FINAL: Boston: 103 Cleveland: 96
Last night was sloppy, the Celtics got killed on the glass, but they still were able to pull it together enough to get a win. Jayson Tatum led the way as he had 25 points, 7 rebounds, 2 assists, a steal, and 3 blocks.
The Celtics needed someone to step up with Irving, Morris, Baynes, and Williams all out and Tatum stepped up to the occasion. Shot distribution is important when talking about Tatum. As we’ve seen throughout his young career, he takes a lot of mid-range jump-shots, and often gets carried away with it. His shot chart last night was a good sign as only 4 of his shots came from mid-range/long 2 distance.
I’m not saying he has to strictly take 3s and layups, but a distribution like this is more effective in terms of keeping the defense off balance. This shows me that he’s being decisive and instead of dinking around for 5+ dribbles 12 feet away, he’s either taking the shot, or driving to the basket on the catch. He also got to the line 6 times last night which is another byproduct of driving hard to the basket. He’s going to get the calls and his free throw numbers will go up if he continues to attack like this. He shoots 37.8% from mid-range on nearly 4 attempts per game while also shooting 36.9% in the paint (non restricted area) on about 2 shots per game. Those are his worst two splits based on shooting zones and a little less than half of his shots come from there. The key for Tatum as he develops is to refine is shot selection and gain a grasp on what is a good shot and what is a bad shot. Games like this are a positive for this development and it was a factor in the outcome last night. Without his contributions we might be talking about a disappointing loss rather than a win.
After last night, we can at least take solace in one thing from Gordon Hayward. He can still get it going on a given night against a bad team (really cherrypicking here but I like the premise of it).
He went 9-14 from the field and I thought he made an effort to get involved and made his own offense. At times it just seems like he fades into the background and maybe it was just due to so many guys being out, but last night he made a concerted effort to get involved, and get involved early. He was a team high +10 and when he’s scoring it highlights his all around game even more. In the midst of his nightmare season scoring the ball, his passing has been on point, and he’s been one of the better rebounders on the team. He and Theis have had chemistry all year long and on all 3 of his baskets last night, Hayward was the one with the assist. While it’s tough to notice when he’s going 1-6 with 2 points or something like that, he does contribute, and the team plays well with him on the floor.
Let’s play a game, who am I talking about? 37.7% from three, 50th in the NBA in 3P%, and a never-ending bloodlust. That would be none other than Marcus (Smarf) Smart. Whenever I talk about Smarf in these recaps it seems like I’m just documenting how his 3-point percentage continues to skyrocket and today is no different.
He went 4-5 from distance and got a little funky in the third as he buried this 3 en route to a 4-point play.
He continues to aim and fire from back there, while playing All-NBA defense, and running the offense at the 2. I’m not sure what I did to deserve Marcus Smart in my life but if he’s ever shipped out I’ll be inconsolable for at least a month.
Flipping the focus a bit here, but I want to talk about rebounding and how it made this game a lot closer than it should have been. The Cavaliers out rebounded the Celtics 54-45 total and nearly doubled their offensive rebounds as they held the advantage 15-8 in that category. Off of those 15 offensive rebounds the Cavaliers scored 22 points compared to just 2 Celtic second chance points. On a night where Cleveland shot 41.7% from the field and 27.3% from three, the rebounding kept them in the game. The Celtics were thin upfront due to injury and guys like Ante Zizic (known headliner of the Kyrie deal) and Larry Nance Jr. had 12 rebounds apiece.
On top of the rebounding numbers, the Cavs got a big lift from Collin Sexton (27 points) and Alec Burks (21 points). Sexton had all 27 before the fourth quarter as he went 0-5 from the field and looked to have run out of gas. The Cavs were far more pesky than I imagined they’d be and performances like this pushed the Celtics to the edge. The Cavs may roll out some arguably fake people onto the court (Blossomgame, Nwaba, the list goes on) but they played hard last night.
Al Horford had another all-around solid night posting 9 points, 6 rebounds, 8 assists, and 3 blocks. He didn’t blow up the stat sheet and he was quiet for most of the night but was still able to have an impact. He’s always had that swiss army knife type skill set where he can fit in wherever he is needed and last night he did just that. Other guys had it going offensively so he sunk into more of a facilitator role on offense. He’s able to pivot and tailor himself to what this team needs and it made everything come together last night.
Jaylen Brown had a rough night shooting the basketball as he went 6-19 and finished with 13 points, 7 rebounds, and 2 steals. As I said, the shots were not falling for him but I liked how he didn’t get discouraged. He isn’t going to go 6-19 every single night and the fact that he’s confident to get that many shots up is a good thing. Aggressive Jaylen is the best Jaylen and even on an off night he’ll give us a highlight like this.
Lastly, the Celtics went 14-14 from the free throw line (by the Celtics, I basically mean Tatum because he was 12-12 from the stripe on his own). They didn’t leave points on the line and it turned out that they needed every bit to finish off the Cavs.
The Lakers come to town Thursday as the Celtics face-off with LeBron for the first time since Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals. As we all know, things are going great in LA this time of year and the Lakers are really starting to come together as a team.
No distractions, no player’s fathers are calling out the coach, the young guys and LeBron look to be meshing, and they’re about to get Anthony Davis! Right? 😂😂😂
Follow us on Twitter @ViewsFromWall for more NBA/Celtics news like this!