Five takeaways: Tatum rebounds from poor shooting night
BOSTON -- Jayson Tatum has impressed many by carrying himself with a certain level of maturity and wisdom you seldom see in a 19-year-old, let alone a 19-year-old in the NBA. He's often praised for his offensive weaponry, which has blown up more than a few defensive game plans already this season.
But as we saw in Monday’s 108-94 win over San Antonio, he knows there will be nights when his shots won’t fall consistently. When that happens Tatum has to find other ways to impact the game . . . and that's exactly what he did in grabbing a career-high 11 rebounds against the Spurs.
“It’s a long season,” Tatum told NBC Sports Boston. “I knew coming in I wouldn’t have a great night shooting the ball every night. Rebounding is hard work and hustle; you can always control that.”
He’s not alone. A number of Celtics shook off rough starts shooting the ball against San Antonio, and rebounded with key plays either scoring or with their defense in helping Boston extend its winning streak to five straight, not to metion snapping an 11-game losing streak to the Spurs.
“The most encouraging thing is nights where their [shots] are not falling, they’re not hanging their heads,” said coach Brad Stevens. “It’s all about how you respond in this deal, whether it’s minute-to-minute or game-to-game.”
Here are five other takeaways from Boston’s 108-94 win over San Antonio which extended the Celtics’ winning streak to five in a row.
EVOLUTION OF IRVING
The level of comfort Kyrie Irving has with his role at both ends of the floor seems to keep getting better and better. There was no easing into the game Monday night, as Boston went into the half ahead by five points with Irving leading the way with 16 points. He would get lots of help from teammates in the second half, but still managed to finish with a game-high 24 points on 10-for-16 shooting with six assists and three steals.
HORFORD’S NEW ROLE
There’s no question Horford is in a good place right now, both in terms of his play and the role he’s being tasked with this season. He’s scoring at a level akin to what he did in Atlanta as a four-time All-Star, but is also being counted on to be more of a defensive stopper. Horford was a big factor in San Antonio’s LaMarcus Aldridge scoring just 11 points on 5-for-13 shooting, with all his points coming in the first half.
BETTER FREE-THROW SHOOTING
The Celtics have too many good free-throw shooters to struggle as mightily as they did from the free-throw line at the start of the season. After the first three games, Boston was shooting just 66.7 percent from the line. In the last four games, that number is up to 83.5 percent from the line.
Boston has done a good job of rebounding the ball this season, but the Spurs posed arguably their greatest rebounding challenge to date. And to the Celtics’ credit, they absolutely crushed it against San Antonio with a 57.4 percent rebounding percentage -- a season high -- that was quantified by a decisive 54-40 rebounding edge over the Spurs. For the season, Boston’s rebounding percentage (.518) ranks sixth in the league.
Drives, post-ups and a few lob dunks. The Celtics managed to score around the rim early and often against the Spurs. For the game, Boston had 54 points in the paint compared to San Antonio’s 42. The Celtics’ ability to generate offense from close range will gradually open things up for their perimeter shooters to have even better looks at the rim than they have right now.