Five takeaways - Jayson Tatum has 'special' potential
Five takeaways from Celtics-Heat
BOSTON – The only time you can consistently hear Boston Celtics head coach Brad Stevens talk about youth, is how it relates to the team’s still-early schedule.
Six games in is far too soon to make any declarative positions on what works, what doesn’t and where the team will ultimately finish when all is said and done.
But within these first six games, what can’t be denied is the potential of this team and how that potential seems to manifest itself every time these guys step out on the floor.
Stevens is relying more on first-year players than he has at any time during his four seasons with the Celtics.
And for the most part, they are not playing like rookies.
Boston began to separate itself from the Miami Heat in the third quarter courtesy of some big-time baskets from rookie Jayson Tatum who scored nine of his 20 points in the third.
Second-round pick Semi Ojeleye came in and provided some solid play defensively, similar to what he did against Milwaukee and their All-Star Giannis Antetokounmpo.
“We’ve talked a lot about how we’re not going to talk about age as a crutch. It is what it is,” Stevens said. “What they’ve done thus far is good, but we’re only (a handful of) games in.”
Here are five takeaways from Boston’s 96-90 win at Miami which extended Boston’s winning streak to four in a row.
Irving clutch factor
We have seen enough of Kyrie Irving in the past to know that he’s capable of taking over a game at any given moment. Saturday was the first time we’ve seen him do that as a Celtic. Irving finished with a game-high 24 points, but that stretch in which he scored nine straight in the final two minutes of play was vintage Irving. As much as he seems to enjoy getting others involved, there will be times like Saturday when Boston will need him to be a dominant, shot-taking, ankle-breaking scorer.
Tatum has “special” potential
The Celtics have had some pretty special talent come through in the past, but rarely has there been someone who hit the ground running as well as Tatum. Saturday’s 20-point performance was his second of the season. Of the top-5 scorers in franchise history, only one of them (Larry Bird) had multiple 20-point performances faster than Tatum. Even more impressive is that he’s doing this as a 19-year-old on a top-flight team that’s among the best in the NBA.
Less (weight) is more for Smart
There was a point in Saturday’s game when Marcus Smart hustled down a loose ball and drove into the lane for an uncontested finish at the rim, the kind of play that he probably would not have been able to make last season when he played 20 pounds heavier than he is now. Smart played with tremendous energy and effort on Saturday, and didn’t look to wear down in the game’s latter stages which we saw happen last season. He finished with a season-high 16 points to go with four rebounds, four assists and two steals.
Stevens the magician
Kudos to Brad Stevens for getting his team to re-group so quickly after losing Gordon Hayward (ankle) for the season. He has done a masterful job of getting his players to focus on their strengths (length, athleticism) while not letting their weaknesses (experience) get in the way. He’s often seen as one of the best coaches in the league. Considering the expectations on this club and the way they’ve performed without one of their main go-to guys for all but five minutes this season, Stevens is off to what’s shaping up to be his best coaching job since coming to the NBA.
Lineup versatility, both ends of the floor
Boston has lots of guys who can score the ball. They can switch-and-defend with the best of them. There are bench players that can slice and dice up a team via the pick-and-roll and physical bangers if you really want to go that route. The Celtics have all-you-can-handle roster that has shown the ability to morph into whatever is required to win. Most of the game, they relied on strong play defensively whether that was protecting the rim or contesting shots on the perimeter. But they also unleashed two of their better scorers, in the second half. In the third quarter, it was Jayson Tatum taking over and getting whatever shot he wanted. And down the stretch, it was Kyrie Irving doing the same. This team has tremendous balance at both ends of the floor, and are playing with a pulse for what’s needed to win. There’s still a lot of season left to play and like most teams, the Celtics will surely have some degree of adversity down the road. But as we’ve seen with this team, they’re not letting roadblocks 0slow them down on their path towards success.