Five Celtics takeaways: Escape from Brooklyn
Five Celtics takeaways: Escape from Brooklyn
It was far from a thing of beauty, but when you’re trying to rack up as many wins this time of year it really doesn’t matter.
The Celtics escaped Brooklyn with a 98-95 win and for them that’s all that really matters.
They played without Isaiah Thomas (knee), their leading scorer whose presence blankets the scouting report most teams have on Boston.
Without him, others had to step up and play roles that, for this game at least, might have been a bit more expansive than they’re used to.
Avery Bradley probably said it best when he commented after the game on how some Celtics probably didn’t think they would play at all, but wound up playing significant minutes in the victory.
And again, that’s all Friday’s game was about – finding a way to victory.
The Nets are the only team already eliminated from the playoffs, so it’s not like there’s a chance Boston will see these guys again in the postseason.
Throw in the fact that it allows others to see more time and thus gain some much-needed playing experience, and it all adds up to the Celtics getting all they wanted from Friday night’s game.
“It’s gonna bring a lot of confidence come playoff time,” Boston’s Jae Crowder told reporters after Friday’s win. “Isaiah [Thomas] can only do so much for us. He scores a lot for us. But sometimes it’s gonna be a tough night come playoff time. Someone else may have to step up. That’s what these moments like this, are going to help groom us into doing hopefully.”
Here are five more takeaways from Friday’s game:
ZELLER ANSWERS THE CALL
You will be hard-pressed to find another Celtic whose career in Boston has been as big a roller coaster ride as Tyler Zeller. Boston got a lot of contributions from folks in beating the Nets, but few seem to have been glossed over, despite their importance, as Zeller’s play against Brooklyn’s Brook Lopez. The Celtics were having a major problem with Lopez who had 11 fairly quick points in the third quarter before the Celtics called upon Zeller. He entered the game with 5:32 to play in the third and held Lopez scoreless while getting a couple points of his own.
GREEN LIGHT SHINES
The opportunities aren’t overly abundant for Gerald Green when it comes to playing time, but give him credit. More often than not, he’s up to the challenge when he’s called upon. On a night when the Celtics as a team struggled shooting the ball, Green’s scoring contributions in the first half played a huge role in Boston keeping the Nets at bay before the offense got on track. He finished with 11 points, seven of which came in the first half.
The Celtics were plus-10 on the boards against Brooklyn and the play of Jae Crowder certainly had a lot to do with that success. He scored a season-high 24 points but also grabbed 12 rebounds – also a season high – for his seventh double-double of the season. Improved rebounding has been a part of Crowder’s game since the All-Star break. Prior to the break, he averaged 5.7 rebounds per game. Since then, he’s up to 7.7 per game.
I.T. HELP NEEDED
Boston managed to get a victory without Isaiah Thomas, raising their record to 2-3 without their leading scorer this season. But the shot attempts Boston was getting for the most part weren’t all that different than the ones they usually get with Thomas. But his absence took away the one shot-maker that the Celtics have come to count on night-in and night-out and finding a replacement(s) proved to be difficult. The Celtics are hoping that having gone through that against the Nets will make them better equipped to play a Thomas-less game on Sunday against the Sixers, who are playing their best basketball of the season right now.
C’s DEFENSE CONTINUES TO IMPROVE
We have seen this Celtics defense go through ups and downs all season, but they’re starting to look a lot more consistent lately. It isn’t as much about locking teams down as it is about developing habits that are consistently on display. Boston’s communication defensively against the Nets was about as good as we’ll see from this group. On so many possessions, the help defense was right on time, forcing Brooklyn to either continue passing the ball around, look for someone other than their first option to go to, or it became one of the 10 turnovers they committed against the Celtics. Regardless, Boston’s team defense is making the kind of progress at just the right time because as we saw in their not-so-great shooting display against the Nets, great play defensively can be the path towards victory on those nights when shots don’t fall, which is what we saw against the Nets on Friday night.