Celtics-Magic Takeaways: Kemba Walker sets the tone, C's follow in comeback win in Orlando

Celtics-Magic Takeaways: Kemba Walker sets the tone, C's follow in comeback win in Orlando

BOSTON -- The Boston Celtics were about as depleted as we’ve seen them in some time, with three core players - Jaylen Brown (ankle), Enes Kanter (hip bruise) and Jayson Tatum (groin) - out against Orlando. 

The Celtics were going to need their best scorer (Walker) to be even more impactful when it came down to making shots. 

LIVE stream the Celtics all season and get the latest news and analysis on all of your teams from NBC Sports Boston by downloading the My Teams App.

And Walker did not disappoint, delivering the kind of performance that leaves no questions as to why he is going to the All-Star Game for the fourth consecutive season and second in a row as a starter.   

Just as important, Walker’s impressive scoring night was enough to help an injury-riddled Celtics team escape with a 109-98 victory which was win No. 300 for Brad Stevens (only the fifth coach in franchise history to amass 300 or more wins coaching the Celtics). 

We had the will to win tonight,” Walker, who had a game-high 37 points, told NBC Sports Boston’s Abby Chin following the game. “That’s how it has to be.”

Boston was playing without Jaylen Brown (ankle) and Jayson Tatum (groin), in addition to Enes Kanter (hip bruise) which put more of an emphasis on Walker leading the charge 

“Everyone made plays but he kept us in it,” Stevens said of Walker. 

GORDON HAYWARD

With no Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum or Enes Kanter available, the Celtics absolutely had to have a big game scoring the ball from Gordon Hayward. 

And he did not disappoint, finishing with his fifth double-double this season, with 22 points and a season-high 14 rebounds along with dishing out five assists. 

While Hayward is often criticized for up-and-down-play, the days when he’s off his game are few and far between. 

He’s impacting the game as a 3-point threat, a mid-range scorer and a finisher at the rim. The challenge for him and most NBA players, is doing what he does best more consistently. 


GRANT WILLIAMS

Into the starting lineup due to injuries, Williams had a quietly strong game for Boston. Kemba Walker had a huge game, and Williams’ ability to deliver bone-crunching screens was a big part of that. To see the bodies bounce off of Williams when he sets a screen gives is important when it comes to freeing up teammates for scores. He would finish with nine points, four rebounds and three assists along with a steal and two blocked shots.

There’s a do-it-all style about Williams’ game that affords him the ability to impact the game in a multitude of ways with Friday’s victory for Boston being the latest example. 

In the first half, he had a sequence in which he set a screen that freed up Kemba Walker for a shot, blocked a shot at the rim and drained a 3-pointer all within sixty seconds

It’s unclear how much longer Brown and Tatum will be out, but knowing that Williams will be ready certainly puts the mind of Brad Stevens at ease. 

 
JAVONTE GREEN

While his seven points and six rebounds were great to see, Green continues to prove that there’s quite a bit of untapped potential when it comes to his game. He has been electrifying offensively with his above-the-rim exploits.

But on Friday, it was Green’s defense that really stood out. 

He was among the handful of Celtics that took turns trying to limit Terrence Ross who is one of those players who tends to light up Boston, home or away. 

Green and company limited Ross to just eight points on 3-for-14 shooting. 

Celtics coach Brad Stevens said Green had spent some extra time brushing up on matchups leading up to Friday’s game. That extra time paid off almost immediately for both him and Boston.

Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Pelicans, which begins Sunday at 5:30 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live, followed by tip-off at 6 p.m. You can also stream the game on the MyTeams App.

Celtics coach Brad Stevens joins elite company with win No. 300

Celtics coach Brad Stevens joins elite company with win No. 300

BOSTON -- For most of Brad Stevens’ time as Boston Celtics coach, he tends to get more out of his teams than most expect. 

So, it was only fitting that on the night he came up with a historic win No. 300 with the Celtics, it would come in a game where his team was at far from full strength. 

No Jaylen Brown (ankle). 

No Jayson Tatum (groin).

No Enes Kanter (hip bruise).

No problem for the Celtics, who rallied from a 16-point deficit before pulling away for a 109-98 win.

LIVE stream the Celtics all season and get the latest news and analysis on all of your teams from NBC Sports Boston by downloading the My Teams App.

And with the victory, Brad Stevens became just the fifth coach in Celtics history reach the 300-win milestone, a group that includes Red Auerbach (795 wins), Tommy Heinsohn (427), Doc Rivers (416), K.C. Jones (308) and now, Stevens. 

It is an impressive mark when you consider the company he now finds himself in, a fitting accomplishment that speaks to how Stevens has immersed himself into being an NBA head coach after arriving from the college ranks. 

In Stevens’ first couple of seasons in the NBA, when the Celtics weren’t nearly as successful as the Stevens-coached teams at Butler, there were steadily rumblings that Stevens would get tired of the NBA coaching lifestyle and losing, and eventually return to college coaching. 

Despite such speculation, Stevens has consistently maintained that he wants to be in the NBA coaching this team. 

Stevens downplayed the milestone and deflected credit when asked about the milestone after the game:

And games like the comeback win over Orlando on Friday night remind us that Stevens is not only all-in on this Celtics team, but he’s all-in on being one of the winningest coaches in franchise history. He got it done with an undermanned, injury-riddled bunch and it was similar to a number of wins he has amassed that have led him to where he is now. 

Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Pelicans, which begins Sunday at 5:30 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live, followed by tip-off at 6 p.m. You can also stream the game on the MyTeams App.

Defense is what's fueling the Celtics' strong play of late

Defense is what's fueling the Celtics' strong play of late

BOSTON -- The Los Angeles Lakers came to town and got crushed by the Boston Celtics. 

Up next was Memphis, a red-hot team on the rise with a next-level rookie leading the way, who got one of those back-of-the-woodshed beatdowns. 

The Celtics are coming off their best back-to-back performances this season and are looking to continue that strong play away from the TD Garden with the next three games on the road, beginning with Friday night’s matchup at Orlando. 

LIVE stream the Celtics all season and get the latest news and analysis on all of your teams from NBC Sports Boston by downloading the My Teams App.

Indeed, there is an undeniable amount of pressure on them to continue on their winning ways. 

And the key to that success lies in their defense; specifically their ability to apply pressure at a consistent level. 

The last two games have seen the Celtics deliver the defensive hammer in a way we have not seen with this kind of consistency. 

Yes, it’s only two games. 

But here’s the thing. 

You can probably count the minutes in those two games that Boston hasn’t played with a sharp edge defensively, on the one hand. 

And the numbers only amplify how well they have ratcheted up their play at that end of the floor lately. 

In the last two games, Boston’s defense has averaged 25.0 points off turnovers which is tops in the league, 22.5 fast-break points which ranks second in the NBA in the last two games, and they are limiting opponents to just 10.0 points via fast-breaks which is the league’s fifth-lowest average in the last two games. 

Blanketing teams with pressure defensively has been something Celtics head coach Brad Stevens has been imploring his players to do all season. 

“Without any resistance, they catch it inside the three-point line or at the three-point line without any resistance, then we’re in trouble,” Stevens said. “Our best rim defense is keeping the ball away from it.”

And lately, the Celtics have done this at an elite level with their position-less brand of basketball paying dividends by being able to switch constantly defensively and not being burned by a bad matchup. 

Daniel Theis has been particularly impressive recently. 

This season, Theis has a defensive rating of 103.4 but in the last two games, his defensive rating is a strong 78.9. 

And when you start looking at Boston’s other core players, they too have seen a noticeable improvement in their defensive ratings such as Jayson Tatum (101.8 defensive rating this season, 80.2 in the last two games); Gordon Hayward (104.7 this season, 91.3 defensive rating the last two games); and Kemba Walker whose defensive rating of 108.6 has taken a major nose dive the last two games, to 94.8. 

“We have to be a defense-first kind of team; we are,” Hayward told NBC Sports Boston earlier this week. “When we let our defense leads the way for us, good things usually happen.”

Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Magic, which begins Friday at 6 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live, followed by tip-off at 7 p.m. You can also stream the game on the MyTeams App.