Williams kept the ball alive for three shots:

On this play, Williams dug out the loose ball before getting it to Al Horford to swing to Malcolm Brogdon:

Those two plays, plus Williams urging a pickup in the defensive intensity, helped Boston flip the switch late in the first half.

5. Earlier, we covered some of the ball movement from Boston where a bunch of guys touched the ball to make plays. Here’s some equally good ball and player movement, but in two-man actions.

On this play, Marcus Smart threw a bomb to Jayson Tatum that is as good as any you’ll see in the NFL playoffs this weekend:

This was a great late-clock cut by Payton Pritchard and an outstanding find from Al Horford:

Horford played a terrific all-around game in this one. Pritchard helps out here by setting a very good screen to free Jayson Tatum on the cut:

This was a simple, but smart pass from Smart. He throws it away from the paint, where the help is and helps lead Tatum to the baseline, where he can overpower Terry Rozier:

6. Jayson Tatum and Malcolm Brogdon combined for 63 points, but this was another win for Boston where they got a lot from the whole active roster. Everyone who played contributed. Al Horford had his best all-around game of the season, while Rob Williams energy changed the game before the half. Luke Kornet and Grant Williams didn’t score much, but filled up the stat sheet in other ways, including some good defense in the second half.

Derrick White was off to a hot start before getting hurt, and Marcus Smart was dropping dimes all over the place. And Payton Pritchard turned in a second strong outing off the bench.

The Celtics bench depth beyond Brogdon doesn’t always jump out at you. But if you watch every game, you see those guys know their roles. They’re prepared to do what is asked of them, even when the playing time is inconsistent. It’s the kind of solid bench that can help you navigate a long regular season and can be additive in the playoffs.

7. It’s a sign of how good the Celtics were as a whole, that Jayson Tatum’s best plays are this deep in the Takeaways. Tatum did his best work in the mid-post area. By taking no dribbles, the help doesn’t know when to come and Tatum has the size and skill to turn and shoot over most defenders:

This is a mid-post touch in transition. From there, Tatum uses the lightning-quick spin to get to the baseline drive for the dunk:

This another no-dribble shot from the mid-post area. This time, Tatum has the much smaller defender and simply rises and fires over him:

8. Al Horford does most of his work as a stretch big now. It’s been an evolution that began in his last year in Atlanta and continued through both of his Boston tenures. Even with a slump in December, Horford is shooting 44.1% from behind the arc this year.

The corner three, the right corner specifically, has become Horford’s money shot:

This is the other shot Horford gets a lot. Bigs instinctually get back in transition to protect the paint. Each game, Horford gets a three or two in transition as a trailer or semi-trailer:

9. We called it out earlier, but this was another really productive game for Payton Pritchard. He may be the best catch-and-shoot-on-the-move shooter on the Celtics. Look at how hard Pritchard comes off this screen to get himself open:

He’s not Marcus Smart or Derrick White, but if you get cute with the dribble, Pritchard will pick your pocket and head the other way:

The NBA’s leader in offensive rebounds per inches tall was at it again too:

10. It wasn’t the prettiest start for the Celtics, but they got it done in the end. That’s what matters.

Now, they’ve got to do it again on Monday afternoon. Boston is sticking in Charlotte to close out the mini-series with an MLK Day matinee. It’s hard to beat the same team twice in a row, but the Celtics should be in good shape to pull it off, even if Derrick White doesn’t play.

After the MLK Day game, Boston has two days off before a big rematch with the Golden State Warriors at TD Garden on Thursday. Then it’s right back on the road again. But the Celtics can’t overlook the Hornets. Take care of that one first, then getting some measure of revenge can be handled late next week.

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

A daily roundup of Boston Celtics news from Celtics Blog