Celtics Notes: Brad Stevens Calls Shorthanded Win Among His ‘Most Rewarding’

The Boston “Hospital” Celtics were in full effect Wednesday, but prevailed in their 112-106 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Wednesday.

With three starters out against Cleveland, Boston rolled out a starting lineup of Jayson Tatum, Marcus Smart, Daniel Theis, Brad Wanamaker and rookie Grant Williams.

That group had played a whopping 18 total possessions together, and they were on the second leg of a back-to-back.

Still, if you’re going to choose a game for the Celtics to be without Jaylen Brown, Kemba Walker and Gordon Hayward, at least it was against the rebuilding Cavaliers.

Boston was able to snap its two-game losing streak. The healthy Celtics stepped up to the plate, and Brad Stevens was proud of the gritty win.

“That’s one of the more rewarding wins that I’ve been a part of, coming off of last night, shorthanded, you know everybody was gassed, you could see the end of the third quarter I thought both teams were dead,” Stevens said, as seen on NBC Sports Boston’s postgame coverage. “But we found a way, we persevered and we played well late which was good coming off last night (against the Brooklyn Nets).

“They showed good character. It’s a sick feeling — certainly not life or death, don’t get me wrong, and it’s not real adversity by any means — but it’s a sick feeling to finish the way we did last night. Everybody felt it. You could sense that we all felt it. But to come out here and again, kind of figure out a way to win. I thought it was going to be really hard and it was.”

Here are some notes from Wednesday’s win:

— If any effects of the illness keeping Tatum out of Tuesday’s overtime loss to the Nets were lingering, it would be hard to tell.

Tasked with leading Boston’s thin lineup by playing almost 40 minutes, he naturally rose to the occasion with yet another 30-point showing for the 13th time this season and the eighth time in his last 11 games.

Finishing with 32 points, while shooting 11-for-24 from the field and 5-of-10 from deep, Tatum became just the third player in franchise history to have 32 points or more in five straight contests, joining John Havlicek and Larry Bird.

All that while being double-teamed, and sometimes triple-teamed, allowing him to show off some growth as a passer. He had six assists Wednesday after averaging just 2.9 assists prior to the matchup with the Cavaliers.

“We knew it was coming, it was the only thing we walked through on offense today was that he was going to get trapped all over the place, so he did a good job,” Stevens said. “Our guys moved it well, we missed some shots out of it at times but we really moved it and we sprayed it and tried to make the right play.”

Tatum also had nine rebounds, two steals and an awesome chase-down block while providing teammates with some opportunity.

— Semi Ojeleye’s impressive offensive performance almost got cut short, but he finished with a new career-high scoring effort (22 points, 5-of-8 from three), complete with a congratulatory post-game water shower.

“He’s the best, he’s a great worker, he’s a great teammate,” Stevens said about Ojeleye on NBC Sports Boston’s postgame coverage. “When everything is not going your way, he’s a guy that you know is in everybody’s corner and I think that that’s huge when you start talking about team. And you also know that he can not play one night and be effective in his role the next.”

Typically known for his defense, the third-year Celtic played the best game of the year, scoring a season-high 15 points in the first half alone.

With three minutes left in the second quarter, he took a hard knee to the groin while defending Larry Nance Jr. in the post. That ruled him questionable to return for the remainder of the game, while just two-points shy to tie his career-high of 17 points at the half.

“I couldn’t breathe,” Ojeleye said of the injury via NBC Sports Boston’s postgame coverage. “It’s tough when you get hit like that but it’s just something I have to deal with.”

Of course, Ojeleye didn’t forget about his defense. Wednesday showed the potential that Celtics fans have been dreaming to see out of him.

Smart knew he had it in him, however.

“We knew Semi could do that on a daily basis for us,” Smart said of Ojeleye on NBC Sports Boston’s postgame coverage. “It’s just all about his opportunity, and tonight he got his opportunity and he took advantage of it.”

— Smart had a slow start shooting, getting off to a 2-of-12 start, and finished just five-of-15 from the field. He had 18 points thanks to a strong fourth quarter, with two huge finishes on a fast break when the Celtics weren’t playing particularly well in transition.

“I started hitting shots finally, plain and simple,” Smart said.

Still, he looked a little off from the dramatics that ensued last night, and guarding Collin Sexton, allowed the rookie to drop a career-high 41 points.

— So much of the Celtics’ criticism as of lately has been directed at the bench’s lack of production. That wasn’t the case against Cleveland, as the reserves scored 43 points.

— The young and talented players on the roster finally got a chance to shine. Grant Williams finished with eight points and five rebounds and put together another very nice game on defense.

We also got to see a Williams-to-Williams lob.

Grant Williams played 26 minutes, and Tremont Waters clocked 16 with five points, two rebounds and two assists. Robert Williams finished with five rebounds and six points in 14 minutes played.

Romeo Langford was ruled out in the final quarter due to illness, but played 13 minutes with four boards and an assist. Hopefully Tatum has been washing his hands, because this team can’t afford any more injuries.

— The Celtics are now 42-19, one game back from the Toronto Raptors for second place in the Eastern Conference. Boston returns to action Friday, against the Utah Jazz at 8 p.m. ET.