FINAL: Boston: 123 Cleveland: 103
The headline says it all about last night’s game against the Cavaliers. Pregame both Al Horford (Rest) and Kyrie Irving (Flu) were ruled out for last night’s game which gave Terry Rozier another chance to show his stuff in an inflated role. Baynes took Horford’s spot in the lineup and also had a solid night on the glass (2 points and 8 rebounds).
Scary Terry was on the money especially, in the first half (22 points 8-8 from the field 4-4 from three), and forced the issue from the beginning. I really just don’t know what it is with him and starting but I’m not going to question it. When Kyrie’s out, we can always rely on Terry to bring something to the table in the starting lineup and more often than not, he has games like this. Uber aggressive but not to the point where he’s forcing up terrible shots every possession. There’s such a fine line for him in terms of being aggressive and being out of control and tonight he was on the good end of that spectrum.
It just all looks so much better, he’s more patient, let’s the game come to him, and gets his teammates involved when the defense starts to pressure him. It’s bizarre how different he looks as a starter compared to as a reserve but we’ve seen some flashes from him lately (9 points and 11 rebounds vs Atlanta). The thing is that he hasn’t put it all together for a stretch of games at a time yet and hopefully more of this is on the horizon.
While the Cavs truly embody the word “wretched” when it comes to their play, the Celtics didn’t mess around with them and coasted to a win. For the Cavs, Cedi Osman (25/8 on 8-11) and Ante Zizic (19/8), noted headliner of the Kyrie deal, led the way for the Cavaliers as they fought hard throughout. The talent on that team just is more comparable to a G-League team and Collin Sexton still just doesn’t look like THE guy to me. I’m not sure what their plan is going forward, but I like some of the pieces (Osman, Zizic, and I guess Sexton). It’s all pretty dependent on how their pick shakes out and what they do with Kevin Love and his monster contract. Until all of that, they are, and will continue to be the worst team in basketball.
The defense was a factor for Boston as they held the Cavs to 38-87 from the field and forced 20 turnovers. Jayson Tatum, Marcus Morris, and Gordon Hayward all pitched in a combined 7 steals as their active hands and pressure on the defensive end really hampered the Cavalier efforts. They edged the Cavs in points off turnovers (27-20) and were able to run the fast break to a T as they had 25 fast break points compared to the Cav’s 6. I correlate those two statistics (Turnovers/Fastbreak points) as the Celtics love to get out and run when they force turnovers and it’s a key for this team every night. There were so many plays like this where they’d jump the passing lanes and coast for an easy bucket.
While Terry was the main story on offense, the Celtics also got big time contributions from Tatum (15/2/3 and 3 steals), Hayward (18/5 and 2 steals), and Jaylen Brown (23/6 and a steal). All of them did different things and Jaylen had another aggressive night from the field as he continues to look better and better off of the bench. He was 8-12 and once again let his driving set up the rest of his game and even got the mid-range going with buckets like this.
While Terry was on fire in the first half, he was quiet in the second half and Jaylen helped in picking up the slack scoring 14 points on 6-8 shooting. They look like a different team when he’s clicking off of the bench as his skill set diversifies their offense in terms of shot distribution and just paint touches in general.
Gordon Hayward also had a performance that was based on his aggressiveness. When he’s struggling it’s because he’s indecisive and just looks to not be confident in what he’s doing. I’ve said this a lot about him but last night was another step in the right direction. Yes, he could come out and be a non-factor on Saturday vs Golden State but last night was still a step in the right direction.
Right from the beginning he came off of screens looking to score, he got to the rim several times, and finished when he got there. We even got a nice little euro-step from Gordo.
It’s still a work in progress but the more we see of this Gordon Hayward the better. I keep thinking back to hearing Mike Gorman say that Hayward has been trying to reinvent his game due to his lack of athleticism after the injury. You can see he’s adjusting and starting to add some finesse to his game to be able to play below the rim rather than above it. Overhauling your style of play isn’t an easy thing to do and Gordon’s had his trials and tribulations with it over this season.
Tatum also had the no-nonsense approach that Jaylen and Gordon had last night. He got the basket whenever he wanted to it seemed and got himself a slew of easy baskets in transition.
It was such a good night of Celtic hoops that we were even treated to some highlights by our other favorite Brad and Bob. Wanamaker played 20 minutes,had 11/2/3 on 3-5 shooting, and was a team high +22. His shooting ability (50% on the year from three) has been such a nice touch for the Celtics when he gets minutes. He’s taken advantage of his minutes and thrives in situations like this where the Celtics are undermanned.
As for Robert Williams, he remains the most polarizing figure on this team. He just jumps at everything and at least twice a game he swats somebody into oblivion. He had 3 blocks in 13 minutes of play and they were what we call loud blocks.
They’re so effortless and even when he dunks it seems like it’s way too easy. I’m curious to watch his progression closely as when he finally puts it all together, he’s going to be a problem in this league.
While it wasn’t one of their 30+ assist nights the Celtics were able to string together 25 dimes and the ball movement looked good. They were all unselfish and multiple possessions there were probably 7-10 quick passes that led to a wide open look. Being patient and waiting for things to unfold while running the offense is important for this team as they get all out of whack when they start isolating. It’s no secret they’re a different team when the ball is moving effortlessly and we were gifted with a highlight that embodies Celtic basketball/ball movement.
It was a nice win against a terrible team while the Celtics were able to rest a couple of their top guns. The Celtics get the next 2 days off as they welcome in the Golden State Warriors and new NBA villain DeMarcus Cousins for a dance at the Garden. This game also kicks off NBA Saturday Primetime on ABC and tips off at 8:30 PM ET.
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