1. No matter the opponent, there’s always a bit of worry when you’re missing your star player. Will someone step up? Will other guys try to do too much? Will the offense look broken without the main engine?
The Boston Celtics answered those questions by blowing out the Washington Wizards. Jaylen Brown did his thing, while several others stepped up to play good minutes while Jayson Tatum sat with a sprained left ankle.
Seven different Celtics scored in double-figures as Boston built a lead as large as 26 points. Things got a bit messy when Joe Mazzulla tried to empty the bench, but that’s about the only nitpick we have in a pretty solid victory.
2. Without Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown was the focal point of the offense. Brown always has moments to shine, but right from the jump he was in the primary on-ball creator role. It was a great chance for Brown to show off his scoring versatility and he delivered.
Brown is always one of, if not the most athletic players on the floor. Here, he turns on the jets just enough to blow by the Wizards defense for the transition dunk off a nice pass from Marcus Smart:
If you’re back a step too far on defense, which often happens to account for his burst, Brown is letting it fly from deep:
Without Tatum, Brown had to be the late-clock, bailout guy. In the first half, he over-dribbled and took a terrible fallaway. Here, Brown knows he has just enough time to get to his spot for the fadeaway:
Brown doesn’t work off on-ball screens all that often, and when he does, he generally looks to drive. With Kristaps Porzingis laying back in drop coverage, Brown gets to the three-point pullup with ease:
After the Wizards got a little too close for comfort after Joe Mazzulla tried to empty the bench, Brown put the game away by doing what he does best:
It was a great night for Jaylen Brown to eat and he came away stuffed.
3. We had to feel pretty good that Jaylen Brown would step up with Jayson Tatum out. And we should have known the others would too. They did it by sharing and moving the ball.
Tommy Heinsohn undoubtedly loved this play from up above. Great hit-ahead bounce pass from Derrick White to get Malcolm Brogdon his first dunk as a Celtic:
If you’re a big for the Celtics, you have to be able to pass while on the roll. Good find from Luke Kornet to Grant Williams in his corner office:
A little later, Williams repaid Kornet with the nice pass out of a big-big slip action:
To end the first half, Washington tried to go to a zone. Tatum is usually the zone-breaker from the nail. Without him, Boston moved it until the zone widened enough for White to drive the gap before kicking it out to Al Horford:
This is outstanding stuff. All five players touch the ball before Brogdon cashes in on the open corner three:
Moving the ball becomes contagious. Brown is cruising as a scorer at this point. He could have shot, stepped into a pullup or drove. But Brown lets things open up and then hits White for the corner triple:
4. Speaking of Derrick White, he had to do a little more scoring with Jayson Tatum out. White is catching the ball higher and has sped up his release enough on his jumper that a close defender doesn’t bother him at all:
This was a fun play, because you see how patient White can be as he snakes the pick-and-roll for the pullup jumper. No rush at all here:
5. Marcus Smart did some work in the post on both ends of the floor. Over the years, Smart has defended Kristaps Porzingis as good as anyone. That’s remarkable because Smart is literally a foot shorter that Porzingis. Smart does it by keeping a strong base and simply by being tougher than most. No flops here from the DPOY:
On the other end, posting Smart results in good stuff. Smart does a nice job picking out cutters and shooters, and sometimes gets to this short turnaround himself:
6. Boston’s bench stepped up big time. The reserves combined for 46 points on 14-of-27 shooting, including 7-of-12 from behind the arc. In addition, in a starting role again, Grant Williams grabbed seven rebounds, handed out three assists and locked in defense.
The Celtics depth issues have been talked about a lot, but they’ve got guys who do well in their roles. Malcolm Brogdon is the leader of the backup group, but there’s a lot more there too. And when Rob Williams returns, the bench will only get stronger.
7. Until Timelord is ready, Luke Kornet should continue to see regular minutes. He’s done really well when called upon this season. He’s not the athletic highlight shot-blocker that Rob Williams is, but Kornet does a terrific job protecting the rim. Corey Kispert thinks he has an easy flip shot, but nope:
Kornet also got tough on the glass late in the game. This is a strong rebound and finish from the big fella:
8. Sam Hauser is starting to expand his game now. Teams know he’s a deadeye shooter, so they are closing out hard to him now. That means Hauser needs to do more than just spot-up. Having the ability to take a dribble or two off a screen and hit from deep is big for Hauser:
This is a great read by Hauser. Will Barton has his back turned because he was contesting the kickout pass from Malcolm Brogdon. Hauser attacked right off the catch and drew an and-1:
9. Al Horford might not play both ends of back-to-backs anymore, but if that keeps him fresh, it’s well worth it. Horford is on fire from deep, as he’s hit 48.7% of his three-pointers this year. That means opposing bigs are creeping out more and more on him. Get too close, or off-balance, and Horford is driving you like this:
A little later, Horford got Porzingis again:
Looking spry Big Al!
10. The Boston Celtics improved to 16-4 at the quarter pole. A season ago, Boston was 10-10 at this point in the season. What a difference a year makes.
The Celtics also improved to 3-0 on their current six-game homestand. They’ve got another very winnable game against the Charlotte Hornets on the back-to-back on Monday night. Al Horford will likely sit, if past patterns are any indicator. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see Jaylen Brown also get a rest day, as he was noticeably grimacing throughout the game with some sort of right shoulder issue. If Jayson Tatum can play, and he likely will, it might be a good spot to get Brown a night off.
No matter what, Boston has to feel they’ve got enough to get a win over one of the league’s worst teams. That’s what this great open to the season has done for the Celtics confidence in each man on the roster.