We’re going to do these 10 Takeaways a little differently. Instead of just insights from the game itself, we’re going to go over 10 things we’re thankful for about these Boston Celtics. Call it 10 Thanks-aways!
1. It’s nice to have a coach who calls it like it is. This isn’t a shot at Brad Stevens. His calm demeanor was necessary as Boston rebuilt on the fly. Now, most of this roster is established. They need someone who will call them out on occasion, when their focus slips.
Enter Ime Udoka. Udoka isn’t perfect. He’s still figuring out rotations and in-game adjustments. But that’s to be expected less than 20 games into his first head coach gig. Where Udoka has figured it out, drawing on his years as a player and as an assistant coach, is calling out his team. Udoka hasn’t played that card often, but it’s been played to success when he has. Here’s to hoping that continues, both in low-volume and high-efficiency.
2. Sometimes even the Marcus Smart supporters take him for granted. And his detractors make sure everyone knows when Smart misses a jumper or has an ill-timed flop. But the reality is Marcus Smart is good at all of the little things good teams need. And the crowd responds to him more than anyone else on the roster.
Smart is also Boston’s best playmaker for others. This is a nice find to Jayson Tatum on the break:
3. The Celtics have started playing the right way on offense. The straight isolation possessions have gone way down. The offense is starting to feature more actions like this. Good ball and player movement, including multiple paint attacks:
4. Jayson Tatum isn’t a perfect player. He still gets overly reliant on his jumper at times, and right now that shot isn’t falling. But he’s still a star player and he’s only 23 years old. Having a star who can go head-to-head with another team’s star without blinking is something to be thankful for:
5. Not only does Boston have a star in Jayson Tatum, but they’ve also got one in Jaylen Brown too. This wasn’t Brown’s best game, but he’s more than proven what he can do. Brown has upped his production across the board this season, which continues his year-to-year growth.
Instead of picking Tatum and Brown apart constantly and asking “Who would you rather have?”, take a moment to be thankful that isn’t a choice the Celtics have to make.
6. Be thankful Al Horford is back in Boston. He’s talked multiple times about how thankful he is to have this opportunity again.
CelticsBlog’s Greg Brueck-Cassoli said it best when he wrote Al Horford is good at basketball.
7. The kids are figuring things out. Romeo Langford has made a consistent positive impact over the last couple of weeks. This play is a sign of how far he’s come as a player. Langford does a nice job of driving the closeout and takes an angle to draw the help defender. From there, it’s an on-time pass to Grant Williams for the corner three-pointer:
8. Grant Williams has been knocking down shots at a pretty good clip this year. He’s also been a plus-defender. In short, Williams is better than most give him credit for, and never as bad as some make it seem.
Like Langford, Williams is making plays in different ways. Because he’s shooting it so well, teams are closing out on him hard. This is a good drive by Williams against the closeout, followed by a smart pass to Al Horford for the and-1:
9. Yes, the Celtics have been called out for their effort a couple of times this year. Outside of the teams that have gotten off to red-hot starts, that sentiment has been shared around the NBA. You can disagree if you want, but no team plays hard for all 82 games. It’s simply not possible to bring maximum energy and effort for six straight months of basketball. If you do, you aren’t going to have enough left in the tank for the playoffs.
Boston’s effort waned against Brooklyn on Wednesday night. But it’s been there for almost three straight weeks now. That’s something to be thankful for, because if you look around the league, there are some teams that haven’t even considered starting to play hard yet.
It’s also nice to have a team that is actively trying to win. They aren’t fully succeeding just yet, but this group has won a lot more than they’ve lost. They haven’t hung a banner (yet!), but until last year they had made deep playoff runs every season. Watching meaningful basketball into the spring is always something to be thankful for.
10. The Celtics head out on the road for a tricky post-Thanksgiving road-trip. They play at San Antonio before flying north to play in Toronto. This will be the Celtics third matchup with the Raptors already. These are two games Boston should win. Then it’s home for the Philadelphia 76ers, before a west coast trip.
These next two road games aren’t quite must-wins, but if Boston wants to come home in mid-December with a winning record, these are two important victories to get.