Down three starters and with only 10 players available, Boston never trailed and led by as many as 28 points over Charlotte. Things got a little messy late in the third quarter, and the fourth was a bit uneven as well, but in the end the Celtics won their third straight game.
As it always is when the Hospital Celtics win, they had a series of players step up. Let’s take a look at the latest crew of heroes.
2. Derrick White had a monster game. It can get a little silly sometimes when a player becomes “The first in NBA history to…” followed by a bunch of arbitrary stats. But in this case, White was the first player in NBA history to hit at least eight three-pointers, dish out 10 assists and block three shots in one game. It really does describe his big night quite well.
White had already hit a bunch of shots, but when he tossed in this late-clock prayer, you had the feeling he was cooking up a special night:
There’s no hesitation on this pull at all. Just catch and immediately shoot:
When you’re as hot as White was, you let a heat check fly:
And then you do it again. Watch all the way to the end of the clip for the complete and utter shocked joy of Al Horford:
Late in the game, with the Hornets hanging around, White didn’t settle for a three. Instead, he got downhill for a floater, which has been his signature shot for a while now:
Special night for a special player, who is quickly climbing up the list of favorite Celtics for a lot of Boston fans.
3. Mike Muscala made his Celtics debut, and it couldn’t have gone much better. Shortly after checking in, Muscala did what Boston traded for him to do. He stays rooted to the weakside corner and drains the shot after Jayson Tatum draws three defenders:
This is good defense from Muscala. Moves his feet to close off the perimeter drive before blocking P.J. Washington in the paint:
Al Horford has gotten a ton of threes as the trailer in transition. Muscala will give the Celtics similar production:
Muscala is also a pick-and-pop artisan. Because he’s so big, it’s hard for anyone but the biggest, most athletic players to bother his shot. And, for a big man, Muscala has a pretty quick release:
12 points in 16 minutes off the bench for Muscala in his debut game for Boston. That’s how you instantly win over the fans.
4. The Celtics had 34 assists on 44 baskets. Five players had at least four assists, including Grant Williams tying his career-high of six dimes.
The drive-and-kick game was really working in this one. Malcolm Brogdon did a nice job of getting inside the arc and kicking back to shooters, as he did here to Payton Pritchard:
Despite being scorching hot, Derrick White stayed unselfish. This is a good setup for Sam Hauser in the corner:
This is a fun one, because there’s so much good stuff. Jayson Tatum draws two and makes the nice skip pass to Grant Williams across the floor. Williams drives the closeout and he wants to initially lob to Rob Williams, but the Hornets took that away with a rotation. So, Grant simply kicks it to White, who ended up wide-open in the corner:
Brogdon has worked for years with good shooting bigs, both in Boston and with the Indiana Pacers. He’ll find you if you’re open and Mike Muscala gets open by just staying in his spot:
5. For a lot of his career, Rob Williams has been the best athlete on the floor. That’s still regularly true, but Williams is rounding out his game as a pretty complete basketball player now too. This game was a great example.
With Boston down Al Horford and incorporating Mike Muscala for the first time, Williams had to hold down the fort up front. On a night where he didn’t have a bunch of highlight dunks or blocks, Williams helped get the win by dominating the glass. He had 16 rebounds, which was only one off his career high. Even better? Williams set a career-high with 14 defensive rebounds.
The Celtics have been waiting for Williams to assert his will on the defensive backboard. Slowly, but surely, that’s been building, and it all came out on Friday night.
6. Sam Hauser has found his range again. He got the start for Jaylen Brown again, and Boston trusts Hauser enough to run the game’s opening set for him:
Charlotte is kind of in a matchup zone here. Hauser does a nice job playing off Jayson Tatum at the nail. After helping to set the entry pass, he finds the open space for the return pass from Tatum:
7. Luke Kornet is probably the player most impacted by the addition of Mike Muscala. Some nights there won’t be minutes for both of them. But Kornet won’t sulk. He just does his thing.
On this play, Kornet rolls to where he’s supposed against some sloppy Charlotte defense. From there, it’s a patient finish for the and-1:
Kornet knows his first read in transition is to get to the front of the rim. Derrick White found him there waiting:
8. Payton Pritchard wasn’t traded at the deadline because the Celtics know they need him. Maybe he gets moved over the summer, but for now, he’s part of quality guard depth that a Finals contender needs.
Boston also loves how Pritchard pushes pace in transition. This was a good setup to lob it to Jayson Tatum on the break:
After a nice steal, Pritchard used a crafty, wrong-foot finish to throw off LaMelo’s Ball attempt at a block:
9. We’re saving Jayson Tatum for the end, because he saved his best for last too. Tatum let Derrick White cook early, but he stepped up to serve desert.
First, Tatum kind of plays with the Hornets here. In the end, he lets Rob Williams screen off Gordon Hayward before pulling up against the just-a-bit-too-low big man Mark Williams:
Then, with the Hornets sort of hanging around, Tatum used the spin-back dribble to get baseline for the and-1 flush to cap it off:
It’s a sign of how deep the Celtics are, and how well they are playing, that we can confidently drop in their MVP candidate scoring 41 points this deep into the Takeaways. But that’s exactly how the night went.
10. The Celtics have won three straight now. Despite that, the Milwaukee Bucks, winners of 10 straight, are still breathing down Boston’s necks. Those two will meet in Milwaukee on Tuesday in a really fun pre-All-Star break matchup.
But first, the Celtics have to deal with the pesky Memphis Grizzlies on a Super Bowl Sunday matinee. We aren’t sure yet who will suit up for Boston this weekend, but it might not matter. If they put on the green, we can trust that they’ll probably deliver. That’s just how things are going right now for the Celtics.