Wow. Just, wow.
I’m not sure if I have ever seen a team as resilient as this year’s Boston Celtics. Even without their All Star point guard, Kyrie Irving, they were able to pull out a win against the Toronto Raptors pushing their win-streak to 12.
Going into the game, many thought this could be where the C’s streak ended. The Raptors retained nearly all of their players from the team’s Eastern Conference Semi-Finals team a year prior, including their All Star backcourt of Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozen.
Without Irving, which Celtic would be able to match the duo’s scoring? Instead of a single player stepping up, it was several.
The C’s had 5 different scorers in double-digits with Al Horford leading the way at 21 points. The
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combo of Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum were also a big part of the team’s offense. Brown scored the higher of the two with 18 point while shooting 53% from the field and 66% from 3. Tatum was crucial down the stretch as he scored a couple of clutch baskets in the closing minutes of the game. Tom Westerholm of MassLive asked Brown about Tatum and his late-game heroics.
“I think that’s where Jayson comes alive.. A lot of players on this team come alive in the fourth quarter, and Jayson is one of them. When the game is on the line is when we perform the best, and Jayson is one of those type of players that you give him the ball in the clutch, he can make something happen. Even in summer league he was making shots like that, just he’s beyond his years, and he’s going to continue to get better.”
Tatum continued to display a silky-smooth offensive repertoire finishing with 13 points on the night.
The Celtics also had contributions from the their two dynamic guards. Marcus Smart — who started in place of Irving — was once again the “glue” of the team. He made a number of great defensive and hustle plays which carried the C’s to a victory. While Smart didn’t shot a high percentage (30), he still finished with 14 points and continued to show his growth a distributor adding 9 assists. Terry Rozier continued to be a spark-plug off the bench for the Celtics chipping in 16 points while shooting 42% from downtown.
However, the Celtics’ scoring was not the reason for their victory — instead, it was their defense. Throughout Boston’s 12-game winning streak, the formula has been the same; defense over offense. The C’s currently have the best defense in the NBA with a rating of approximately 95 and are top-10 in almost every other team category. Needless to say, they have been a thorn in the sides of many opponents.
Take the Raptors as an example. Outside of DeRozen and Lowry, only one other player scored double-digits. They even held Toronto’s duo to shooting just 42% from the field.
The team’s defense is universal with bench players like Daniel Theis establishing themselves as legit NBA defenders.
As the C’s continue to jell with one another, it will be interesting to see how much better they can be.