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It was a bittersweet night for the Boston Celtics following a 135-115 blowout win at San Antonio.
It was the first time under Brad Stevens that Boston won in San Antonio, but the victory came at a huge cost - Gordon Hayward.
He scored nine points but suffered a left fractured hand injury in the second quarter that may require surgery.
Losing Hayward impacts the Celtics on so many levels.
But after his injury, the Celtics did what we’ve seen them do whenever someone is lost to an injury- they moved on and found a way to win.
The victory gave Boston its seventh in a row and keeps the Celtics atop the Eastern Conference standings while capping off a three-game road trip with nothing but victories
Here are three takeaways for the East-leading Celtics following their win over the Spurs.
Even before Hayward’s injury, Brown was well on his way to a strong night before finishing with a season-high 30 points. The illness/infection that kept Brown sidelined is very much a thing of the past now as he returns looking even more impactful than he was earlier.
For years, Brown has quietly gone about doing a lot of the little things to help the Celtics win, while some of his higher-profile teammates garnered much of the attention. But as you watch Brown now, he looks and acts the part of a player who is ready to be more than just a key contributor but also a difference-maker at both ends of the floor.
Much of the talk following Saturday’s game will center around Boston dropping a season-high 135 points on the road against a San Antonio Spurs team that has been a defensive force for years. But the defense Boston played - particularly against the Spurs’ top two players - was far more significant.
LaMarcus Aldridge, a perennial all-star forward, was a non-factor. The only impact he made that was significant, was him being involved in the broken left hand injury suffered by Boston’s Gordon Hayward. Aldridge finished the game with 3 points on 1-for-4 shooting from the field and a plus/minus of minus-12. And San Antonio point guard Dejounte Murray, one of the most improved players in this still-young NBA season, was held to just four points on 2-for-8 shooting with as many turnovers (4) as assists. Limiting the opposing team’s inside-outside tandem is a good omen for the Celtics who will face one of the best in the NBA on Monday when Kristaps Porzingis and MVP candidate Luka Doncic come to the TD Garden.
This was yet another game in which Marcus Smart was called upon to pick up the slack, and the veteran guard delivered. He finished with 16 points on 5-for-10 shooting which included 4-for-9 from 3-point range. His defense was strong as ever on Saturday, and they’ll need that going forward with Hayward’s return yet to be determined.
But Smart’s shooting which continues to fly below the radar even as his percentage steadily rises, has to continue along the path of consistency. We have all seen Smart get jacuzzi-hot from 3-point range in the past. But going forward, Smart has to do a better job of not falling in love with the long ball and instead use his strength and quickness off the dribble to get into the lane and score off the dribble via floater or possible lay-ups. The Dallas Mavericks will surely tempt him to shooting 3’s, but he has to make getting into the paint a priority. Boston came into Saturday’s game with four players averaging at least 10 drive attempts per game with Hayward leading the way. Smart has to pick up where Hayward left off in order for Boston to continue its winning ways.
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