The Boston Celtics (9-2) pushed their winning streak to nine straight games during a hard-fought 110-107 victory over the Atlanta Hawks (2-9). Both squads played with high intensity throughout the contest despite being on the second night of a back to back.
The Celtics are the hottest team in the association. They have the longest winning streak in the NBA and currently sit atop the Eastern Conference. Head coach Brad Stevens has simply been remarkable in the wake of the devastating injury to Gordon Hayward, he has retooled his offense to seamlessly integrate the young players.
The defensive turnaround may be the most impressive facet of this Celtics team. Boston ranked 15th in the league during the 2016-17 season in points allowed, giving up 105 points per game. The losses of Avery Bradley and Jae Crowder on the perimeter was expected to hinder this team defensively, especially early on with so many new faces on the roster. Instead, each player has bought into the system and the Celtics are flourishing. They currently have the top defense in the league and are limiting opponents to a mere 94.5 points per game.
- This team is built on ball movement and Stevens has instilled the extra-pass mantra into each of his player’s heads. The Celtics were phenomenal at swinging the ball around the perimeter to get open looks. Jayson Tatum was the beneficiary on a couple of these sequences and he delivered from the corner.
- Is it time to talk about Jaylen Brown’s home and away splits? Seriously, it’s a little bizarre. At home, Brown has averaged 20.3 points on 60.9% shooting from the field and 61.1% from deep. Those numbers fall off a cliff when he’s on the road. The second-year player is averaging 12.8 points on 37.8% shooting from the field and 31% from behind the arc when he’s away from home. The drop-off is steep and Brown may want to take a step back and analyze his process prior to games to see what he’s doing differently on the road.
- Kyrie Irving had his best game as a Celtic thus far after only scoring 11 points in last night’s win over Orlando. He had 35 points and was absolutely ruthless down the stretch. Irving had 12 in the final frame including a three-pointer as the shot clock expired that put Boston up one with 1:37 to go. He then clinched the game by getting into the lane to knock down a floater that bounced in with 20.3 seconds remaining. Irving’s ability to deliver in the clutch has been money.
- Tatum continued to dazzle Celtics fans who were on the Markelle Fultz bandwagon back in June. He had 22 points, 8 rebounds, and 2 blocks. The rookie was a little hesitant with his shot from behind the arc and he had a couple instances where he stepped up for a long jumper instead of taking the triple. Still, Tatum knocked down three of his five shots from deep, including one from the corner off a pass from Marcus Smart that put Boston up four with 46.7 seconds left. I think it’s safe to say that Tatum would be the early frontrunner for rookie of the year if Ben Simmons wasn’t on the ballot.
- Marcus Smart and Semi Ojeleye both made huge impacts off the bench. Smart played to the tune of his usual do-it-all style and wound up with 9 points, 4 rebounds, 5 assists, and two steals. It was a great all-around game for Smart despite the fact that a few calls didn’t go his way. Ojeleye has been solid early in his career. He’s stout defensively and he’s been called on by Stevens to take on some of the better scorers that the Celtics have faced so far. Ojeleye hit two fourth-quarter threes for Boston and looks like he could develop into a solid 3&D option.
- Al Horford delivered throughout the matchup with Atlanta. He came up just shy of recording a triple-double, finishing with 15 points, 10 rebounds, 9 assists, and a rejection. Horford’s shot from deep wasn’t falling today but he showed off his ability to dribble in space while getting to the basket. He had an energetic dunk in the second-half and continues to be the driving force behind Boston’s offense
- Boston outrebounded the Hawks 42-36. The Celtics have won the rebounding battle in eight of their nine games on the current winning streak.
- Dennis Schroder paced Atlanta on offense. He’s underrated throughout the league and has a nice all-around game. Schroder had 23 points and 6 assists while shooting 9-20 from the field. He had a nice game outside of his flop against Marcus Smart in the second half. Schroder took a small hit to the stomach before finally dropping to the ground five seconds after the collision. He drew an offensive foul on the flop.
- Dewayne Dedmon was a force inside for the Hawks all game. It was clear why Boston was interested in signing him over the offseason. Imagine a Horford, Dedmon, Theis pairing. Baynes is excellent in his role, but Dedmon is a step above what he provides. The former Spur had 19 points, 12 rebounds, and 2 blocks.
- John Collins looks like he’ll develop into a pretty nice player for Atlanta. He had an athletic putback dunk and showed flashes of being a capable NBA big man.
- I was very impressed with Atlanta’s explosive bench scoring from their guards. Marco Belinelli and Malcolm Delaney each provided a spark to the Hawks on offense. Belinelli had 19 points and 3 steals, drilling a couple of ridiculous heat-check triples. Delaney had 13 points of his own including three shots from behind the arc. Those two guys could be a dangerous bench duo for the Hawks.
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