Celtics

Strong defense, Jayson Tatum-Jaylen Brown combo and other takeaways from Celtics' win over Denver

Strong defense, Jayson Tatum-Jaylen Brown combo and other takeaways from Celtics' win over Denver

BOSTON -- With the shot clock winding down in the first half courtesy of some stout defense by the Denver Nuggets, Jayson Tatum’s tossed up a desperation 3-pointer and it went down. 

A couple minutes later, Kemba Walker was being hounded by some strong Nuggets defense and his shot also swished through the net, just beating the shot clock horn sounding off. 

It was that kind of night for the Boston Celtics who pulled away in the second half for a surprisingly cushy 108-95 win. 

Only Milwaukee and the Los Angeles Lakers have a better record in the NBA than the Celtics (15-6) who improved their record at home to 9-0. 

It was as complete a game as we've seen from the Celtics who led wire-to-wire against a Denver team that came in with the second-best record in the always-rugged Western Conference.

TEAM DEFENSE

There were bodies flying all over the floor on close-outs, rebounds grabbed in traffic and multiple shot-clock violations being forced by Boston’s defense. 

For most of the game, the Celtics collectively delivered the kind of defensive performance that they absolutely had to have against a Denver squad that’s among the best in the NBA. 

Boston was especially effective defending the 3-point shot as they forced the Nuggets into missing 14 of their 15 attempts in the first half. For the game, Denver was 5-for-30 (16.7 percent) on 3’s. 

Of course Boston’s game plan defensively worked, but the biggest factor in that success was the effort level. 

Most of this season there has been an ebb and flow feel about Boston’s defense and its overall impact. 

But on Friday the defensive effort level never waned which will be the key to the defensive performance we saw against the Nuggets being more of the standard and not the exception to the rule when it comes to their play at that end of the floor. 

TATUM-BROWN TANDEM

We tend to think of them as individuals which they are, but Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown continue to get better at playing at a high level off one another. 

In the first quarter, it was Brown who carried much of the scoring load for Boston. The second quarter saw Tatum in take-over mode. 

At the half, Brown had 13 points while Tatum had 12. For the game, Tatum had a team-high 26 points while Brown finished with 21 points. 

Their ability to hit teams with one scoring wave after another provides Boston with the kind of offensive firepower that adds another layer of difficulty to opponents trying to limit a 1-2 punch offensively that’s only going to get better with time. 

ENES KANTER

The minutes were not in abundant supply for Enes Kanter - only 18 if you’re keeping score at home. But what we’ve seen from Kanter lately is that regardless of how long or short his stints are, he’s making his presence felt when he checks into the game. 

He had eight points against the Nuggets, shooting 3-for-4 from the field as well as making both of his free throws. His points came at a time when the Celtics were trying to assert control of the game and Kanter’s role as an around-the-basket scorer was instrumental in that coming to pass. 

More than anything, Kanter’s limited playing time puts his words about caring only about winning, to the test. 

Because even though he’s not playing major minutes, he has a major role on this team, a role he executed to near-perfection against the Nuggets.

Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Cavaliers, which tips off Monday at 7 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live, and then Tommy & Mike have the call at 7:30 p.m. You can also stream the game on the MyTeams App.

Celtics Talk Podcast: Difference between Kyrie Irving, Kemba Walker apparent in recent press conferences

Celtics Talk Podcast: Difference between Kyrie Irving, Kemba Walker apparent in recent press conferences

The 2019 NBA offseason has ensured that Kyrie Irving and Kemba Walker will always be connected. When Irving spurned the Celtics after two seasons with the team to sign with the Brooklyn Nets, Walker joined the C's and took over as their starting point guard.

The two players are similarly great scorers. They can pass the ball well and set up teammates, too. And while Irving is regarded by many as the better player in terms of skill set, there are some intangible things that Walker brings to the floor and Irving doesn't: leadership and chemistry.

And Irving and Walker's recent postgame comments after losses demonstrate that.

LIVE stream the Celtics all season and get the latest news and analysis on all of your teams from NBC Sports Boston by downloading the My Teams App.

On the latest episode of The Celtics Talk Podcast, Kyle Draper and A. Sherrod Blakely were discussing the recent postgame interviews that the two did after rough outings and bad losses for their respective squads.

Click here to listen and subscribe to the Celtics Talk Podcast

Irving was far more focused on improving the team around him as opposed to his own poor performance. And as Blakely pointed out, it speaks to one of Irving's weaknesses as a leader.

Kyrie has yet to figure out how to make those around him better so that he can be a better winner. He is a great player. He's one of the best players in the NBA. There's absolutely no ifs, ands, or buts about it.

But he has yet to figure out how to elevate the players around him or carry himself with a level of humility that will ingratiate himself to his teammates who may not be as good as he is, but want to be great players nonetheless.

And Blakely also had one epic mic-drop moment about the former Celtic on NBC Sports Boston's "Boston Sports Tonight."

This completely juxtaposes Blakely's thoughts on Walker, who focused more on his poor performance and how he needs to play better for the sake of the team.

Kemba, flip-side of that, he didn't play great against Detroit. Was he the worst player? In the conversation, but he didn't play bad enough to where he was clear and undeniably the worst player on the floor.

And yet all he talked about in postgame was how he's got to be better. He's got to do a better job leading. It was me, me, me for the team, team, team. And that's something that you never hear from Kyrie.

Both Blakely and Draper acknowledged that they don't always like comparing the two to each other. But in this circumstance where their postgame pressers from similar games were polar opposites, they thought it had to be done.

It just about sums up why many Boston fans were happy to see Irving walk in the offseason. And Walker's positive attitude and ability to generate team chemistry has certainly been a breath of fresh air for the Celtics faithful.

For more on the Celtics game against the Bucks, their recent skid, expectations moving forward, and potential All-Stars from the team, check out the latest episode of the Celtics Talk Podcast, which drops weekly as part of the NBC Sports Boston podcast network.

Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Suns-Celtics, which begins Saturday at 6:30 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live, followed by tip-off at 7 p.m. You can also stream the game on the MyTeams App.

Celtics Talk Podcast: Did C's fool us into thinking they're better than they are?

celticstalk_16x9.png
NBC Sports Boston Illustration

Celtics Talk Podcast: Did C's fool us into thinking they're better than they are?

The Celtics have gone 17-12 since a 10-1 start. They're 4-5 in the new year and, after losing in Milwaukee on Thursday night, Boston is 7-8 against teams .500 or better.

On the latest Celtics Talk Podcast, it led Kyle Draper to ask our Celtics Insider A. Sherrod Blakely, the inevitable question, Did a hot start make fans believe this team was better than it actually is?

LIVE stream the Celtics all season and get the latest news and analysis on all of your teams from NBC Sports Boston by downloading the My Teams App.

"We had the cookies on the bottom shelf in terms of expectations," was Blakely's response. "If they just did anything else other than get their heads handed to them early on [to start the season], we're like, hey, they're pretty good."

Click here to listen and subscribe to the Celtics Talk Podcast

What's behind the recent slide that seen the C's lose five of their past seven? Blakely says it's the defense. 

"When you really start looking at what's happening lately, that defense is getting exposed," Blakely said. "[Enes] Kanter has had a great season, but the law of averages says he's going to go through a stretch where he's just not going to get it done. Look at Jaylen Brown, he's had a great season, so has [Jayson] Tatum, but they're going to go through stretches where they're not getting it done. 

"The defense is not making the plays they need to that's why teams are shooting high 50's low 60's [percent] against them." 

Draper and Blakely also touch on the loss in Milwaukee and if the C's have enough to compete with the best in the East, another up-and-down season for Gordon Hayward ("We have been on this ride before," said Blakely. "Gordon [will] go out and has an 8-for-10 game. And people are going to be like, In Danny [Ainge] we trust, Gordon's great..."), Kyrie Irving's recent comments on his Nets teammates and more in the podcast, part of the NBC Sports Boston podcast network. 

Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Suns-Celtics, which begins Saturday at 6:30 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live, followed by tip-off at 7 p.m. You can also stream the game on the MyTeams App.