Five takeaways from Celtics win over Clippers
A day of truth
BOSTON -- What a weekend this was for New England.
There was the Patriots' thrilling 34-28 overtime win over Atlanta in the Super Bowl. And hours before that, there was Paul Pierce bidding adieu to the Celtics fans in what was his final game as a player on the TD Garden floor.
It was a tear-jerker event for many, but more than the emotional part of it, the game itself served as a reminder as to why the Celtics (33-18) are the second-best in the Eastern Conference and are showing very few signs of taking a step back anytime soon.
Here are five takeaways from Sunday’s game.
BROWN’S DEFENSE STEADILY IMPROVING
Avery Bradley’s Achilles injury has opened the door for Jaylen Brown’s versatility as a defender to start shining. He has a ways to go before we talk about him in the same breath as Bradley or Marcus Smart. But the job he did against the Clippers and J.J. Redick was indeed impressive. Redick is a deadly shooter who literally could do nothing when Brown defended. When Brown wasn’t contesting a shot, he forced Redick to where the help was at so that most of those shots were also contested.
We all know how much the Celtics love their 3-point shots. But 52? “Yeah, that is a lot,” Al Horford told CSNNE.com after the game. “But the way they defended us, those were the best shots most of the game.” He’s right. The Clippers’ strategy was to simply take away everything inside the 3-point line. The only problem is that strategy isn’t going to work most nights against the Celtics, who are a significantly better 3-point shooting team this season.
HORFORD’S BOARD WORK
If there’s one consistent criticism you hear about Al Horford, it’s that he doesn’t rebound well enough. But as we saw against the Clippers, when he’s matched up against a big who doesn’t really stretch the floor like DeAndre Jordan, he can be pretty damn good at the rim. Horford had a season-high 15 rebounds.
TOUGH ON ALL TEAMS
The Celtics have played a few struggling teams during their winning streak and, because of that, they could have lost a little focus in those games. But to this team’s credit, they went at Orlando and the Los Angeles Lakers with the same level of effort as they did Houston and the Los Angeles Clippers. Showing an ability to not play up or down to the level of their opponent, but just play, speaks to how this team is growing more comfortable with being one of the better teams in the NBA.
PASSING OF THE TORCH
It was fitting that the nearest person to Paul Pierce when he made his final shot at the TD Garden, was Isaiah Thomas. Because the torch of being the Celtic who torches opponents, belongs to Isaiah Thomas now. He’s the league’s No. 2 scorer overall and leads all players in fourth quarter-points-per-game. And the way he has taken to being more of a leader both on and off the court, speaks to his understanding and willingness to be the man that everyone looks to for leadership – a role that once belonged to Pierce and one that Pierce is more than happy to see in the hands of Thomas. And someday, Thomas hopes to get a similar ovation from Celtics Nation that Pierce did on Sunday. “It drives me a lot,” Thomas said. “I want to be like that one day, hopefully. Be in that situation where I can be on a franchise for a long time; give it my blood, sweat and tears and come back and play your last game and have that type of love is unbelievable.”