FINAL: Boston: 128 Golden State: 95
In what seemed like impending doom for the Celtics as they visited Oracle Arena, it turned out to be the exact opposite as they came to play. One man showed up in particular and his contributions couldn’t have come at a better time. Gordon Hayward was that man and he was just phenomenal last night. He had 30 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists, and 2 steals as he went 12-16 from the floor in what was a thwomping by the Celtics. He was a game high +32 and it was evident the Celtics were at a high level when he was on the court. Not only was he cooking from the outside (4-6 from deep), but he drove to the basket with purpose and forced himself to be a focal point in the offense. We’ve seen it in 3 games recently: At Philly, Vs Detroit, and last night At Golden State. When Gordon Hayward forces himself to be involved and plays as if he is Gordon Hayward and not Chandler Parsons, good things happen. Good players playing basketball like they’re good players…seems like an astute strategy to employ.
The back to back tomorrow also gives him a chance to string this success together and start to kick it into high gear before the playoffs. No matter what happens with this team he remains the ultimate x-factor and if he can break out at the right time (preferably now), the Celtics will become who we thought they were to start the season.
Other than Hayward, the Celtics got contributions from a bunch of different guys and the theme last night was ball movement. They set a new season high with 38 dimes as the ball was hoppin’ around Oracle. Passes like this one from Al were a theme all night long:
Not only did they have 38 assists, but they only committed 11 turnovers on the night. This tells me that they not only were they conscious about moving the ball, but moving the ball intelligently. There weren’t many head-scratching turnovers and they looked disciplined for all 48 minutes.
As I’ve said in these recaps over the season the Celtics fall asleep a lot. They have lulls whether it be for a few minutes or quarters at a time. One second they look like the best team ever assembled, and then the next they’ll look like they’ve never seen a basketball nor met each other in the real world. It’s very bizarre and the entire night I was skeptical if they were going to keep playing well, or throw up on themselves and succumb to a catastrophic defeat. Luckily, for not only the Celtics but my overall sanity and well-being, they did not throw up on themselves. They gave the Warriors an utter beating on National TV and made a statement after being called a bunch of frauds during this recent stretch.
Unlike these passed few weeks where this sport looked like such a chore to play, they were having fun. You know one man that was having a lot of fun? Kyrie Irving. Amidst this whole identity crisis for the Celtics reports have flooded the web that Kyrie is “detached and disengaged” from his teammates. Last night he looked to be enjoying himself and I wonder if something simple like, I don’t know, Playing good basketball was the solution to his issues. Not only was Kyrie having a great time but the rest of the team was into it as it seemed like the Celtic bench never sat down. Everyone was engaged, everyone was on the same page, and everyone looked like they had a little something to prove.
For ONCE they looked like they had a pulse and some fire out there. Late in the game after Aron Baynes took a charge DeMarcus Cousins had some words for him. Terry Rozier and Jayson Tatum were not having it and they got into a little scuffle with Boogie.
I definitely enjoy Terry getting in there after Boogie whacked Tatum. I don’t know what Boogie was expecting to happen after he stood over Aron Baynes, and barked at him, but he indeed found out. I’ve preached a lot this season about how this team could learn something from the Isaiah-Celtics about toughness. Even though a couple of shoves isn’t really anything, it’s about sticking up for your teammates, and it’s about being a group of guys others don’t want to mess with. We haven’t seen that much this season and I hope it’s something we see more of down this stretch run.
It’s promising they all were sticking up for each other and not looking like a team who hates each other. I think this narrative that they dislike each other has been overblown. Jaylen Brown said it in an interview recently that “Losing is toxic” and that quote puts everything they’ve been going through recently into perspective. If the whole team was parading around with smiles on their faces during a losing streak how would everyone feel about that? It’s the natural reaction to underperforming and the only thing that gets a team out of that funk is wins. Nothing else, just wins.
While Gordon was the story last night, Kyrie Irving (19), Jaylen Brown (18), and Jayson Tatum (17) all put together quality scoring nights. It was the type of game that shows us how dominant they can be when everyone is clicking at once. The ball didn’t stick and the reason so many different guys got involved was by design. The reason this team has so much potential is because of all of the talent they have top to bottom. It doesn’t make sense to play iso-ball or rush things when there are so many guys who can be effective. They showed that last night and it was the best this team has looked as a whole all season.
I also would like to point out that they held the Golden State Warriors (who have been hanging 130 points on teams night in and night out) to 95 points at Oracle. That is an incredible accomplishment for a team who has looked lost on defense for weeks now. The rotations were sound and they finally looked like a unit rather than a bunch of chickens with their head’s cut off. One of the most electrifying plays of the night came on defense and it was courtesy of Jayson Tatum.
Goodness gracious. He swallowed that thing up like a black hole and I was awestruck watching live. Blocking someone’s shot is one thing, grabbing the ball with two hands in mid-air and ripping it from Kevin Durant is another. They put together an entire game of great basketball on both ends of the floor against the league’s best and it could do wonders for this team.
The Celtics are now 3-1 at Oracle their passed 4 seasons (nobody else has come close to that) and look to still be a bit of Kryptonite to the Warriors. For good measure, some “Let’s Go Celtics” chants broke out in what was said to be the toughest place to play in the NBA. At this point the green own Oracle Arena and it’s quite a travesty that they don’t just bring the parquet with them and play on that when they’re in town.
They didn’t get much time to celebrate the win as they traveled to Sacramento overnight for a matchup with the Kings tonight at 10:00. In my opinion, this Kings game has become even more important now that they got the win last night. So many times this season it’s seemed like they’ve turned a corner only to lose to a non-playoff team the next night. Don’t get me wrong, this Kings team is hungry and is budding with young talent but the Celtics should beat this team. If something is going to give with this season it has to right now. They’ve said so much about flipping the switch and now is the time to do it. They still have a shot at the 3 seed but with under 20 games left they’re going to have to be nearly perfect.
Going 3-1 or even 4-0 on this road trip would be a huge accomplishment for this team and would give them some momentum to go on a run to close the season. Finally, we saw this team play Celtic basketball and boy was it a fun night to root on this team. It’s time for them to keep it going tonight and close the gap as we reach the postseason and a quest for Banner 18.