It took a true group effort.
That’s been the case the last four games as the tides have changed, and the Boston Celtics have found ways to win and close out the first half of the season strong.
Boston trailed closely at the end of the third and fourth quarters, but without Grant Williams, Jeff Teague, Payton Pritchard and Robert Williams scoring the first 16 points out of halftime, it wouldn’t have been close. The unit finished with 22 of Boston?s 35 second-quarter points, and 51 total.
“I just think we’re a group of talented players that come off the bench and at any given night, anybody can score and I think that’s the beauty of our team,” Teague said in his postgame Zoom press conference.
“I think we’re starting to get some continuity … I feel comfortable with those guys and I think they’re starting to get comfortable with me,” he added. “I think the second unit is starting to flow a little bit.”
Part of that was Boston’s ball movement. After the six first-quarter turnovers, that is.
The Celtics had 25 team assists, but the playmaking got better as the game went on. Eight players, including four from the second unit, reached double-digit scoring.
“We have some guys that can really play individually 1-on-1, but that’s not only hard to sustain for 48 minutes and win, it’s just hard physically on guys. So I think that the more that we can cut, move, pass, make plays from one another — it just opens everything up for everybody,” coach Brad Stevens said after the game.
“I think we’ll get better at that as the season goes on,” he added. “But we need to keep doing what we’re doing and getting good play from our bench and get an assertive play when those guys when they check in.”
Here are some other notes from Boston’s win over Toronto:
— Credit where credit is due. The Raptors were good and showed a ton of grit despite having a roster basically decimated by COVID-19 health and safety protocols.
It started and ended with Kyle Lowry’s impressive 19 assists. Chris Boucher had a game-high 30 points off the bench for Toronto as it hit 21 shots from deep.
“Especially starting off slow, give credit to Toronto,” Jaylen Brown said in his media availability. “They play hard, man, and they made us earn it. And that was good going into the break, we needed that win. We picked it up in the second half but that was a good win for us.”
— Brown and Jayson Tatum found out they’ll be playing against each other in the 2021 NBA All-Star Game and had some great reactions.
— Tatum was asked about getting back from COVID-19 and had some interesting comments on the matter, updating media that he doesn’t feel completely normal.
“I’m not sure, you know, about back to normal,” Tatum admitted postgame. “I for sure feel better. And I did the first game. It’s a long process, you know, I talked the guys that said it took months for them to kind of catch their breath and get their wind back. And I think I’m kind of on the same track with that. I for sure feel better. I don’t feel, necessarily, the same (as) before I got it when I was playing. I definitely know there’s a difference but I feel pretty good.”
— Grant Williams took advantage of his time after a few healthy scratches of late.
He went 3-for-4 from the perimeter with 17 points, four rebounds and a steal off the bench. He described getting out of a recent mental funk.
“Especially in the past couple weeks, I think I was in my own head in the beginning and wasn’t really working as hard as I could have been,” Williams said. “So next thing you know, kind of just flipped the mantra and got back to how I used to and how I’ve worked my whole life. And I think it’s paid off, whether it’s through my three point shooting or just defensively.”
— Watching Stevens try and divvy up minutes between his three centers has been interesting this year.
Against Toronto, Daniel Theis started along side Thompson, but ultimately Thompson (13 points, and Robert Williams saw most of the minutes. Stevens explained that decision, noting how Raptors were going too small for Boston’s double-big lineup.
“Well I think anytime we can save Theis minutes, just because of the minutes he’s played the last two years, it’s a good thing. But tonight was just, you know, they were impossible to play with two bigs… We knew would probably go to that at some point, and then you just play in who in your gut you think can be most impactful.”
— Finally, the Celtics get to put their feet up until Thursday, March 11 when they travel to Brooklyn to face the Nets.
Except for Tatum and Brown, who will be playing in the All-Star Game on Sunday, March 7.