Jayson Tatum Outdueling Luka Doncic Helped Get Boston Back On Track

Heading into the matchup against the Dallas Mavericks on Thursday, things weren’t looking all that great for Boston. The Celtics were riding a two game skid, which included a 123-111 loss to the Denver Nuggets and an embarrassing 150-117 beat down from the Oklahoma City Thunder.

The Boston Celtics needed a win to get back on track after a month or so of .500 basketball. Boston came out in the first half, eager to do just that.

First Half

The Celtics won the first half 64-46 on the back of a strong bench performance. Boston’s bench unit pitched in 27 points combined from Malcolm Brogdon, Grant Williams, Sam Hauser, and Robert Williams

The first half looked like the team that fans were accustomed to seeing throughout most of the early season. The ball was flying around and finding the open man. Boston assisted on 17 of 22 total baskets. The Mavericks had just four assists on their 15 made baskets. 

The off ball movement was leading to open threes. Finally after a two game stretch where the team was sub 30% on threes, they were finally falling again. A hot start to the tune of 10-23 in the first 24 minutes of game time.

Maintaining Lead in 2nd Half

Starting the third quarter with an 18 point lead, this is occasionally where the Celtics take their foot of the gas. They usually let other teams crawl back in, but this time, the second half was more of the same as the first. 

A 25-19 win in the third quarter extended the 18-point halftime lead to 24. Outside of one short Mavericks run late in the fourth, that was all but the game.

It was fantastic to see the team getting back in the win column, doing what they do best after a recent poor stretch of basketball.

Ball and Player Movement

The main thing that has separated this team all year was the offense. Ranking first in offensive rating and points per game throughout the year, but struggling much of December. 

After the first two months of the season that had the Celtics on historic pace in terms of offensive rating, the drop off in December had the Celtics ranked 28th in total offense for the month. 

When the Celtics are rolling offensively it’s mostly due to player and ball movement. The backdoor cuts and easy assists lead to wide open threes that the Celtics have been knocking down at a 37% mark on the season.

Three Point Shooting

As the offense dipped in December, so did the three point shooting.

At 40% heading into December and second in the league overall, the Cs have now fallen to eighth in three point percentage. This game, however, was back to the norm hitting 16 total threes at 37%.

Defense

Defensively, the Celtics shined, holding the Mavericks to 37% shooting from the field and 22% from three. They also forced 11 turnovers, which allowed for easy buckets in transition.

After two 50 point games in the last two weeks for Luka Doncic, including the first ever 60-20-10 game, he was held to just 23 points on 7-23 shooting from the field.

Robert Williams was once again a spark on this end. Although only having one block, he did have six defensive rebounds.

Jayson Tatum

This team goes as Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown go. So far this season they’re playing at an MVP and an All-NBA level, respectively. 

Jayson Tatum was ready for this nationally televised MVP battle with Luka Doncic. Tatum shined, recording his second career triple double. He finished with 29 points, 14 rebounds, and 10 assists.

Tatum also excelled on the defensive side with one block, two steals, and 12 of his 14 rebounds on the defensive end.

Just under the halfway point of the season, Tatum currently sits with averages of 30.7 points per game, 8.2 rebounds per game, both career highs, and 4.2 assists.

More of the Same in San Antonio

Boston took the goodwill from the Mavs win and brought it right over to San Antonio. The Celtics played tough, winning 121-116.

The Spurs don’t look great on paper. However, as long as Popovich is coaching, expect the team to be scrappy. They were exactly that tonight, giving the Celtics a challenge.

Boston persevered, however, thanks to great performances again from Tatum and Brown. It’s crazy that people still question who the best duo in the NBA is. It’s clearly these two, and I don’t believe it’s particularly close.

It’s important that Boston is starting to find the three ball again. After a solid night shooting from beyond the arc on Thursday, they did it again on Saturday. The Celtics shot 44.1% from three against the Spurs.

After a slight bump in the road, Boston is looking like itself again.

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