FINAL: Boston: 116 Brooklyn: 95
After a couple of off days the Celtics welcomed the Brooklyn Nets to the TD Garden for the first matchup between these two teams of the season. The Celtics also welcomed Kyrie Irving, Marcus Morris Sr., and Robert Williams back into the lineup as the trio had missed some games lately with injuries. Kyrie looked just fine scoring 17 points on 8-16 from the field. He was up to his old tricks and on top of the scoring, doled out 6 assists, came away with 3 steals, and even took a charge. He was the leading scorer for the Celtics in a game where they had 8 different players in double figures.
Just take a look at the box score and you can see how efficient of a game it was for the green top to bottom.
Every single guy on the roster contributed basically and it was a look into how the Celtics look at their very best. They set their third straight season high in assists as they finished with 37 as a team. Their passing has been key lately as they lead the league in assists in their passed 6 games (29.5 per night) and have shot their way up to 6th in the league in assists per game overall (25.9). Just check out some of these looks and you can see the high level of passing they were operating at tonight.
What I personally loved about the passing is that everybody got involved and the ball moved effortlessly.
While everyone contributed, I couldn’t help but key in on Gordon Hayward as he had another solid effort posting 12 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists, and a steal. While the line isn’t amazing by any means, it’s about the eye-test for him. His jumpshot has been rounding into form lately and he’s not hesitating when he catches. He’s been butter from downtown recently and it’s forcing guys to close out hard on him and he’s been taking advantage by driving to the basket hard. He had a couple of nice takes including this one in the third for an And-1.
It’s so refreshing to see him follow up that big night last Wednesday (35 points vs. Minnesota) with a couple of more solid performances and it has to be huge for his confidence as a whole. I’m starting to get ideas and if Gordon can get back to even 90% of what he was before the injury, this team is going to be scary good come April, May, and hopefully June. His contributions down the road are the ultimate x-factor and it could go either way, but if these sort of performances keep occurring, I’d be weary if I was the rest of the Eastern Conference.
Marcus Smart got things going early for the Celtics as he lit the defense up hitting 3 of his first 4 threes, and after every one, he had something to say to the Net’s bench.
At halftime he said that once he hurled up his first triple (he missed), the Net’s bench started telling him to keep shooting and Marcus wanted to quiet them all down. He did that in a big way and I for sure would not be caught dead shit-talking Marcus Smart, it isn’t a good idea. Smarf does what Smarf wants and everyone should just accept that (even if some of those heat checks are a bit ridiculous). I don’t know if it was his newly braided Shamrock-#36-hair or if he’s rounding out into a formidable three-point shooter.
After tonight he sits at 34.7% from deep on the year as he continues to prove the naysayers wrong regarding his jumpshot.
Another big aspect for the green in this one was the turnover battle as they set the tone right from the get-go and forced the Nets into 11 first quarter turnovers leading to 13 points off of those turnovers. Overall, for the game they were a +11 in forced turnovers (25-14) and outscored the Nets by 22 in terms of points off turnovers (30-8). 11 of these turnovers were courtesy of the starting backcourt of D’Angelo Russell and Shabazz Napier as the Celtics put two of the Nets most important players in a bind. The Celtics also held an advantage in fast break points (24-8) as off of so many of those turnovers, they ran the floor and got an easy bucket in transition. As I’ve shoved down your throat so many times, this team is at their best when they’re forcing turnovers, scoring in transition, and moving the ball. They did all of these things tonight and it paid off with a win. Just look at this possession late, this video should be framed and put on display to show how you play basketball, it is exquisite.
The only real bright spot for the Nets was one Rodions Kurucs. I know what you are thinking: “WHO is Rodions Kurucs???”. Well, he’s a Latvian rookie and he really gave it to the Celtics scoring a game-high 25 points on 8-16 from the field and 5-8 from three. Other than that, the Celtics did a great job of limiting the Nets and were able to hold the lead while keeping the Nets an arm distance away all night long.
We even got the joy of seeing TimeLord back in the fold and he threw the HAMMER down in garbage time after a Theis lob.
After sealing their 24th win of the season the Celtics have a chance to gain some ground in the Eastern Conference as the Pacers come to town Wednesday for a 7:00 PM tip-off at TD Garden.
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