It's hard to believe that this is the same Boston Celtics team which got blown out by the Toronto Raptors last month in their home opener.
While still far from a perfect showing, the Celtics showed that the earlier loss was an aberration rather than the norm, battling back to a 104-88 win at TD Garden Wednesday night to move to 5-6 on the season.
It was Boston's first home win of the season, leaving the New Orleans Pelicans as the only team without a win on its own court in 2021-22.
The Raptors (6-6), who remain responsible for Boston's largest loss of the season (115-83), have turned over much of their roster from their surprising 2019 championship run, with Kawhi Leonard, Kyle Lowry, Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka now playing elsewhere.
Still, it was alarming to see what the new-look Toronto team did to the Celtics on Oct. 22. Even with Jaylen Brown out of the lineup this time around, it's clear the Celtics have surpassed the Raptors in the Eastern Conference pecking order. Here are some other takeaways from Wednesday's win:
1) Tatum can have impact on off shooting night
Tatum has been mired in a shooting slump for much of the last two weeks for the Celtics, only cracking even 40% from the floor twice over his last seven outings.
Wednesday was no exception, when he finished 8 for 24 from the floor, but his presence was still felt up and down the floor. He had a double-double in the first half alone with 11 points (4 of 13 shooting) and 10 rebounds and showed up early and often on the defensive end.
Tatum had seven assists, his second most of the season, as he continues to learn not to force the issue on the offensive end and get others involved.
Shooting slumps happen, and there's no reason to think Tatum won't work his way out of this one. Meanwhile, the fact that he seems to be improving in other areas of the game is an encouraging sign.
2) Team defense starting to gel
Wednesday was the third time in the last four games for the Celtics they've held their opponent to under 90 points; in what's surely no coincidence, Boston has won all three games that it's held opponents under the 90-point mark.
In all three wins for the Celtics, they've held their opponents well under 50% from the floor. Toronto was 42.9% from the field (33 for 77), including 24% from 3-point range (6 for 25).
During this four-game stretch (wins vs. the Orlando Magic, Miami Heat and Raptors and a buzzer-beating loss to the Dallas Mavericks), the Celtics are averaging 7.5 steals per game, five blocks per game and forcing 16.5 turnovers per contest. Opponents are shooting just 25% from 3-point range against Boston over the span.
3) Breakout campaign continues for the Time Lord
Robert Williams III had a career-high eight offensive rebounds ... before halftime.
For the game, Williams joined Tatum with a double-double with 16 points and 13 rebounds, finishing a team-best plus-20. It's the second straight game Williams has finished with 16 points -- his highest output of the season -- and his eight made field goals (8 for 11) were another season high.
When Williams has free rein to the basket, he's next to impossible to defend.
The Celtics never trailed, their fast start thanks in part to Williams and his 14-point, nine-rebound first half. Boston had 21 second chance points, compared with eight for Toronto.
It's still early, but Williams is averaging a career-high 10.6 points per game and 8.8 rebounds per game -- also a career-best.
The Celtics are next in action Friday night against the defending NBA champion Milwaukee Bucks at 8 p.m. Boston went 2-1 against Milwaukee last season