Not exactly the most encouraging win, but the W is really all that counts. I actually enjoyed watching this game. There were a lot of quality plays on both sides of the court by both teams. The Pace of the game was good, and it was a fairly clean game. Now, you’d fully expect the Celtics to run over an undermanned Philly squad. But, this isn’t the same Philly team as the past few seasons. Philly actually has some vets out there, and they played well tonight.
Isaiah had himself a night
Thomas has been inefficient lately, but tonight he came out ready to score. He finished the night 11 for 19 from the field. Thomas got to the line 15 times, where he made 13 of them. He dished out 7 assists, pulled in 4 rebounds, including an offensive rebound. Isaiah was also credited for 1 steal, and only turned the ball over on 2 occasions. Thomas ended up with a game high 37 points, which ties his season high. Really, just a great performance from IT tonight.
Smart hit his free throws late in the game
Marcus Smart has been struggling lately. He’s had games where he didn’t shoot well before, but he would usually make a positive impact some other way that made up for his poor shooting. Ever since Miami decided to go with the hack-a-Smart strategy, Smart hasn’t seemed quite right. I’m hoping that being in that situation where he needed to make his free throws, and he made them will help him get back to being a more confident player. The Celtics really need him playing well if they are going to compete with some of the top dogs.
Jaylen Brown got some positive experience
Brown is probably a lot closer to being ready to contribute than he gets credit for. The NBA is full of savvy vet types that will make him look foolish from time to time, but his defense is getting really good. Tonight, Brown notched 15 minutes of play, which was the first time he broke into double digits in two weeks. He struggled with some rotations, and failed to help out down low on at least one occasion.
Brown also put up 4 points, 2 rebounds, 1 assist, and 1 block. He got to the line and made both free throws, and he got to throw down a dunk from a great feed from Isaiah. Jaylen is so good when he gets the ball down low, but he needs to be able to react to the defense as they collapse. If he can work on getting the defense to collapse and kick the ball outside, then the Celtics ball movement should result in a lot of open looks. If the defense doesn’t collapse, then Brown has the ability to score, almost at will.
There always seems to be one guy that steps up against the Celtics
This year’s theme seems to be: Someone on the opposition is making a lot of shots. It usually isn’t star players either. Tonight’s nominees for players that aren’t usually that good, but were are: Dario Saric, Sergio Rodriguez, and Gerald Henderson. Those three combined to shoot 9 for 16 from three.
By far, this was Dario Saric’s best game of his very young career. He also came through in the clutch, and made Jerebko look stupid on a crossover move, where Jerebko just fell backwards. It was also, arguably, Rodriguez’s best game of the season. This was not Henderson’s best game, but he was still solid, and always seems to do well against Boston.
The Celtics haven’t found their style of play yet
The Celtics seem to really feel out their opponents, and play that style of play. It may be why they have a hard time playing against teams near the bottom of the standings. With the early injuries, it’s made it hard for the Celtics to play the way they want to play. They need to focus on dictating how a game is going to be played, and make the other team adjust to them. There are still a lot of question marks with this team’s rotations. One thing Brad Stevens has shown in his first few seasons is that he rolls with the punches.
Offensively, Stevens will play whoever is being productive on any given night. But, defensively, he needs his team to be consistent with effort and energy. The Celtics will eventually find their style of play, but it won’t be based on offense. Once this team gets back to making defense the most important priority, and letting the offense feed off the defense, then will the team start to dictate games.
Rozier and Smart have lost their connection
Somewhere from the end of preseason to now, Terry Rozier and Marcus Smart have lost their ability to lead the second unit. More specifically, both players have lost their shooting stroke over the last few games. Those two a very important part of this team this year, and will need to get things right fairly soon. The good news is the Celtics are winning games when they aren’t playing that well. If Smart and Rozier can go back to doing whatever worked for them before, then this team should start increasing their winning margins.