Celtics

Hawks-Celtics Takeaways: Undermanned C's keep on finding ways to win

Hawks-Celtics Takeaways: Undermanned C's keep on finding ways to win

BOSTON -- It was a sight we had never seen before: Tremont Waters, Brad Wanamaker, Romeo Langford, Semi Ojeleye and Vincent Poirier on the floor against Atlanta … in the first quarter!

Injuries have left the Celtics little choice but to take a look at all sorts of lineups this season. 

And this group, much like most of the tinkering done by Celtics head coach Brad Stevens, had the kind of success that factored into Boston continuing on its winning ways with a 112-107 victory over the Hawks.

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Boston (36-15) has now won six in a row, doing so once again with an undermanned roster with Gordon Hayward (foot), Daniel Theis (ankle) both out. 

Despite the Hawks being without All-Star Trae Young (right ankle contusion), Atlanta gave the Celtics all they could handle courtesy of the 1-2 punch of John Collins and Kevin Huerter who had 30 and 25 points, respectively. 

JAYSON TATUM

Kemba Walker was back on the floor, but this was yet another game in which Jayson Tatum was Boston’s best player. 

He continues to play at an All-Star level at both ends of the floor, mixing in an array of drives to the basket, jumpers and post-ups. 

The improvement in Tatum’s overall game is undeniable. Having Walker back in the mix, it’s good to see it still on display when he’s playing with a fellow All-Star like Kemba. 

Tatum led all scorers with 32 points, tallying 30 or more points in back-to-back games for the first time in his NBA career. Tatum also had six assists and four rebounds.

ROMEO LANGFORD

The more we see him play, the clearer it becomes he’s more than capable of helping the Celtics when he gets an opportunity to play. 

And he’s doing the little things at both ends of the floor. 

During one third-quarter sequence, he contested a shot at the rim and soon sprinted back towards offense where he was greeted with a pass in transition that led to a pair of free throws. 

By no means is he ready to be a full-time starter, but it’s reassuring for the Celtics to know that he can deliver when called upon as he finished with a career-high 16 points and five rebounds which included a clutch 3-pointer in the fourth that pushed Boston’s lead to 104-96 with less than three minutes to play. 

ENES KANTER

Starting, coming off the bench. It doesn’t seem to have much of an effect on Enes Kanter’s impact on the floor. He would finish with 16 points and 15 rebounds for his eighth double-double this season, but first as a starter this season. 

The Celtics punished the Hawks inside with several players contributing, but there was no bigger mismatch than whoever the Hawks had guarding Kanter.

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Jayson Tatum's talent, Jaylen Brown's bulk amaze Celtics teammate Enes Kanter

Jayson Tatum's talent, Jaylen Brown's bulk amaze Celtics teammate Enes Kanter

Celtics big man Enes Kanter has a propensity to talk up his teammates, but as Boston prepares for its first practice inside the Disney bubble on Friday, Kanter offered a particularly glowing report of what he’s seen from Boston’s core rotation players in voluntary workouts, especially Jaylen Brown.

"The one who amazed me the most is probably Jaylen Brown,” Kanter said Thursday while taping an episode of “The Enes Kanter Show” podcast from his hotel room in Orlando. “[Brown] literally came in — his arms, his upper body, he’s like doubled. He was an extra large and now he was like a double XL.

"This dude, I’m like, ‘What did you do?’ I think all the boxing with his grandfather [during quarantine workouts] got him right. He looks really strong to me.”

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Brown’s 78-year-old grandfather, Willie Brown, a Vietnam vet, guided Brown through boxing-heavy workouts while the NBA season was paused. Those sessions might have helped Brown add bulk, which would come in handy given that he’s routinely tasked with defending power forwards and stretch bigs.

But Brown wasn’t the only one earning Kanter's praise.

"Jayson Tatum, you walk in the gym, this dude is not missing. He did not lose his touch. I’m like, ‘This is talent.’ Rob Williams looks really good. He’s dunking everything. [Daniel] Theis finally got his six-pack. He actually looks in really good shape. Theis was dunking everything and making 3s — the Theis that we know.

“Kemba [Walker] lost weight and he actually looked leaner. I actually asked him, ‘Did you get taller?’ He was like, ‘No, I’m just leaner. I’m just in good shape.’ … Gordon looked really good, looked really really good. They’re all ready to go.”

Enes Kanter Show: C's center gives first impressions of NBA bubble | Listen & Subscribe | Watch on YouTube

A leaner Walker could alleviate some of the knee discomfort the All-Star point guard experienced before the season paused.

Kanter is eager to see what a full-strength Celtics squad can accomplish given how rare it was for the team to have all of its core players healthy and playing to their abilities before the season was interrupted.

Kanter noted how the Larry O’Brien Trophy from Boston’s 2008 title win was at the Auerbach Center earlier this week and he’s eager to help deliver another shiny golden prize. He’s confident Boston has the talent and focus to compete for this year’s crown, especially given the unique bubble conditions.

“All the players showed up; none of the Celtics players stayed home,” said Kanter. “We’re here to compete, here to have fun, and try to win a championship.

"Hey, I promise the Celtics fans, man, the 18th banner is coming soon. We better win because I know how crazy the Celtics fans are. We better get that.”

Enes Kanter Show: Celtics center explains importance of mental strength in NBA bubble

Enes Kanter Show: Celtics center explains importance of mental strength in NBA bubble

The NBA's bubble at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida will provide the players with plenty of fun activities -- bowling, golf, movies, video games and ping pong, among others -- in their spare time. This doesn't mean the environment will be without challenges, though.

The Boston Celtics traveled down to Orlando on Wednesday night, and they will be staying at the Gran Destino Tower during the league's restart.

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Not every player will be in perfect basketball shape once practices ramp up soon. That's understandable, and it's a challenge the players eventually will overcome. The mental challenges will be the most important -- and maybe the toughest -- to battle through given the uniqueness of the situation. 

In the latest episode of the The Enes Kanter Show podcast, Celtics center Enes Kanter explained the importance of mental strength in the league's bubble.

"All we have to do is get in game shape. We all know how to play basketball. It's like riding a bike -- you can't forget how to play basketball," Kanter said. "You can be a little rusty and get back into shape. But I think the important thing is the mental part because you're away from your family and loved ones for three months and now all you have is your basketball family and coaches. That's why the 3-month period before Orlando was so important to keep building that chemistry. I think now we're all bonding and the chemistry is really good. We all care about each other. We're just going to go out there and play golf, go bowling and fish all day, and other than that just play basketball. I feel, besides from the games, you can actually just relax. Read a book, just invest in yourself."

Enes Kanter Show: C's center gives first impressions of NBA bubble | Listen & Subscribe | Watch on YouTube

The bubble was made to ensure the players can continue playing in an environment that's as safe and as healthy as possible amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Players won't have the same freedom they normally do on the road, and the teams that are mentally tough and well prepared likely will enjoy the most success in Orlando.

Kanter is in no mood to complain. He's going to make the most out of the opportunity to compete for a championship, and you can bet his Celtics teammates will have a similar attitude. 

"Love it or hate, you're going to be here for three months," Kanter said. "So you might as well look at the positive side of it.

Check out The Enes Kanter Show on the NBC Sports Boston Podcast Network or watch on YouTube below: