Celtics

Celtics vs. Hornets Instant Overreactions: Gordon Hayward and Jaylen Brown can coexist after all

Celtics vs. Hornets Instant Overreactions: Gordon Hayward and Jaylen Brown can coexist after all

Don’t miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Spurs, which tips off  Saturday at 4:30 p.m. ET with Celtics Pregame Live, and then Mike & Scal have the call of the game at 5 p.m. You can also stream the game through the MyTeams App.

***

The Boston Celtics improved to 6-1 to maintain first place in the Eastern Conference with a 108-87 win over the Charlotte Hornets on Thursday night.

Of course, the big story was Kemba Walker's return to the city he spent the first eight seasons of his NBA career. Walker received a touching video tribute and a thunderous ovation from the Charlotte crowd before the game.

As for the matchup itself, there was plenty to overreact to. Here are three instant overreactions from the C's win:

1. Gordon Hayward and Jaylen Brown can coexist after all.

Verdict: Overreaction

Jaylen Brown made his return to the Celtics lineup after missing three games with an illness, and he was solid. More importantly, Brown's return didn't take away from Gordon Hayward's production as he was great for the second straight night.

Last season, it seemed there were simply too many mouths to feed in the Celtics offense. Brown and Hayward putting up numbers simultaneously was a rare sight. That wasn't the case on Thursday, as Hayward tallied 20 points, 10 rebounds, and six assists while Brown contributed 12 points and five rebounds of his own in the victory.

Although it's definitely encouraging, we need to wait and see whether it can happen consistently against more formidable opponents than the Hornets.

2. Nerves got to Kemba Walker in his return.

Verdict: Overreaction

Walker didn't take over the game against his former team like Celtics fans hoped he would. He dropped a modest 14 points while going 4-of-12 from the floor.

This didn't have anything to do with "nerves" or emotions getting the best of him in his first game back at Charlotte. There will be times throughout the season in which Walker can't put up 30 and instead lets his teammates -- in this case, Hayward and Jayson Tatum -- get the job done. In fact, it's refreshing to see Walker be willing to take a back seat while the rest of the lineup thrives.

3. The Celtics' bench needs help.

Verdict: Not an overreaction

The Celtics could really use a consistent scorer off the bench. I mentioned after Tuesday's win over the Cavaliers that Carsen Edwards provided a much-needed spark, but the keyword here is "consistency." Through the first seven games of the season, that's been lacking.

On a positive note, Javonte Green made his presence felt late with 12 points (5-of-9 from the field) in 13 minutes.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Celtics easily on your device.

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.

Celtics rookie Tacko Fall gets seven player votes for NBA All-Star Game

Celtics rookie Tacko Fall gets seven player votes for NBA All-Star Game

Tacko-mania isn't just for fans. Apparently, some NBA players are in on the craze too.

Tacko Fall has been among fan voting leaders for the 2020 NBA All-Star Game, and he managed to snag a few votes from his NBA peers despite appearing in only four games with the Boston Celtics this season. He's spent most of his time in the NBA G League with the Maine Red Claws.

The 7-foot-5 phenom received seven player votes, topping teammates Gordon Hayward (six) and Enes Kanter (four). Fellow C's rookie Grant Williams earned two votes from players.

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.

Considering the amount of attention Tacko has received throughout his rookie campaign, it's really no surprise he's faring well in the popularity contest that is NBA All-Star voting. While it's all fun and games for some, Celtics head coach Brad Stevens made it known he isn't a fan of Tacko-mania extending into the voting process.

Celtics star Kemba Walker was named a starter for the All-Star Game on Thursday. Reserves will be announced on Jan. 30.

Forsberg: This is no passing fancy with Smart

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.