It has been said that sometimes you have to go back in order to go forward. Is that the case for the Boston Celtics?
Watching the Boston Celtics thrilling 116-105 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks Wednesday night took me back to that team. Boston looked out of sync in the first half and went into the locker room trailing 58-42; and it could have been worse.
What happened behind closed doors will never been completely known, but the Boston Celtics came out with a defensive intensity (led by no one other than Marcus Smart) that reminded me of that team in 2017 once Kyrie Irving went down. Smart led the charge and the rest of the Celtics followed. The double-teams were hard and intentional, hands in the passing lanes, and cutting off dribble penetration.
The Celtics made the Bucks (especially Giannis Antetokounmpo, who got increasingly frustrated) work hard for every one of the 18 points they scored in the pivotal third quarter while the Boston Celtics put up 38 of their own. When the dust settled at the end of the quarter the Boston Celtics were up 80-76 but they were not done. An 11-4 run to start the fourth put Boston up 91-80 and the momentum was clearly in the Celts direction.
Offensively, the ball movement in the second half was crisp, quick, and decisive. Gordon Hayward and Jayson Tatum continued to attack the paint. Hayward displaying the mid-range game in full throttle, while Tatum collapsing the defense on drives to the rim. Tatum seemed to find the range on his 3-point shot, as he hit all four of his second half attempts, including a killer step-back triple at the end of the third quarter.
Kemba Walker was outstanding in his shooting and decision making which resulted in a lot of clean looks in the second half for his teammates. Robert Williams and Daniel Theis (11 points and 9 rebounds)were both +11(plus/minus)during their time on the floor. And all of this was done with Jaylen Brown missing the game with an illness and Enes Kanter missed his third game with a knee injury.
What I saw Wednesday night was a team that, while still figuring things out this early in the season, took a step in the right direction and maybe showed the rest of the league that maybe last season was a fluke.