If you care about such things at this time of year, the Boston Celtics are currently tied for the top seed in the East after beating the Cleveland Cavaliers last night. It’s something that’s fun to say at a time when such things don’t matter. What does matter, though, is that Boston has now won five games in a row and they’re continuing to find ways to pull out tough games while they’re shorthanded.
Here are 10 things we learned in the win over the Cavs.
1. Gordon Hayward is back (and we can stop saying it now)
This is sort of like one of those wedding ceremonies you see in the movies. It’s the part where the priest says “speak now or forever hold your peace.”
You can spend today saying “Gordon Hayward is back.” You can brag to your friends and post memes on social media. But after that, Hayward would kindly like everyone, including media members like me, to move on from the injury talk.
“I don’t think about it. I haven’t thought about it for a while,“ Hayward said after the game. „Hopefully you guys can stop asking me questions about that.”
We’re six games into the season. Hayward is averaging 20.3 points, 7.5 rebounds, and 4.3 assists per game. It’s official.
2. Hayward’s passing was as impressive as his scoring
OK maybe not entire “as” impressive, but it was pretty close.
“He just kept making the right play over and over,” Brad Stevens said after the game. “And when they did eventually start trapping him he hit Rob for a couple of those dunks, he found Theis a couple of times. He played really well.”
Look at how well read this trap and got it to Robert Williams (who also read this very well and dove immediately)
A big scoring night can become a beautiful basketball night when the hot player understands when his hot hand opens things up for others. At that point the player can toy with defenses, dropping dimes when they overreact one way and scoring when they overreact the other.
3. The 2-pointer stat is pointless
In case you haven’t heard, the only other player to hit 16 of 16 two-point field goals was Wilt Chamberlain.
“Seems like a pointless stat to me,“ Hayward said. „It was a good night. Maybe I shouldn’t have kept shooting the 3’s then. Keep shooting the 2’s.”
I’m with Hayward on this one. First of all, 3′s didn’t exist in Wilt’s day, not that he would have shot one. Secondly, Chamberlain didn’t miss a shot while Hayward did miss three.
What does that mean? Nothing. Hayward just had an awesome game. I know this is where you probably say “you must be fun at parties.”
(A) I am, but (B) I’m agreeing with Hayward. It’s a pointless stat.
4. Carsen Edwards found his groove (and it has nothing to do with his hair)
Edwards says he promised his mom he’d cut his hair if he got drafted, so the new fade is just making good on that. It wasn’t a superstitious change because the dreads didn’t have any buckets in them.
Whether it was the new coif, or being back in the gym where he drilled eight 3-pointers in the preseason, Edwards finally caught fire in a game that mattered.
“I just took shots that I thought were open, they were just able to go in,“ Edwards said. “I’m just glad we won.”
Edwards was 2-for-13 coming into this game. He was 3-for-4 in the game. Because it’s early and the sample size is so small, he was able to bring his 3-point percentage up from 15.4 percent to 29.4 percent in one game.
The lesson? Shooters shoot and eventually a good shooter will hit shots.
5. Marcus Smart thought he was injured again
“The oblique again the exact same one and it knocked the wind out of me,“ he said. „It was scary because I thought the same thing was about to happen that happened last year. But thank God the oblique is stronger and it’s able to withstand hits like that so that’s good.”
But he got up and guarded Kevin Love anyway.
“I had to. At that moment it’s not about me, it’s about the team. And at the time we were at a disadvantage from me being down, so I had to get up. I’ll deal with whatever’s going on with me later. Obviously if it was way worse and I couldn’t have gotten up, then that’s just what it would have been, but it wasn’t too painful for me so I just had to get back up and play”
6. Oh hey this guy Kemba was good too
Between Hayward’s offense and Smart’s defense, it’s somewhat easy to overlook a good night from Kemba Walker. He finished with 25 points and hit six of the eight 3-pointers he took. It’s not often a 25 point, 8 rebound, 3 assist game can fly under the radar, especially one one of those 3′s was this shot.
7. Jayson Tatum is pretty good at getting into passing lanes
Tatum’s night was pretty quiet, but he seems to have a lot of these kinds of plays this season.
His steals are up slightly from last season (currently averaging 1.6 per game). He seems to be good for one of these a game right now, which is a nice addition to whatever offense he provides.
8. The Celtics love throwing block parties
The Celtics are currently fourth in the NBA in blocks per game. Coincidentally, so is Daniel Theis, who had five blocks against Cleveland.
The Celtics blocked 12 shots in this one, almost double the team average. Robert Williams, Jayson Tatum, and …. (takes off glasses, cleans them, looks at stat sheet again)… Kemba Walker each had two blocks against Cleveland.
9. Smart is an assassin in pick and rolls
Smart is excellent at reading what the opposing big is doing in pick and roll coverage and exploiting it.
The instant Smart saw Kevin Love opened up and facing him, he knew that alley oop was going to Daniel Theis.
Smart is a very good passer, and being able to read defenders like this is a big reason why.
10. Stevens is still experimenting
Stevens put Javonte Green into the first quarter of this game. Green played five minutes and never saw the floor again.
Did he want a slasher out there? Did he want a defender? Did he just need someone to give him five minutes of playing time to manage someone else’s minutes?
No one knows. But Stevens isn’t afraid of mixing up lineups if he feels like he has to. This was certainly proof.
For more reaction to last night’s game, you can check me out on the Locked On Celtics podcast. You can listen below or use the share button on the player to download it for later. You can also subscribe on Apple, Google, Spotify, Stitcher, or search for Locked On Celtics wherever you get your podcasts. You can also tell your smart to device to “play podcast Locked On Celtics.”