1. The Boston Celtics had nothing to play for against the Toronto Raptors on Friday night. The Raptors still had a chance to get into the 7-8 Play-In Tournament Game, so it was a meaningful game for them. But, instead of what might have been expected, Boston overwhelmed Toronto and it was a blowout.
Several regular sat this one out, as they are nursing injuries heading into the playoffs. Nothing is considered overly serious for Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart or Malcolm Brogdon, but all could use the time off their feet.
Without those three, Boston’s depth dominated in this game. Jayson Tatum set the tone, but it was the Celtics that are lower on the depth chart that carried the team throughout the second half.
It was a nice step forward for the deeper bench players, as they’ll probably get all the minutes they can handle in Sunday’s meaningless regular season finale.
2. Jayson Tatum drew three and-1s on Friday night. He was in attack mode right from the jump, and a long, athletic, Raptors team could do little to stop Tatum.
On this one, Tatum gets his shoulders by Jakob Poeltl and takes the little bump from behind as he lays it in:
A little later, Tatum uses his crossover to get downhill on Scottie Barnes before hanging after the contact for the and-1:
One more time, late in the first half, Tatum attacked against a scrambled Toronto defense and went right through the contact for a third and-1:
3. Before he exited the game for the night at halftime, Jayson Tatum did plenty of playmaking too. This first assist is a delayed pick-and-roll with Rob Williams. With Jakob Poeltl up the floor, Tatum puts the pass is where only Rob Williams can get it:
This is a high-level find from Tatum to Sam Hauser. The good thing? We’re seeing more and more of this from Tatum all the time:
4. Speaking of Sam Hauser…he set a new career-high with 26 points. There were six threes in the bunch, because of course he hit a bunch of them. But Hauser dunked three times. Not only did he dunk three times, but they were the first three dunks of Hauser’s NBA career!
The first one came on the break off a nice setup from Al Horford:
The last of the three came on this cut, and sent the Celtics bench into hysterics:
5. Rob Williams is looking a lot like ROB again. He was everywhere in this game and did a little bit of everything.
You can play drop coverage against screen actions when your big can make up ground like this:
Now that he’s finding his rhythm, Boston is putting the ball in Williams’ hands more to make plays from the perimeter. This is a gorgeous find after faking the handoff:
There isn’t another team in the league that has two bigs that can do this. Williams blocks the shot, Al Horford recovers and runs the break, before finding Williams running down the lane for the layup:
A few games ago, we saw Williams make a play on a post-up after an offensive rebound where he used an up-and-under move. Here, Williams catches in the post and works his way to the block for the short turnaround. They are baby steps, but Williams is rounding out his game more and more:
6. Derrick White took on the playmaking duties and he delivered 10 assists on the night. Off a nice block from Al Horford, White takes one dribble before he drops the perfect hit-ahead pass on Jayson Tatum for the runout dunk:
White is so good in transition, because he’s good about playing at the proper pace. White doesn’t go too fast here, but he lets things develop and then he’s into the paint for the kickout to Horford in the corner:
7. With Marcus Smart and Malcolm Brogdon both out, Payton Pritchard got his chance and he made the most of it. Pritchard scored 22 points, grabbed four rebounds and handed out five assists.
It doesn’t matter how little he’s played, Pritchard is going to confidently step into shots when they come his way:
Normally, Pritchard is more scorer than playmaker, but he did a good job with the latter in this one. First, he hooked up with Sam Hauser for the triple off the nice kickout:
Then, Pritchard found Hauser cutting through the backdoor for the middle of his three dunks:
When Blake Griffin hustles for the offensive board and casually flips you the behind-the-back pass, you have to finish it:
Payton Pritchard can play. Like really play. At the very worst, he can be a high-end backup point guard. With the Celtics depth, it probably won’t happen in Boston. Hopefully there’s a win-win situation found this summer
8. Mike Muscala has seen some extended minutes this week. He’s also taken advantage by playing well. That could give Joe Mazzulla confidence in calling on him as a fourth or fifth big in the playoffs, should the situation arise.
This is a nice finish from Muscala off the offensive rebound. It shows he can do more than be a spot-up shooter from deep:
9. When Joe Mazzulla went deep into his bench, JD Davison and Luke Kornet hooked up to put a capper on the game:
10. Sunday’s regular season finale is probably going to feature a lot of the bench. It would be a surprise if any of the Celtics top-seven or eight players played or played much beyond a cameo appearance. It’ll be fun to see how those deeper reserves look, but there isn’t going to be a lot of serious analysis after a meaningless game for both teams.
Because of that, we can turn our collective eyes to Tuesday. That’s when the Miami Heat will host the Atlanta Hawks in the 7-8 game in the Eastern Conference Play-In Tournament. The winner of that game will be the Celtics first round opponent in the 2023 Playoffs.
Sunday is about having some fun, seeing some of the deep bench players getting a chance to show out and putting the lid on what’s been a very successful 2022-23 regular season.