Getting Back into Game Shape
First things first, Boston is a little sloppy. There were bad passes, missed rotations on defense, and a little miscommunication. To be fair, the entire NBA has been off for several months and no one is in game shape. This applies to everyone. Jayson Tatum was really up and down for the minutes he played but it’s nothing to be too concerned about because, after all, these are basically preseason games.
Jaylen Brown has clearly been at work in the gym and has shown that he can shoot over defenders off the dribble on a turn around, or bully ball them to the hoop. Jaylen was already averaging over 20 points per game, but expect to see his scoring efficiency to improve both at the basket and on the perimeter going into the playoffs. His isolation scoring is improving and he already has the ability to get buckets both in transition and off the catch.
Additionally an interesting lineup coach Stevens used, granted for only a few minutes, was Tatum surrounded by the bench. Brad has played this lineup before, notably at the end of the first quarter. This is a great way to end a quarter because Tatum’s scoring can carry a bench unit that lacks a scoring punch. Usually the opponent is also playing their bench and this almost guarantees a couple buckets for Tatum, whether it be himself or dishing to his teammates once the defense collapses on him. Either way it’s a clever lineup and one we should expect to see more once we get deeper in the playoffs. Don’t expect to see it too much in the early rounds as the more film exists on it, the more teams will learn to defend it.
Speaking of Brad Stevens trying something interesting, there was one subtle play that shouldn’t have gone unnoticed. The Celtics were shooting free throws and Carson Edwards (5’11”) was on the block. I thought certainly that he would rotate out for a big. Conversely, Edwards stayed on the block because after the shot he put a full press defense on OKC. This was clearly experimental. Coach Brad is always trying new things out, and what better time than a bubble scrimmage. Look for him to try this more against skilled guards in the seeding games and playoffs.
Getting to more defense, that’s an area the Celtics need some improvement. Granted before the shut down Celtics were the 5th best rated defense in the league without a good center. However, Steven Adams scoring 17 points and getting 7 rebounds in one half is concerning. Adams is a very efficient center but there is no reason he should be that effective in that short of time; especially because the half was only 20 minutes. The team either needs more size or for Rob Williams and Daniel Theis to step up in the low block. This is a major concern for the Celtics especially when the team faces Embiid or Giannis Antetokounmpo, the best post players in the league.
The team looks like they’re having a good time both on and off the court. You can tell the guys are excited to play together again. Even the bench unit that played the second half was jiving pretty well trying to prove they deserve minutes once the real games start. The team looks like themselves. Particularly because of Marcus Smart. Smart, as always, makes his presence known in ways that don’t show up on the box score. He made a steal on an inbound pass for a quick bucket, showing how he’s always paying attention. Overall, seeing the starters click in the first half was great to see. This team is talented and can make a serious run going into the playoff bubble of Orlando.
(Photo: David Sherman – NBAE)