Celtics Notes: Boston’s Bench Comes Up Big In Kemba Walker’s Absence

BOSTON — No Kemba Walker? No problem.

The Boston Celtics learned they’d be without one of their star players for at least two games while he deals with left knee soreness. Of course, that wasn’t exactly ideal with the Philadelphia 76ers in town. But the C’s made it look easy as they blew Philadelphia out of TD Garden, 116-95, on Saturday night.

Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum and Marcus Smart all put up impressive numbers. But it was the bench that helped keep Boston ahead.

Both Brad Wanamaker (15) and Semi Ojeleye (11) both finished with double-digit points, while Grant Williams had a strong defensive game to go with his five points.

Head coach Brad Stevens had high praise for the second unit after the win.

“They’ve been good for the last few games,” he said. “Certainly, on that road trip, that (Williams and Ojeleye played center and forward) is not traditional. But it is very strong. It’s hard to post because they are so strong. And they can both move their feet and guard. So you’re able to switch a lot with that group and not lose a whole lot from a perimeter defense standpoint. And then we’re a little bit bigger around them with our wings. We’ve got a lot of versatility. So that’s been good, and just keep playing within what they do best. But that’s been a good combination the last couple weeks.”

Wanamaker threw down his first-career dunk in Saturday’s win, something Marcus Smart was excited about.

“I was ecstatic, to be honest,” he said. “I didn’t think he was going to dunk it.”

Tatum added: “That surprised all of us.”

With Enes Kanter and Robert Williams still sidelined with injuries of their own, the bench will play a crucial part to the team, especially with the postseason inching closer.

Here are some other notes from Saturday’s Celtics-76ers game:

— Brown, again, had a strong game for Boston. He had a game-high 32 points to go along with nine rebounds. And even though he wasn’t named a 2020 NBA All-Star, Stevens reiterated the importance of playing like one rather than being named one.

“He’s been really good,” he said. “I said the other day … it’s more important all along to be playing like an All-Star than to be named one. And nobody exemplifies that better. He’s done a great job. I think that he played really well the other night (against the Golden State Warriors), but tonight he was really good. Very aggressive, very good at picking his spots. But he came out, even on that first possession, you knew he was going to be ready to roll.”

Smart still believes his teammate was snubbed.

“Everybody’s happy for him,” he said. “I think he should have been an All-Star.”

But Brown isn’t fazed by it in the least.

“Ain’t no reason to cry over spilled milk,” he said. “I’m trying to get ready for the playoffs.”

— Tatum put former teammate Al Horford on a poster in the first quarter that sent TD Garden into a frenzy. But there were no hard feelings between the two friends.

“Al, That’s my guy,” he said. “It happens. You get dunked on. But that’s my guy. Nothing but love. … I don’t say nothing to Al. Somebody else I would have.”

— Tacko Fall checked in In the final two minutes to a thunderous ovation from the TD Garden crowd. He finished the night with two points.

— This was the first time the Celtics defeated the 76ers this season.

“It felt good,” Smart said. “The Sixers are a really good team and they have done a really good job preparing for us and coming out and executing against us. Tonight we just wanted to go out and do what we do and that is to play the game of basketball the right way. To just play together and it felt good.”

— Boston is back in action Monday night when it travels to Atlanta to take on the Hawks. Tip-off from State Farm Arena is set for 7:30 p.m. ET.

Thumbnail photo via Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports Images

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