Week Two of the NBA season is in the books, and there’s no shortage of things to discuss as the Celtics continued their season-opening win streak. Let’s take a look at our second highly productive week of Celtics basketball.
Boston Celtics, Week 2: 3-0 record, +80 differential
Game 3: W @ Washington, 126-107
Game 4: W vs Indiana, 155-104
Game 5: W @ Brooklyn, 124-114
With five games in the books, the Boston Celtics are the NBA’s last remaining undefeated team. Not too shabby!
The Celtics fully dove into the regular season this week, with a three-game slate that saw them traveling up and down the East Coast against conference opponents Washington, Indiana and Brooklyn. The Wizards and Pacers were absolute blowouts — we’ll get to that — but the Nets provided a bit of fight, cutting the Boston lead to just three points heading into the final quarter of play before the Celtics again made the necessary plays to secure a win.
That point differential is no typo; the Washington and Indiana wins pushed the Celtics into absolutely comical territory, winning by an average of 18.4 points per game. That could be higher, too, if the back end of the bench didn’t allow the Wizards to save some face in the fourth quarter. For as much store as we can put in any statistics this early in the season, this team looks like it very well could be the NBA’s best.
Sam Hauser points package? Sam Hauser points package. pic.twitter.com/xVZbWfgg92— Boston Celtics (@celtics) November 2, 2023
What’s trending: From crunch time to garbage time
Last week, the Celtics showed us they could win close games. This week, we saw blowouts. They ran the Wizards out of the gym on Monday night, compiling 33-point lead through three quarters before the starters hit the bench in the fourth. Wednesday’s win over Indiana took that a step further, as the Celtics piled up a comical 155 points en route to a 51-point laughter over the Tyrese Haliburton-less Pacers — the second-most points in a single game in franchise history.
This team was battle-tested in the first week of the season, getting into fistfights with two Eastern Conference Playoffs hopefuls. This week, with the level of competition lowered, they did exactly what they were supposed to: they ran weaker teams out of the building, and they did it both at home and on the road. The Nets provided a bit more resistance, which isn’t altogether surprising from a team that rolls fairly deep with useful NBA players. In all, though, this Celtics team is a necessary versatility in how they’re winning games. It’s an incredibly encouraging start.
Player of the Week: Jayson Tatum
3 GP, 31.7 PPG (59% FG, 54% 3PT), 9.7 REB, 2.7 AST, +81
Jaylen Brown exploded for 36 points against Washington, while newcomers Jrue Holiday and Kristaps Porzingis continued to settle into their new digs and contributed significantly to the wins over Indiana and Brooklyn. The bench struggled against Washington, but Payton Pritchard and Sam Hauser both posted breakout shooting performances in the Indiana barnburner. This week, though, we can’t go with anyone other than Mr. 10k himself.
Early signs suggest this could be a special season for Tatum. A year after he became the first Celtic in franchise history to average 30 points per game for a season, he’s carried that pace into the new campaign, but with better efficiency and despite having now sat out the fourth quarter of two blowout wins. Tatum is averaging a hair better in terms of scoring — 30.2 this year vs 30.1 last — but his true shooting percentage has risen 70 points to a career best 67.7%. It’s no coincidence that his plus-minus mark of +81 was almost identical to the team’s +80 point differential for the week.
Will Tatum’s numbers look quite this gaudy all season long? Of course not. Projected across a full season, this combination of volume and efficiency would be historically unprecedented. We know he’s capable of handling the massive workload, though, and he’s a more skilled shooter than his 35% mark from deep over the past two seasons would suggest. Maintaining a mark in the high-30s could be the extra step needed to elevate him from the fringes of the MVP conversation to right in the middle of it.
Tatum has improved all his statistical averages in every season of his career to this point, and while that’s a trend that has to stop eventually, it’s notable that his rebounding has continued to rise. With Joe Mazzulla starting single big lineups to this point when healthy, Tatum has been tasked with playing the four full-time. He’s responded by flirting with a double-double average, grabbing 9.7 rebounds per game. Tatum is a wing by trade, but if he can continue to wield his size and length effectively on the glass, he’ll be a crucial piece in helping the team transition away from its reliance on double big lineups.
The Parquet Play: He shot from where?
Kristaps Porzingis hit just one three-pointer against the Nets on Saturday, but it was a doozy. How often do you see someone that tall hit a shot from that far away? I’ll tell you — not often. It’s a nice reminder of just how unique a weapon he is for this offense.
Around the League: More Wemby, plus the NBA’s early contenders
This isn’t going to become The Victor Wembanyama Zone. Probably. I think. When he plays like he did against Phoenix on Thursday night, though, it gets difficult to talk about anyone else. The San Antonio rookie scored a career-high 38 points against the Suns, connecting on 15-of-26 shots, grabbing 10 rebounds, swatting two shots and leading the young, upstart Spurs to their second consecutive win over the title contending (albeit shorthanded) Phoenix Suns. Wembanyama put Phoenix away with this absolutely absurd sidestep three-pointer from the top of the arc. Ridiculous!
VICTOR WEMBANYAMA HAS ARRIVED— Complex Sports (@ComplexSports) November 3, 2023
1 DAGGER pic.twitter.com/9ogEauMV0v
As mentioned above, the Celtics are last undefeated team still standing. There are a couple of one-loss teams that have impressed early, though. After losing their season opener to the Milwaukee Bucks — who look a bit messy at the moment — the Philadelphia 76ers are winners of four straight games, and sport a glossy +11.8 net rating, second only to Boston. In the Western Conference, the defending champion Denver Nuggets have picked up right where they left off, racking up a 6-1 record and +10.7 net rating with wins over the Lakers, Grizzlies and Mavericks.
Keep an eye on the Los Angeles Clippers, as well. Though they sport just a 3-2 record as of this writing, they’re third in the NBA with a +11.6 net rating and their two losses have come by just three combined possessions. Oh, and in case you missed it, they traded for James Harden, too. The oft-disgruntled guard joins an already-deep Clippers roster, and will make his Los Angeles debut on Monday against the Knicks. Health remains the ultimate question mark for this Clippers team, but right now, they’re playing like a team with the talent level to make some real noise.
The Celtics head into the third week of the season with four games lying ahead of them, three of which will come against Eastern Conference competition. They open the week on Monday night with a visit to the Minnesota Timberwolves, before traveling to Philadelphia on Wednesday to battle the rival 76ers. Then, they’ll return home for a pair of games at TD Garden, hosting the Brooklyn Nets on Friday and the Toronto Raptors on Saturday — their first back-to-back of the young season.
Six wins? Seven? Nine? The only real question to ask right now is just how far this win streak will go. Sound off with your predictions in the comments below.
Additionally, as this is just the second installment of CelticsWeek, we have plenty of opportunity for evolution ahead of us. Have any suggestions for things you’d like to see in this space on a given week? Leave a comment and let us know your thoughts!