The Celtics ended their miniseries with the Bucks in Milwaukee last night by winning the rubber match in convincing fashion. Let’s take a look at what made it happen:
1. Starting Rob Williams, was, unsurprisingly, a good idea
Sometimes, y’know, fans are actually clamoring for something to happen because it might be a good idea. The demand for Rob Williams to get starter minutes certainly fell into this category.
Rob Williams is a +12 over seven minutes in first quarter during his first start of the year. Great minutes on both ends so far.
— Brian Robb (@BrianTRobb) March 27, 2021
Timelord with 6 rebounds/5dimes/4blocks in the half
— Trey (@TA1297) March 27, 2021
You’ll notice that neither of those bits addresses Timelord’s scoring, and well, that’s because there wasn’t any of it in the first half. But he contributed on offense long before he ever hit a bucket. Passing has always been a nascent skill of his, but tonight it looked fully formed—top-notch basketball IQ en route to 6 assists. (And he did score eventually, racking up 7 points alongside his aforementioned dimes, plus 9 rebounds, 2 steals and 5 blocks.) But more than anything else, he adds a sometimes chaotic but always incredible energy to the Celtics’ rhythm in a way that simply can’t be replicated by anyone else on the roster. They become unpredictable and indubitably fierce.
2. A throwback night for the Celtics offense
Jayson Tatum racked up the highest numbers (34-6-7-1-1). But this was one of those nights like last year when any four-man combination containing Tatum, Kemba Walker, Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart or Gordon Hayward could score hyper-efficiently. It was especially nice to see Smart (23-8-3-1-1) have a hell of a game after a string of less-than-great offensive nights.
Triples were the key here. As has been well-documented by now, the Milwaukee defense effectively surrenders the three-point line in lieu of aggressively locking up everywhere else. Smart knows this as well as anyone and heat-checked himself to the tune of 7 made triples. But just about every Celtic who saw the floor made at least one three, including Payton Pritchard, Grant Williams and even Mo Wagner. (More on him later.)
Aaron Nesmith was curiously absent from the three-point jamboree, attempting a trio of triples but missing all of them (along with his only other shot attempt). He remains a cipher to me.
3. Another Tatum milestone
Hey, look, this happened:
Jayson Tatum tonight:
It’s his 27th career 30-point game, the 2nd most in Celtics franchise history before turning 24 (Paul Pierce, 32). pic.twitter.com/dfo9EECGBD
— StatMuse (@statmuse) March 27, 2021
Phew, that Tatum kid sure does have a future ahead of him, don’t ya think? Shooting with bonkers efficiency from every part of the floor (13-for-18 on FGs, 4-for-4 from the charity stripe), contributing to a defensive effort that stymied Giannis Antetokounmpo…this fella does it all. My oh my.
4. These are the fourth quarters we’ve been looking for
Let’s be clear that this was just one game, against an opponent that the Cs had played two days ago and thus were somewhat used to. (And, to be fair, that they almost successfully came back against.) So no one should (or will) go off saying that all of the Celtics’ problems are solved.
But the team looked bona fide dominant in the third quarter and were only slightly knocked askew during a few points of Q4. The Bucks are certainly a team capable of upending an opposing squad’s lead, especially one objectively worse than them on paper, and they couldn’t.
5. Let’s talk about Mo Wagner.
I am generally the last guy to rave about players who think every day is White Boy Day…but when Mo Wagner does this irrational confidence shit it’s just hilarious. He is so convinced he’ll make this!
No Smoking in the Gym Mo Wagner pic.twitter.com/z7hblC7Ntj
— Backcourt Violation (@backcourtv) March 27, 2021
Later, he nailed a corner triple with absolute precision. That duality is the Mo Wagner experience in a nutshell. Gonna be an interesting next couple of months with him on the squad.