Tuesday, June 2, 2020

If I could pick one word to describe my feelings on the Boston Celtics 107-93 loss to Philadelphia, it is “optimism”, albeit, cautiously.

The Boston Celtics appeared to have played poorly if you go merely by the box score. They shot miserably from the field and the charity stripe. The rebounding battle was an obscenely one-side affair favoring Philadelphia. But when you actually watch, outside of a brief spurt late in the game, points coming from unlikely sources, the Celtics played pretty well given the odds. Enes Kanter held his own, playing substantial above what I expected of him. Joel Embiid did not have the field day we believed him to have. Embiid was solid, 15 points, 13 rebounds, shot 5 of 14.

An underlying subplot of Kanter, in the brief time he’s been a Boston Celtic, is perhaps Brad Stevens already worked his magic on him and turned the once immobile, slow to react center to a more palatable one. Kanter ranked 7th in defensive rating (79.1) during the preseason.

What’s noticeably different is Kanter managed to stand his ground whenever somebody tried to use their body against him. Embiid didn’t (or couldn’t) utilize bully-ball versus Kanter. Most of Philly’s inside points came from bad bounces leading to second chance attempts.

Obviously, Kanter’s reputation is far into the gutter for one game to drag him out. But if this trend continues, and hopefully the Boston Celtics start to win some games, Kanter’s development potentially can become a story mid-season.

What else I learned is I may have oversold Daniel Theis. I like him, I think he’s solid and knows the system. But his speed is in doubt and didn’t do the Celtics any favors with Stevens inserted him in a very winnable game late in the fourth (its borderline negligence he didn’t stick with Kanter, he played only 24 minutes). Perhaps he’ll fare better when the opposing players Theis is matched up with aren’t Embiid or Al Horford?

Robert Williams, Grant Williams, and Marcus Smart could work together as a killer three-man unit. While scoring just four-points, Smart did find it easy to hit a leaping Time Lord off of the pick-and-roll. They ran the set only three times.

Each time Williams captured the ball, there was a chance to score. Only reason he didn’t was bad handling. Williams does remind me of a child on a sugar high. Stevens needs to find a way to harness the energy of Williams. It’s too unpredictable as it is.

Grant is ready for show time. He showed me more in seven-minutes than Theis ever could. I don’t care he’s 6-7. Williams is a plus whenever he is on the floor. Stevens needs to give him close to 20 minutes a night.

Jayson Tatum May have shot poorly, but he’s taking all the right shots. That is the biggest step. Simply breaking him out of this “Mamba Mentality.”

Jaylen Brown will hopefully be better against Toronto. I cannot diagnosis whether his bad game was due to referees quick to blow the whistle, getting Brown in foul trouble early, or he’s just not very good. Let’s hope it’s the former.

Lastly, Gordon Hayward is (probably) back. Listen, we’ve gone down this road hole before; Hayward has a good game, we overreact. The optimist/fan in us wants to see him succeed, only to witness him fall back into obscurity. This didn’t feel like one of those. He was attacking consistently, was far more aggressive and willing to let his shot fly than before.

Tatum and Hayward legitimately killed it acting as the lone engines of Boston’s offense. If the Celtics play like that, and get solid contributions from Kemba Walker or Brown, they’ll win against Toronto.

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