Five takeaways from Celtics' Opening Night victory
BOSTON – The sun rose this morning and the Boston Celtics were still seen as the best team in the East, just as they were the day before.
But instead of hyperbole or relying on past accomplishments, the Celtics had a 105-87 beating of the Philadelphia 76ers to justify their lot in life.
It was just one game, we get that.
But it was one game in which Boston showcased a brand of basketball that seems to cover the gamut as far as what they can do, making it clear as day that beating the Celtics this season will not be an easy feat even when some of their core guys (hey there, Kyrie Irving!) are having an off night.
Here are my five takeaways from Boston’s season-opening win against Philadelphia.
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BOSTON'S DEPTH IS LEGIT
This group talked big during the preseason, even came up with a nickname B.W.A. (Bench With Attitude). And to their credit, they backed it up and then some in the opener. While Marcus Morris (16 points, 10 rebounds) led the way, they as a collective unit were able to take a relatively close game and make a cushy win.
“Our depth was a big factor in the game,” said coach Brad Stevens. “Whenever things started to go awry, and we put new fresh guys in they all made plays. And that’s what it’s got to be for us.”
JAYSON TATUM'S SPECTACULAR DEBUT
Kyrie Irving scores seven points, shoots 2-for-14 from the field and the Celtics win by 18? While you know Irving won’t have many more if any more games like that, expect to see Jayson Tatum come to the Celtics’ rescue time and time again this season. He was a master tactician in the opener against Philly, exploiting every kink he could find in the Sixers defense. Against defenders his size, he used his length to shoot over them or attacked off the dribble. And versus bigs like Joel Embiid, he maximized his dribble to create enough space to get shot off which more times than not, went in. Tatum led all Celtics with 23 points on 9-for-17 shooting to go with nine rebounds, three assists and a steal.
“We need him to be great,” said Stevens.
BRAD'S MANAGING OF MINUTES
One of the more talked-about concerns heading into the opener was about how Brad Stevens would manage the minutes of a roster that’s full of players who, based on their talent, should play a decent amount of minutes. Stevens made the decision to essentially play what looks like a playoff rotation that’s a solid nine players deep, while sprinkling in a 10th player that for the opener, was Daniel Theis.
You never know how minutes will shake down from one night to the next, but the Celtics got tremendous balance and impact from all who played, with no one logging more than 30 minutes (Al Horford).
“Everybody has to play with great effort because the guy behind him is chomping at the bit to get in,” Stevens said. “I thought all of them did their jobs hard, and I thought had great focus to do it well.”
You knew Aron Baynes was going to play a decent number of minutes because he does as good a job defensively on Joel Embiid as anyone in the NBA. But Baynes did more than just defend Embiid at a high level. He made his presence felt at both ends of the floor, especially when he was with the starting unit to begin the third quarter. It wasn’t just a coincidence that it was the third quarter when Boston began to separate itself from the Sixers, fueled largely by an early 10-2 run to establish a firm grip of control by Boston that they would not relinquish. Baynes had eight points which included a pair of 3-pointers, as well as four rebounds and three assists.
Not only was Tuesday Gordon Hayward’s first game back after suffering a season-ending injury in the opener last season, but it was also the first time he has played in the TD Garden as a member of the Boston Celtics in a regular-season game. It was not by any means the best of Gordon Hayward on display. And that’s a good thing, folks. Because if you look at where he was at during Boston’s first preseason game and see how he performed Tuesday night, the progress in his game is undeniable. The challenge for Hayward is to figure out the best way that he can contribute and help the team win.
There were two things that really jumped out from Tuesday’s game.
Hayward’s foot speed isn’t quite where it needs to be, but he has found a way to make up for that by accurately reading passing lanes and being in position to make plays. He would finish the game with a career high-tying four steals.