Heading into the postseason, we knew that the Boston Celtics would need to rely heavily on their young core. In game one, at least, that young core came through in a big way.
Al Horford is still the dad of this squad. Marcus Morris is the odd uncle that has just a hint of danger in his eyes. They will have their ups and downs, but for the most part they are known quantities.
We just didn’t have enough information to know exactly how the “kids” would perform. As I mentioned before, Brown and Rozier have just a small sample size of experience in the playoffs, and obviously Jayson Tatum has none on this level.
On the other hand, this year’s regular season thrust each of those guys into bigger roles that they excelled in. Brad Stevens seemed to sense this as he talked about how the team responded to the game going to overtime. (via Scott Souza)
“I knew they wouldn’t hang their heads,” Stevens said. “Sometimes I think they’re at their best when those things happen. It’s just a really resilient group of kids. Not kids, men.”
In the first game, each scored 19 or more points to carry the offense, but those are just numbers that only tell part of the story.
Jaylen Brown was a little guilty of forcing the issue early on, but you have to like the aggressive way he took it to the defense. He didn’t get discouraged, and he picked up steam as he went.
Jayson Tatum used his prodigious length to score, rebound (10 in total and a key one in overtime), and defend (3 steals and 1 big block). At this point it shouldn’t even be a surprise anymore. The rook was not shook. He doesn’t force things, he doesn’t back down, he just looks like he belongs.
Terry Rozier III stepped up when the pressure was highest. He scored 8 of his 23 points in overtime, but he provided a signature highlight at (almost) the end of regulation. His vicious crossover and step-back three with 0.5 left on the clock will haunt Eric Bledsoe’s dreams for years.
Granted, it takes more than a single home game to remove the “young” label and declare these guys “veterans.” They, along with Horford, are the focal point of the game plan, and the Bucks are going to throw everything they have at them. How they perform for the rest of the series will go a long way towards cementing their perception around the league.
With that said, they would be wise to heed the oft-repeated mantra of Coach Stevens to take every moment as an opportunity to grow and learn. Game one was a step forward, but just one step in a long journey ahead of them.