In a nutshell
The starters looked great, the bench was relatively bad, and the Celtics continued their excellent play at home. Kyrie Irving lead the way with 26 points, 10 assists, and eight steals. Jayson Tatum added 19 of his own, hitting all three of his attempts from behind the arc.
What went right
- In the last recap I wrote, I went on a little rant about Tatum’s shooting form as well as his shot selection. Judging by his first few shots tonight, his form looks to be smoothed out. He’s still taking early mid-range shots, but I guess that’s just part of the experience.
- I like that Al Horford really trusts the little jump-hook that he likes to take near the basket. I also like that he’s attacked smaller players more aggressively than in past seasons with the Celtics. His passing already opens up so much for the team that a hot shooting night (8-11 tonight) means they can get any shot they want by running the offense through him.
- After a hot third quarter where the starters blew the game open, the Celtics opened the fourth quarter with their bench and a 20-point cushion. Gordon Hayward opened the quarter with a three, Jaylen Brown went coast-to-coast for a layup off a steal shortly after. The Baynes/Rozier/Brown/Hayward/Ojeleye lineup was predictably pretty clunky, but getting a solid couple minutes out of them still feels like progress toward the Celtics becoming a consistent team. (The 60 seconds of game time following my writing of this paragraph were pretty bad because karma frowns upon those who compliment mediocre lineups prematurely.)
- A career-high eight steals for Kyrie!
What went wrong
- Stop me if you’ve heard this one: the Celtics offense slowed considerably when the bench came in. At the 3:49 mark in the second quarter, the bench was shooting 2-13. The ball movement came to a halt and there was some pretty clear miscommunication on where guys needed to stand – there was a quick moment where Rozier dribbled into the paint before backing the ball out when he almost collided with Baynes who was fading to the same spot behind the three-point line.
- A 22 point for Boston was whittled down to about 9 in just a few fourth-quarter minutes. It was more of the same as earlier: the bench was in, the ball wasn’t moving, and the turnovers were constant. Jaylen Brown had a couple nice moments in there, but he simply has to be better if Boston wants to rest their starters. The same applies to Hayward. I’m not raising my expectations for anybody else to carrying the bench although I could stand to see Rozier be a little more consistent.
What the hell
- 12 minutes into the game I found myself writing about how horrendous tonight’s officiating is. I try to avoid blaming officiating at all costs, but seeing as how the Celtics are up early I can say this: they’re terrible. Hayward was incorrectly called for a charge on a fast break and Baynes was incorrectly called for a block on a spectacular defensive play at the rim. The refs can call a close game if they must, but it shouldn’t come at the expense of the flow of the game.