Five takeaways: Celtics grind out OT win
Five Takeaways: Celtics grind out OT win
BOSTON – Knocking off Houston may have been the Boston Celtics’ signature win of the season, but their 112-108 overtime win at Milwaukee on Saturday may have been their most important.
They jumped out to a big lead, squandered it and then found themselves in a down-to-the-wire matchup against an up-and-coming team led by a blossoming superstar in Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Unlike many of their games this season, Boston wasn’t going to just shoot their way to victory.
They had to grind it out, get defensive stops and keep the rebounding battle relatively close.
Brad Stevens’ ballers found success on all those fronts when it mattered, providing them with a blueprint for the kind of basketball they have to play with more consistency if they are to continue trending upwards in the Eastern Conference standings.
Here are five takeaways from Saturday’s game:
Brown's continued growth
It really is a shame that Jaylen Brown wasn’t asked to participate in the Rising Stars Challenge, because Brown’s play is very much on the right trajectory. He only had nine points against the Bucks, but he was aggressive in attacking the rim (he had eight rebounds) which included having a shot blocked by Giannis Antetokounmpo and later, finishing at the rim against the Bucks all-star.
With Avery Bradley (Achilles strain) and Al Horford (groin) out, Crowder continues to fill in the gaps so that teams can’t overload on Isaiah Thomas any more than they do already. Against the Bucks, he was part of a contingent that did a good job of keeping Antetokounmpo from having a monster game scoring the ball. And on top of that, he had 20 points, six rebounds and four assists with one blocked shot.
The Jerebko factor
He’s in the starting lineup now, but good things tend to happen for Boston when he plays decent minutes. Last season, the Celtics were 14-4 when Jerebko played 20 or more minutes. This season, they seem to be even better. This season the Celtics are 11-1 when he plays at least 20 minutes.
Amir Johnson's emergence
Numbers have never been good to Johnson when it comes to determining his value to a team. But as we’ve seen lately, the better Johnson plays the more complete Boston is defensively. Too much attention to Isaiah Thomas opened things up around the basket for Johnson who had 11 points on 5-for-7 shooting against Milwaukee. But more than that, he was a steady presence defensively, grabbing seven rebounds while coming up with two of the biggest plays defensively – drawing a charge late in the game and providing help-side defense on Giannis Antetokounmpo’s potential game-tying shot that was off the mark.
ELITE OFFENSE, DEFENSE
The Celtics are inching towards being an upper echelon club at both ends of the floor. They are riding a three-game winning streak with Saturday’s victory, in large part due to them excelling offensively and defensively. In the last three games, Boston has averaged 120.0 points per game which is tops in the NBA during that span. And their defense has rock-solid, too. Boston’s defensive rating in the last three games is 100.4 which is the fourth-best mark in the league during that span. Part of that success defensively lies in Boston’s defensive rebounding. Ranked among the worst in the NBA this season, Boston has a league-best 84.1 defensive rebounding percentage in the last three games, and an overall rebounding percentage of .549 which is No. 2 in the league.