Here are the takeaways as the Celtics clinched an important victory over a sizzling Hornets side with help from their top players on Monday.
1. Jayson Tatum had 41 points. Jaylen Brown had 30, including the game of the match (more in a minute). So who was the player of the match?
If you ask Ime Udoka, the answer was… Marcus Smart – 3 for 12 from the ground, 1 for 9 from the 3 point range and 2 for 2 in huge defensive games at the bottom of the section. Smart took some heat from Celtics fans for his shot, but he once again reminded everyone late why the Celtics believe in him.“I told the group over there, I said, ‘I don’t care about the 41’s and 30’s of you guys, Marcus got the game of the game taking that last blow away from them,” “Udoka said. . “… We know that the strength, heart and soul of our team comes from him. ”
Smart said he had a migraine and various other flu-like symptoms, and wasn’t even sure he could adjust. His teammates were glad he did.
“He might not have the credit for having a good game, but defensively he won this game for us,” said Brown.
2. Tatum was brilliant – 41 points on a 14 for 28 shot in a performance that further buried questions about his first 7 for 30 game. He took 12 3 points and made six, and he won. seven trips to the free throw line (as always: if Tatum hits the line seven or more times, he’s probably going to have a good night).
When Charlotte collapsed on Tatum, he took advantage – handing out eight assists, including a crucial one to Rob Williams in the fourth quarter.“I know I’m not perfect, but I try to do everything, and knowing that I get a lot of attention, finds guys for them, makes them look easy and open,” Tatum said. “It just opens the game when everyone scores equally. ”
If there is a lone criticism of Tatum’s performance, it could be his heavy possessions of isolation as regulation ends, but when asked about them after the match, Udoka noted that the Celtics wanted to get LaMelo Ball iso on Tatum. If Brown joined the game, the Hornets would bring one of their best defenders into the mix.
Why the Celtics don’t do more pick-and-rolls with late Tatum is another question, but as Udoka said on Sunday: neither of us ever hit a 27-per-game average. The answer could simply be that a more complicated game is more at risk of something going wrong.
3. Tatum was the Celtics’ top scorer, but Brown had several of the biggest baskets, including the highlight of the year to date – a monstrous one-handed hammer on Miles Bridges in overtime that saw the Celtics win five.“I had to make up for the missed dunk in New York,” said Brown. “My teammates teased me a bit. It was just a good play. Miles, obviously, is one of the best athletes in the league, so I knew if I tried to put him away, he was going to send him back to Boston. So I knew that if I was going up, I was going up with bad intentions.
4. Monday’s game seemed like one of the first times we actually saw Tatum and Brown feed off each other, and the results were intriguing. Even at their best in the past, Tatum and Brown felt like a Your-Turn-My-Turn couple at times, but they improved on Monday and hurt the Hornets in various ways. When Tatum drew a crowd, Brown stabbed the edge. When Brown warmed up, Tatum opened up the resulting cracks in the defense. When one player left the ground, the other took over transparently.
5. Robert Williams played 35 minutes, scored 12 points, took 16 rebounds (including six offensive), distributed four assists and blocked three shots. Against the smaller formation, Williams dominated the offensive glass and climbed above. Once again, he looked like a centerpiece of the puzzle.
The first two games offered a disturbing view of the Celtics but a positive view of Williams. As the team finds some rhythm, Williams’ progress in almost every aspect seems to be amplifying.
“His jump was fantastic,” said Brown. “I can’t wait to see him continue to grow. He can really pass, he rebounded excellent tonight. We are looking for Rob to do it every night.
6. Dennis Schröder finished with 23 points, but perhaps his greatest contribution was to master the game in overtime when Tatum and Brown suddenly started having trouble handling the ball. Schröder – a more natural ball handler – seemed to calm everyone down, burying a triple and finding Brown for a three spot moments later, which helped the Celtics regain the lead.
“The number of open looks he’s missed that he’s going to start to reverse, he hasn’t really found a full rhythm or got a stride in those early games yet, but we know what he is,” he said. Udoka said. “He was just in Oklahoma City a few years ago, a guy who came off the bench and scored 20 points per game and then would finish the game.
“So we think it’s the same, when Jaylen or Jayson is out, or one of them is activated, we need that playmaker and secondary scorer. It does it both ways. Not just the score, he also had eight assists, just one turnover. So he does exactly what we ask him to do.
7. Jabari Parker threw surprisingly strong first-half minutes that helped the Celtics stay afloat against an early 3-point attack from the Hornets. He finished with 13 points on a 5v8 shot.
8. Miles Bridges and LaMelo Ball deserve to be mentioned as an incredibly exciting young duo. Bridges is a spring-loaded athlete whose attacking game is much more advanced than last season. Meanwhile, the Celtics chose Ball defensively, but Ball responded on the other side with 25 points, including seven at 3 points – one of whom even cheated on Smart.
Smart called Ball a “very good player” after the game, but answered a question about the second-year goaltender with just a hint of salt.
“He’s going to get all the extra time, House of Highlights, SportsCenter and all that, but we won, and that’s all that matters,” said Smart.
9. The Celtics struggled defensively on Monday, but as Udoka noted, the effort was in stark contrast to last week’s debacle against the Raptors. Udoka said he thought the Raptors game was an aberration, brought on by the harsh loss to New York two nights before.
“I feel like we’re building good chemistry,” Williams said. “We can ruin a lot of games, defensive tendencies too, but we fight at the end of the day. So as long as the effort is there and the fight is there, everything else will happen on its own. “
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