#1 Al Horford steps up
Stepping right into a beginning position in Jrue Vacation’s absence, Al Horford had himself an enormous evening. Enjoying in opposition to his former workforce, the veteran massive man was extremely efficient on either side of the ground. He was aggressive on offense. And he made sensible choices together with his positioning and the way he attacked his defensive obligations.
Horford ended the sport with 14 factors, eight rebounds, eight assists, 4 blocks, and two steals. In typical Horford vogue, he did every little thing inside the circulation of the sport. Sure, he was extra aggressive on the offensive finish, however nothing was compelled.
I actually favored the above possession — which resulted in a Horford help. Jaylen Brown can’t discover a lane to assault on the prime of the perimeter. The ball goes in rotation, discovering Jayson Tatum within the strong-side nook. Horford units a pin-down after which slips, catching the ball across the dunker spot. He turns, sees Kristaps Porzingis reducing, and makes the straightforward go for an uncontested have a look at the rim.
It’s that kind of secondary creation that makes Horford such a helpful participant on the Celtics roster. I’d think about it’s additionally one of many explanation why he’s such a popular teammate all through the roster.
And how will you not get pleasure from seeing Horford roll again the years and get out on the break after getting a “steal?” I imply, there’s one thing thrilling about seeing your getting older veteran middle rolling again the years and main by instance.
Horford is undoubtedly one among Boston’s most necessary gamers. Not as a result of he’s a top-three expertise on the roster. And never as a result of he’s a 20-points-per-night menace. He performs the sport the best method. He retains everyone centered on the duty at hand. And he comes up with blocks like this.
#2 Derrick White comes alive within the fourth
Enjoying in opposition to Trae Younger, who beat him for an All-Star harm substitute choice, Derrick White regarded like he was on the market attempting to show a degree. In fact, we’ll by no means know if that was the case. I’m simply happening his aggression down the stretch.
White ended the fourth quarter with 12 factors, two rebounds, one help, and one steal. Not solely did these numbers lead the Celtics, however in addition they led everybody on the ground. All of White’s fourth-quarter appears got here from the perimeter. He hit 4 of these 5 makes an attempt.
But it was earlier within the recreation, throughout one among Boston’s designed actions, that White stood out to me probably the most.
The Celtics go to their “chin sequence,” getting White open within the paint. Nevertheless, Porzingis fires the go to Horford within the nook, lacking White, who has a stable have a look at the basket. As an alternative of giving up on the possession, White positions himself within the dunker spot and waits to see how the protection hundreds up on Horford’s drive out of the nook.
As Horford attracts three defenders, White strikes alongside the baseline, making a straight-line go for the veteran massive man. With nobody round him, White will get the straightforward end.
Why did this impress me? As a result of, for me, it encapsulated White’s total strategy to the sport. He’s affected person. He makes sensible performs. And he isn’t in search of his shot — he’s in search of the most suitable choice out there. When he noticed Horford was driving, he knew a chance to offer an outlet is perhaps wanted, and he made certain he was there when/if that occurred.
In fact, White’s improved three-point capturing can’t go unnoticed, both. The diploma of issue on this shot is under-rated. He catches the ball excessive, lands off stability, retains the rock in his capturing pocket, and rapidly will get the ball again up. The actual fact the capturing type was easy, and it hit nothing however the web, is spectacular and speaks to the work he’s put in behind the scenes to enhance that jumper.
#3 Porzingis’ inside recreation
Some nights, Porzingis does most of his injury on the perimeter. On different events, he does it within the submit. In opposition to the Hawks, Porzingis was the inside menace the Celtics have been lacking in recent times.
Of his 19 photographs, Porzingis solely took 4 on the perimeter. The opposite 15 got here from the two-point vary, with him changing 11 of them.
“Excessive character particular person, clearly a participant,” Tatum advised the media after the sport. “It simply makes it straightforward for all of us on each ends of the ground, his potential to shoot excessive of anyone, assault mismatches.”
When the Celtics acquired Porzingis in the summertime, I anticipated him to be a post-threat. I anticipated him to have a face-up recreation. But, his potential to show the nook with the rock and get downhill whereas ending by contact isn’t one thing I had on my bingo card. But, we’ve seen performs just like the one above unfold on a number of events this season. To me, that is likely one of the most spectacular elements of his recreation, for his measurement and his ability set.
This possession is one other good instance of how Porzignis may give you a scoring menace when in area across the submit. He fakes a display, angles his physique, and requires the ball. When he receives the go, he rapidly faces up and drives to the rim, as soon as once more ending by contact.
I’m a fan of how the Celtics look to create inside scoring alternatives. I like how they lean into participant versatility and look to create mismatches by way of a plethora of various screening actions (which we regularly have a look at). Having somebody like Porzingis, who’s extremely tough to protect within the submit, is a luxurious that Boston can constantly depend on.
#4 Jaylen Brown must be extra aggressive
I’ve liked Jaylen Brown’s development this season. His elevated aggression is pressuring the rim, bullying his method by defenders, and attending to his spots, which have all been vibrant spots in a supernova of a season. But, in opposition to the Hawks — his hometown workforce — Brown regarded a bit of flat by way of explosiveness, first step, and aggression.
One recreation is rarely a trigger to fret. He nonetheless had a very good total efficiency. Nonetheless, I wish to see him get again to that pitbull mentality sooner fairly than later. In any case, it’s what made him an All-Star, and it’s why he’s thrived within the featured scorer position that has been permitting him to showcase a few of the greatest basketball of his profession.
#5 Jayson Tatum is best when attacking the rim
Tatum 2-of-13 from the perimeter. Sooner or later, you’ve acquired to simply accept it’s not your evening from deep and modify your strategy. That time turns into extra distinguished when you could have a skillset like Tatum’s that permits you to get downhill at will and end round or by contact.
Tatum can assault out of post-ups.
He can out-muscle defenders when driving from the perimeter.
And his fadeaway recreation is money within the mid-range. There’s no cause to stay with a shot profile that doesn’t work at evening. Sure, Tatum is a helpful three-point shooter. When he will get it going, he’s virtually unguardable on the perimeter. However on nights like this, the place nothing appears to drop, adjusting his mindset to get downhill and create straightforward scoring alternatives makes good sense.
Once more, this isn’t a cause to fret. Neither is it a knock on Tatum’s total efficiency. But, that one easy adjustment could possibly be the distinction between a nasty recreation and one which modified the circulation of the sport.
#6 Gettin’ nerdy with it: The return of Ghost Flare
The Celtics have run this play at occasions through the season. It’s one among my private favorites on account of its simplicity and the way it usually tees up Brown for a drive to the rim or a pull-up jumper on the wing. But, we haven’t seen the Celtics go to it shortly, so it stood out to me once they ran it mid-way by the second quarter.
The possession begins with the Celtics threatening a Zoom motion. Luke Kornet units the vast pin-down. Brown curls across the perimeter. Nevertheless, fairly than receiving a DHO, he ghosts his display for White earlier than utilizing a flare display from Porzingis to get open on the weakside wing.
From there, it’s an open lane to the rim. Brown makes use of his energy to carry the protection off and will get a reasonably straightforward end on the cup. Liked it.
#7 Boston’s nail protection makes them exhausting to drive on
Throughout earlier iterations of the Ten Takeaways, you’ve in all probability learn me writing about how the Celtics wish to pinch towards the nail. One other method of claiming this, is that they have constant nail assist. Zooming out a bit, that pinching happens across the ground, which is named hole assist.
But, it’s that nail and hole assist that has made the Celtics such a tough workforce to interrupt down off the dribble when seeking to assault from the perimeter.
Right here’s a very good instance of the nail assist Boston has been using. As soon as once more, our good pal Horford chips in with the assistance. The Hawks go to a “ram ghost” motion. Some ball rotation adopted by a pretend DHO creates a niche for Atlanta to assault. Horford pinches down towards the ball-handler, taking away the hole, forcing the pick-up, and pressuring the shot.
It’s tough to assault area in opposition to Boston. Primarily as a result of that area is rapidly taken away. Right here’s one other instance.
On this occasion, it’s White offering the assistance. I wouldn’t classify this as hole assist, as there a whole lot of area — fairly than a niche within the protection. Nevertheless, White does rotate, take away a possible escape dribble, and power the pick-up together with his swipe down. The terminology might change, however the precept stays the identical — Boston forces early pick-ups and difficult photographs with their assist protection and switchable rotations on the defensive finish.
All through the course of a recreation, these possessions can develop into a ache for opposing offenses and may shave a number of scoring possessions, which, in flip, helps create considerably of a niche on the scoreboard.
#8 What a go
Not a lot must be stated right here. Nice go. Tatum’s improved processing pace has been evident all season. He’s recognizing openings as they seem and his passing potential has improved to a degree the place he can constantly make these reads, no matter the place he’s on the courtroom.
#9 Tillman will assist in most of these video games
Just a few hours earlier than the sport between the Celtics and the Hawks tipped off, the Celtics made a transfer to amass Xavier Tillman. As soon as he’s acclimated together with his new teammates and is a part of the rotation, he’ll doubtless make an impression in these types of video games. His bodily presence would have been useful in opposition to Onyeka Okongwu. His screening potential might have created some further drive alternatives or set guys free for wide-open threes.
And Tillman’s passing recreation would give the Celtics some further choices in delay actions. We don’t understand how he’s going to fit into the rotation but and whether or not he will likely be behind or forward of Kornet within the pecking order. What we do know is that he brings physicality and a unique possibility for Joe Mazzulla to throw on the market when seeking to create benefits. Particularly when coping with physicality. I’m excited to see how he appears as a part of Boston’s rotation.
#10 Celtics want to acknowledge when the threes aren’t falling
Earlier on this article, I wrote about Tatum needing to acknowledge when his threes aren’t falling and adjusting his shot profile to extra inside alternatives. Nicely, the identical may be stated for the Celtics. Whereas I wish to see them barely scale back the variety of threes they take per recreation, I’m not one who thinks they’re residing and dying by their perimeter offense. I feel there’s an inexpensive stability throughout the board.
Nevertheless, this Celtics workforce has the inside scoring expertise to be a significant issue once they decide to pressuring the rim. Certain, nonetheless take threes to maintain the protection trustworthy and make sure the spacing stays intact. However, when you already know they’re not falling, shift the precedence; the definition of madness is doing the identical factor over and over whereas anticipating totally different outcomes — in fact, I’m speaking in a single recreation, not within the broader sense right here.
The Celtics face the Washington Wizards on Friday. By then, we’ll know if Brad Stevens has made any further strikes and can have a very good really feel for the way the roster will search for the rest of the season. As standard, I’m hoping for a win, however I will likely be right here for the takeaways irrespective of how issues shake out. Till then, benefit from the commerce deadline, and I’ll catch you all on Saturday morning.