IN A NUTSHELL:
The Boston Celtics needed a win badly—for a morale boost, I’m sure, but Kyrie “Fuck Thanksgiving” Irving also wanted to shut the drama-thirsty media up. Unsurprisingly, the Boston pack* has begun salivating, what with our heroes at a PALTRY 9-9 record! My LORD! It’s almost like there have been 18 games this season and 64 of them remain!!!
But seriously: The Cs spent most of this game well in control, and even their few moments of laziness didn’t undo their progress as it had in previous instances. Things were clicking from the starters to the bench, particularly Kyrie, Jayson Tatum, and Aron Baynes, whose 16 points led all Boston scorers in a 114-96 win.
WHAT WENT RIGHT:
It sure does help to be playing the worst-ranked defense in the NBA when you need a win. (This is by opponent points allowed per game, according to Basketball Reference; Atlanta is 25th in defensive rating.) But the Boston offense also flowed effortlessly and led to considerable more wide-open shots, ones reasonably worth taking, in the first half than the 20 they made.
After some slacking in the second quarter (see below), the third frame was another bloodbath, Celtic players tearing through Hawks like Leatherface and some unlucky teenagers. Atlanta is a young team, but even their vets like Dewayne Dedmon weren’t much help. Bird blood everywhere…for most of the quarter. Some sloppiness at Q3’s end (again, see below). But after a quick series of mini-runs early in the 4th, the Celtics established enough of a cushion to leave everything in the hands of the bench and seal the W.
On a more granular level—
- Taking two of the Hawks best players—Trae Young and Taurean Prince—out of the equation during the first half was huge; they got 2 and 0 points, respectively. Young’s biggest threat isn’t his scoring, of course, but he only made 2 assists as well.
- With Horford out, Aron Baynes served as roll man on P&Rs initiated by Kyrie and acquitted himself quite well, while remaining an ironclad defensive presence and a meaningful threat from deep. (Before Baynes was a Celtic, I thought he was a solid, kinda underrated bench big for the Spurs and Pistons, but I didn’t ever envision typing a sentence including the phrases “Aron Baynes” and “meaningful threat from deep.”)
- Gordon Hayward continued his run of considerable effectiveness as the point wing/microwave scorer for the bench dudes. His other talents ensure he’s more valuable overall than the average microwave scorer.
- MOAR *clap* TIMELORD *clap* BLOCKS *clap* PLZ. Rob Williams is still raw in a lot of ways, but almost all of his (limited) minutes have been electric. This is great to see for a rookie whose work ethic was questioned, perhaps unfairly, after the draft: He’s clearly making the most of the tick he’s given.
WHAT WENT WRONG:
- After the slaughterhouse 45-point first quarter, some regression was only natural. Letting the Hawks off the hook a few times is natural. Letting them outscore you in a quarter (22-16) isn’t, and I say that as someone who thinks Atlanta is much friskier than their abysmal current record indicates. When you’re in a funk, as Boston has been in recent games, you simply don’t get to take quarters off. Four made field goals in a quarter,,,,,is bad.
- The lackadaisical approach returned near the end of Q3, but not as badly as in the previous quarter. Turnovers were the main devil here—
When push comes to shove, though, there are few if any individual major screw-ups to cite here. And for whatever mistakes they did make, the Cs still spent most of this game up 20-plus.
WHAT THE HELL:
Couple of funny things—
- Absurd mechanical mishaps are on my personal list of idiosyncratic NBA things, and the shot-clock wankery early in the first quarter made me chuckle. IS IT 14? 24? 5?
- Not sure how I feel about SMARF with the dreads. I’d gotten used to the nappy, blond-streaked hightop fade.
- Theis’s new hair, meanwhile, remains fucking horrible.
GREEN FIRE HIGHLIGHTS (These are all dunks. I’ll just say it in advance.)
*Rhymes with the word “pee” plus the name of an early Nelly hit, though I’m sure Danshaughnessyfromendlessbitching has also said some dumb things.