Every morning, we compile the links of the day and dump them here… highlighting the big story line. Because there’s nothing quite as satisfying as a good morning dump.
“People put us together a lot,” Tatum said. “Drafted back to back, he’s two years older than me, so close in age, the two young guys, and yeah, we’ve been through a lot together.”
On Friday, putting Brown and Tatum together was a little unavoidable. The duo combined for 64 points — a career-high 34 from Brown, 30 from Tatum — in the Celtics’ 129-117 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Cavs’ defense put up little resistance, but Boston’s young stars were clinical dissecting it with step-back 3-pointers, hard drives to the rim and a flurry of mid-range jumpers.
This was the first time they’ve combined for 60 points. It’s the seventh time they’ve combined for 50 or more this season (the Celtics are 7-0 in those games).
“We’ve known from the moment that they stepped on the court, and they first started games together, even before Gordon got hurt when we had those guys in that first training camp you could see it was pretty unique,” Stevens said. “When we drafted Jayson we thought having those two versatile wings that could guard a number of different positions and do a number of different things, but also weren’t exactly the same players, but would be good compliments for each other.”
Boston still hasn’t had its top players available together for much longer than a cup of coffee this season. Their potential best 5-man lineup has logged a whopping five minutes together this season. And they might just have their top 8 intact on Saturday night if Marcus Smart is able to suit up in a rematch with the Raptors.
What the Celtics have done to this point is undoubtedly encouraging. Despite all the injuries they weathered, Boston sits second in the Eastern Conference at 22-7 (a glitzy .759 winning percentage). The Celtics are fourth in the NBA in offensive rating (112.3), third in defensive rating (103.9), and now second in net rating (plus-8.3) behind only the East-leading Bucks.
FiveThirtyEight pegs the Celtics for 58 wins, the same total as the West-leading Los Angeles Lakers. And here’s the thing: We don’t even know what the ceiling is for these Celtics yet.
NBC Sports Boston: Are the Celtics best days in front of them? Jaylen Brown thinks so
Do you get the feeling that The Jays are Making the Leap together? Both of them set personal career highs for points this week. Both are looking like definite All-Stars. Both are leading the team to wins:
The pair made such an impact last night that the Celtics scored 129 points, even though Kemba Walker and Gordon Hayward combined for just 20 points. (To be fair, they also had 12 assists between them.)
Jaylen is at the point where we low-key expect every shot to go in. Last night he topped himself, making 8-of-10 two-pointers and 5-of-10 threes. Every shot attempt except one was from the paint or arc, a close-to-perfect performance for the modern NBA player. Cleveland was helpless and a career-high was no surprise.
Meanwhile, Jayson had 39 versus Charlotte on Sunday, 22 of them in the fourth quarter. Last night he scored 24 in the first half. As good as Tatum was in his first two years, outbursts like that weren’t seen before this season. Now they’re almost expected.
It’s enough to make Celtics fans dream about The Jays becoming the new dynamic duo of the NBA. As someone once said, anything is possible.
The schedule is favorable to keep the young wings and the Celtics on an upward path. After tonight’s visit by the Raptors, the Cs play 17 times through the end of January; 13 of those are against teams that today have losing records. The other four are strong tests against the Sixers, Bucks, Lakers and Heat.
If the team can stay healthy (always a big if with this franchise), we might be looking at something special. And Jaylen and Jayson will have a lot to say about that.
On Page 2: Can we chill on Kanter?
The Celtics have emphasized maximizing Kanter’s skillset by essentially using him solely as a post up and rebounding threat on offense, putting him in spots where he can play to his strengths. For a bargain-basement price of $4.7 million, Kanter has done just that during the first two months of the regular season.
The 27-year-old is not only putting up a career-high 15.6 rebounds per 36 minutes (a career-best) thus far, he’s actually leading the entire league in offensive rebounding rate, grabbing an absurd 18.2 percent of all available offensive rebounds when he’s on the floor. That presence combined with Kanter’s propensity to draw fouls down low (4.5 free throw attempts per 36 minutes) has given the Celtics exactly the kind of production they dreamed of for this spot after signing him for the room-level exception last summer.
Stevens has also done well to protect Kanter’s defensive flaws when he’s on the court, surrounding him by an elite group of mobile/heady defenders like Brad Wanamaker, Semi Ojeleye, Grant Williams, and Jayson Tatum when he’s on the court. That lineup management has actually allowed the Celtics to manage Kanter’s defense to the point where they are actually allowing 5.5 fewer points per 100 possessions when he’s on the court. Boston’s offense is also three points better per 100 possessions when Kanter is out there as well — creating second-chance opportunities.
The bottom line with Kanter is that the C’s needed his strengths (rebounding, scoring) to outweigh his defensive warts. There is no question that he has done that throughout the two months of the season. Combine that with some stellar defense from Daniel Theis with the starters and the C’s have found themselves a center rotation right now that trends more toward a strength than a weakness given what is being asked of the players involved.
Boston Sports Journal: Enes Kanter is giving the Celtics exactly what they signed up for
Enes Kanter’s game is not everyone’s cup of tea – that much is clear. Every time his name appears on my Twitter timeline, someone is slandering him for his poor shooting and porous defense. However, he also has his supporters, who dutifully point out facts such as in the piece above. The result is Celtics fans arguing endlessly among themselves.
But that needs to stop.
Kanter is flawed, no doubt. That’s why he signed for, in NBA terms, a low salary. No one should expect to get an all-star free agent for less than $5 million a year. At the same time, he undeniably contributes in certain ways. He simply is what he is, and no amount of beefing between pro- and anti-Kanter fans is going to change that.
Look, last season was a nightmare of personality clashes, lies, rumors, pseudo-philosophy and underachieving. We all hated it. But this season is rainbows and puppy dogs, goofy rookies, an affable point guard, two young all-stars emerging right before our eyes, and wins. Lots and lots of wins.
Put injuries aside for a moment and one could say that 99% of this season has been awesome. The remaining one percent is the bad spot on the apple, the blemish on the supermodel’s chin: Kanter hate. And it’s unnecessarily generated by us, the fans.
We are happy this season; we’re having fun. There’s no need to spoil that by obsessing about the one thing some of us see as a negative. If you don’t like Kanter, so be it, but – please – forget about it. Let it go. Don’t make it a THING. Instead, focus on enjoying this team and ride the positive energy as far as possible.
And, finally… Mystery solved
But what he hasn’t figured out how to do is be in two places at once. It just seemed that he had during and after NBC Sports’s Christmas Day broadcast of the Celtics’ victory over the Raptors in Toronto.
During the game, Scalabrine served as the color analyst on the broadcast alongside Mike Gorman, just as he has on road games since returning to NBC Sports Boston in 2014-15. To viewers who tuned in late or missed an acknowledgment of what was going on, it certainly seemed as if Scalabrine and Gorman were coming to you live from Scotiabank Arena, the home of the Raptors.
But they were not, which became clear, if it wasn’t already, during the postgame show. Kyle Draper and Chris Forsberg were dissecting the Celtics’ impressive 108-102 victory when they were joined by another analyst on set: Scalabrine. Who seemed to be in another country just a few minutes before.
The spokesperson said that NBC Sports Boston could not fully staff the game because of the timeline and the relatively short notice on finding out it could indeed carry the game. So the network decided sideline reporter Abby Chin and reporter A. Sherrod Blakely would make the trip, while Gorman and Scalabrine would remain local to call the action off a monitor in the network’s Burlington studios.
But NBC Sports Boston certainly deserves the benefit of the doubt here. Gorman did say more than once during the broadcast as they cut to commercial that they were broadcasting from Burlington. And if NBC Sports Boston was trying to get away with something, it never would have had Scalabrine pop in on the postgame show after the “road” broadcast. And it was Christmas, a time when it’s not always easy to be away from home.
Honestly, I watched that game on NBC Sports Boston and, until Scal appeared in the postgame studio, had no idea he and Mike weren’t in Toronto. Glad to know I was not hallucinating.
The Rest of the Links:
Boston Sports Journal: Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum are turning the Celtics into contenders
NBC Sports Boston: Jaylen Brown’s sermon of growth adds a new, more powerful basketball testimonial in win over Cavs | Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum join elite Celtics company with performances vs. Cavaliers | Takeaways: Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum relay tandem lappin’ the Celtics competition