Celtics

Celtics-Jazz Takeaways: Jayson Tatum gets his again, but C's spread it around

Celtics-Jazz Takeaways: Jayson Tatum gets his again, but C's spread it around

Kemba Walker missing games this season has drawn more attention to his Boston Celtics teammate Jayson Tatum. 

When that happens, it puts a greater premium on those around Tatum to elevate their play and make teams pay for focusing on the All-Star. 

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Tatum, who had 33 points in the C's 114-103 win over Utah, is on the kind of scoring binge that has set him apart not just from his teammates, but from most of the top players in the NBA. 

His play set the tone for Boston’s strong start against Utah, but the Jazz got back into the game and made it a back-and-forth tussle for most the final three quarters. 

The Celtics began to separate themselves in the fourth, getting solid contributions from bench players at both ends of the floor to pull away for another win - their 11th in their past 13. 

Here are a few takeaways from a solid win that closes a strong 3-1 trip west:

WHAT CAN BROWN DO FOR C'S? A LOT

Jaylen Brown was one of the most outspoken Celtics when it came to talking about the need for players to do a better job of supporting Tatum when he has it going offensively. 

Brown was more than up to the challenge, finishing with 20 points, including 10 points in a third quarter that ended with the Celtics clinging to a three-point lead. 

The Celtics have the kind of roster where the offensive pecking order will fluctuate from game-to-game. Still, Brown has consistently shown he's the kind of player who makes the most of an increased opportunity and Wednesday was no exception. 

Indeed, it has worked out well for Boston this season and will need to continue to be part of who they are going forward. 

PLAYING (MARCUS) SMART DOWN THE STRETCH

Marcus Smart makes shots in the fourth quarter. Marcus Smart makes shots in the fourth quarter. It’s worth repeating because, for some reason, Celtics opponents consistently leave him wide open. 

And to Smart’s credit, he continues to make the opposition pay when it matters most. 

Smart had 17 points, nine in the fourth quarter. He also led the Celtics with nine assists.

Knocking down shots in the fourth is something that Smart does consistently. Now, those shots are coming with even less resistance because of the added attention being paid to Tatum. 

INSIDE JOB BY BOSTON

Much is made of Boston’s lack of bigs, and yet they continue to do what teams with size do: generate points in the paint. 

Boston won the paint battle against Utah, outscoring the Jazz 56-46 in the paint in addition to out-rebounding them, 44-41. 

The Celtics have consistently mixed up their inside scoring coming from drives and post-ups, a good mix that has kept defenses off balance and in many instances, incapable of slowing them down. 

Having multiple guys who can finish at the rim while creating their own shot, poses a great challenge to most defenses. 

And maybe most important, it has given the Celtics exactly what they are seeking every night: a win. 

Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Rockets-Celtics, which begins Saturday at 7:30 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live. You can also stream on the MyTeams App.

Classic Celtics: C's outlast Michael Jordan's Bulls in 1986 playoff thriller

Classic Celtics: C's outlast Michael Jordan's Bulls in 1986 playoff thriller

Want to witness one of the greatest individual performances in NBA history? Just tune into NBC Sports Boston on Sunday night.

Our "Classic Celtics" series -- which featured Game 6 of the 2008 NBA Finals on Friday night -- continues Sunday with a throwback: Game 2 of Boston's 1986 NBA playoffs first-round series with the Chicago Bulls.

That April 20, 1986, game at TD Garden was a defining moment for then-23-year-old Michael Jordan, who went off for an NBA postseason-record 63 points.

But Celtics fans can appreciate Jordan's masterful performance knowing that Boston outlasted Chicago 135-131 in double overtime and swept the series en route to an eventual NBA title.

The broadcast begins Sunday at 7 p.m. ET, and as an added bonus, Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge -- who scored 24 points in this game while defending Jordan -- will join Brian Scalabrine to provide real-time commentary throughout the game.

Other reasons to watch:

- A vintage performance from Celtics star Larry Bird, who scored a team-high 36 points to go along with 12 rebounds and eight assists.

- The 1980s Celtics at their peak: Bird, Ainge, Kevin McHale, Robert Parish, Dennis Johnson and Bill Walton all scored double figures.

- Jordan hitting two free throws in the final seconds of regulation to force the first overtime.

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NBA Rumors: Execs expect Gordon Hayward to opt in to $34 million Celtics contract

NBA Rumors: Execs expect Gordon Hayward to opt in to $34 million Celtics contract

Gordon Hayward was enjoying his best season as a Boston Celtic before the 2019-20 season came to a screeching halt due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Through 45 games, the 30-year-old forward was averaging 17.3 points, 6.5 rebounds and 4.1 assists while shooting 59.3 percent from the field. Hayward's performance was setting himself up for a solid contract if he were to opt out of his contract and hit free agency this summer.

That scenario doesn't appear likely, however.

According to Heavy.com, NBA executives expect Hayward to exercise his $34 million player option.

'It’s too much money to pass up,' one general manager told Heavy.com. 'He could get a longer deal if that is what he really wants. But I don’t think the Celtics want to give it to him, they have a lot of young guys to pay and the starting (salary) number on whatever the contract is will not be close to $34 million. He can opt in this year and then take a big contract next year. When you look at what he has done since his injury, he has only gotten better. He could get better next year and be ready for the summer of 2021.'

That doesn't exactly come as a surprise. Hayward may get a nice contract if he were to hit the open market this year, but it certainly wouldn't be anywhere near that eye-popping $34 million figure.

It makes far more sense for Hayward to take his money and test the market in 2021 if he and the Celtics don't agree on an extension before then. The 2021 free agent class will be much deeper, and teams will have more cap space to give Hayward a sizable long-term deal. That is, if he can duplicate the kind of success he's enjoyed so far this season.