Following Sunday’s 103-92 win over the Brooklyn Nets, the Boston Celtics have now won eight consecutive games against Brooklyn, as the duo of Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown outscored Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving 63-49.
It wasn’t pretty by any stretch of the imagination offensively for the Celtics, and on what was an “off night” for the Celtics’ offense, it was the defense that made plays when they needed them.
Here are three takeaways as the Celtics snapped Brooklyn’s four-game winning streak and kicked off their six-game road trip with a W…
The offense missed Marcus Smart
After taking a fall on Friday night against the Heat, Smart did not play on Sunday due to a hip contusion, and the Celtics offense missed him. Through the first three quarters, the Celtics had more turnovers (13) than assists (12), as Boston struggled to get things going offensively.
Heading into Sunday, Boston had totaled 20-plus assists in 21 consecutive games. That streak was snapped as they totaled just 18. Boston was playing a lot of isolation ball through the first three quarters, which is something we haven’t seen too much of this season. The Celtics’ offense has been at its best when they are moving the ball, and they have been good at that in large part because of the job being done by Marcus Smart. Smart has thrived as a facilitator in the Celtics offense this season and it was clear they missed him on Sunday, hence why they got away from the ball movement we have grown accustomed to seeing.
Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown shoulder the load
The Celtics’ 103 points scored Sunday evening is their second fewest of the season. Along with 15 turnovers and a 13-point third quarter, it was an ugly night offensively for the Celtics. We have seen the Celtics succeed with a balanced offensive attack all season long, but that was not the case on Sunday.
Tatum and Brown didn’t really get much help scoring the ball. Aside from Grant Williams’ seven-point first quarter and some timely buckets from Malcolm Brogdon, the Jays were forced to carry the load.
Excluding Tatum and Brown, the Celtics shot just 15-of-42 (35.7%) for a combined 40 points. Tatum and Brown combined for 63 points on 20-of-39 (51.3%) shooting. The two also grabbed a combined 21 rebounds (43% of the team’s total), as they each notched a double-double.
Those two continue to complement each other perfectly, and it was on display again on Sunday. When Tatum struggled to get things going offensively in the first quarter, it was Brown who finished with 20 points in the quarter. In the second quarter, it was Brown who was struggling offensively, and Tatum relieved him with 11 second-quarter points. As things stand right now, it’s not crazy to think the Celtics have two All-NBA players in their starting five right now.
Defense steps up
Heading into Sunday’s contest, the Nets had the 11th-best offensive rating in the NBA at 112.9. The Celtics were able to hold the Nets to just 92 points, the fewest they have scored in a game this season.
Brooklyn’s 92 points are the fewest allowed by the Celtics in a game this season, and It’s just the second time this season they have held an opponent under 100 points.
Boston totaled nine blocks and 11 steals and held Brooklyn to 34-of-84 shooting (40.5%). The Celtics were especially good in the transition game as they scored 26 fast-break points.
The defense has certainly had its ups and downs this season, but it is encouraging to see the defense come through on a night the Celtics weren’t their normal selves offensively.