Celtics

Celtics

The Boston Celtics were significantly shorthanded against the Cleveland Cavaliers. Three starters -- Kemba Walker, Jaylen Brown, and Gordon Hayward -- were out for the game nursing injuries, so the C's had to rely on a Jayson Tatum to carry them to victory.

The C's were able to emerge victorious, 112-106. And we learned a lot about the depth of the C's in the win that snapped their two-game losing skid.

Here are a few instant overreactions from the win in Cleveland.

1. Semi Ojeleye can help address the Celtics' offensive problems off the bench.

Verdict: Overreaction

Semi Ojeleye had a night to remember for the C's. He put forth one of the best performances of his career, totaling a career-high 22 points. That included 15 points in the first half on 4-for-5 shooting from behind the arc.

With Ojeleye's great offensive outing now in the books, the natural conclusion would be that he could make an impact on the team's bench scoring. However, that would ignore the fact that in 57 appearances this season prior to Wednesday night, Ojeleye was averaging just 2.8 points per game on 39.7 percent shooting from the field and just 35.8 percent shooting from 3-point range.

Perhaps with more confidence, Ojeleye will take more threes and offer the C's a bit more off the bench. That said, on any given night when the Celtics aren't without three starters, it will be harder for him to find opportunities to take shots. And that will make it more difficult for him to stay in rhythm from beyond the arc.

 

Ojeleye could still be a key player off the bench thanks to his size, defensive versatility, and his ability to have the occasional scoring outburst as seen vs. Cleveland. But it would be surprising to see him repeat this type of offensive performance frequently.

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2. Robert Williams has overtaken Enes Kanter in the C's center rotation.

Verdict: Overreaction

When Brad Stevens went to the bench early in the second half, he called for a big man to come in and help turn the tide after a mini-run by the Cavs.

It wasn't Enes Kanter. It was Robert Williams.

In his second game back from a hip injury that sidelined him for nearly half of the season, Williams proved to be a vital part of the Celtics rotation. He played 14 minutes and logged six points, five boards, and three blocked shots.

But has Williams overtaken Kanter for the No. 2 spot in the Celtics center rotation? Not at all. Kanter still got 14 minutes of his own and was able to notch a double-double of 10 points and 11 rebounds. Also, he came in the game after Williams in the second half and played at the start of the fourth quarter for the C's.

In reality, it was Daniel Theis who saw his role diminish against the Cavaliers. He played just 19 minutes, his fewest since he logged 19 in a game Feb. 3 against the Hawks. He had trouble dealing with Kevin Love and Larry Nance Jr. on each side of the ball and had just five points and three rebounds.

So, what does this demonstrate? That the Celtics center rotation will change nightly and by matchup. Williams' athletic ability and Kanter's sheer size came in handy against Love and Nance. Theis simply didn't do as well against the duo, so he saw fewer minutes.

This was always what Brad Stevens planned on doing entering the season. With all three fully healthy, it's no surprise that he is doing what he can to get them all involved but it picking the guys to roll with based on their performances.

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3. Jayson Tatum's playmaking ability was important to the win.

Verdict: Not an overreaction

On a night where the Celtics were down three starters and Marcus Smart wasn't shooting well, a lot of responsibility fell on Tatum to help carry the C's. He was able to score 32 points in the victory but his playmaking was really what helped some of his other teammates get going.

One of the strategies the Cavs used to try to slow down Tatum was double-teaming him in the halfcourt set. But Tatum was able to escape these by making quick, timely passes to his open teammates that either led to open baskets or open opportunities for others off another pass.

 

Overall, Tatum finished with a team-leading six assists on a night when the Celtics had just 16. Tatum proved that he can be a playmaker and distributor, though, and that will be important for his continued growth, especially if Kemba Walker (5.0 assists per game) and Gordon Hayward (4.1 apg) continue to miss time down the stretch.

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