For those who know me, you know I’m the biggest Boston Celtics’ fan there is. With the NBA season back in full effect, I will write a post-game article after most (if not every) game. This is something I look forward to doing and hope you all enjoy.
The Celtics opened up their regular season with a 122-117 victory over the Brooklyn Nets at home. This game was one of the most anticipated in recent history because of Al Horford’s Celtic debut. With high expectations coming into the season, fans were ready to see how the team would look. The C’s got the win, which is good, but only by five points to the Nets. A win is a win, but it wasn’t the prettiest. There was a lot of good this game, but also some bad.
First off let’s talk about how Isaiah Thomas and Al Horford executed the pick and roll to perfection. Seeing Big Al set the screen and roll to the basket for an easy layup after the Nets’ defense collapses is a thing of beauty. That’s one of the biggest perks of having a big man like Al on our team. He not only works in the pick and roll but also in the pick and pop. Horford showed off his range by hitting a three early in the game. He shot a few more threes than I would’ve liked him to, but I like to see he’s confident taking that shot. He is also one of the best mid-range shooting big men in the league and is perfect for spreading the floor.
The passing was incredible, simple as that. Everybody was touching the ball and finding the open man. It was a thing of beauty. 36 assists by the Celtics was the most for any NBA team in a season opener since 2001. The 122 points scored seemed to come without any effort, although it was the most points scored for the C’s in a season opener since 1990. With this revamped offense, I expect this team to pick apart defenses mercilessly and be one of the highest-scoring teams in the league.
The defense looked good but also looked suspect at times. Al Horford recorded four blocks, which was relieving to see, but giving up 117 points is not something you want to do every game. It’s a good thing the offense was clicking last night because if it weren’t the score would not have been pretty. Marcus Smart’s return will be a huge help for the defense, where Brad can run different defensive lineups, hopefully good enough to hold off late-game comebacks.
Isaiah Thomas looked fantastic, dropping 25 points and registering nine assists. Isaiah will have plenty of stat lines like this all year long. With more weapons, upgraded shooting from teammates, and floor spacing, Isaiah could easily average a double-double this season. At the free throw line, Isaiah was receiving “MVP” chants from the Boston crowd. I found this being funny, you know, since it’s only the first game of the year. But if he keeps scoring and dishing the ball like this throughout the season, then why not? Who’s to say a 5’9 point guard can’t contend for MVP? If the Celtics are a top team in the East, which is expected of them, Isaiah’s name definitely could be thrown in for a couple of votes.
Jae Crowder has said that he’s focused on improving his shooting this offseason, and boy was he telling the truth. Crowder finished with 21 points in 29 minutes, shooting 9-15 and netting three three-pointers. His defense was there too, getting two steals and hustling for points off turnovers.
Avery Bradley did a little bit of everything when he was on the court, scoring 17 points, collecting nine rebounds, and dishing our five assists in 34 minutes. He shot the three ball well too, shooting 3-4 from behind the arc. He was smothering his opponent on defense, like always. Avery Bradley will be a key part of the Celtics’ defense, and when Marcus Smart returns, the defensive lineups will be lovely. Bradley will make sure his name is thrown around in Defensive Player of the Year discussions throughout the year.
Now the bench. Oh, the bench. There was some good but also some bad. The fact that rookie Jaylen Brown and second-year guard Terry Rozier were two of the first players to come off the bench excites me. It shows that coach Brad Stevens has a lot of confidence in his young guys. Terry Rozier logged in 28 minutes but was held to 5 points, three rebounds, and three assists. Jaylen Brown showed flashes of greatness in his 19 minutes played. He only scored 9 points, but he almost took Justin Hamilton’s life on a dunk attempt.
Sure, the dunk was well off its target, but Jaylen Brown proved to us that he isn’t afraid. He’s not afraid to take it to the big man and try to end his entire life. He looked like he’s played in the league for years, and looks very matured for his age. His fadeaway jumper was as smooth as butter, and his defense looked great. Jaylen Brown may not get much “Rookie of the Year” love, but he will be an essential part of the Boston bench this season.
Gerald Green looked outstanding in his return to Boston. In case you guys may not remember, Green was on the Celtics before we traded him for Kevin Garnett. He was a high-flyer when he was on the team almost ten years ago, but last night he proved to be a lot more than that. In 15 minutes he scored 9 points and collected five rebounds. He looked very comfortable playing in Brad Steven’s system and fit well with the bench.
Tyler Zeller was a huge surprise, for me at least. He scored 13 points off the bench in 16 minutes. I mean, I’ll take it I guess. He’s making $8 million a year for a reason.
As good as the team looked, and we did look hella good, we can’t just ignore the fact that our bench blew a 20 point lead in the fourth quarter. The Nets outscored us 36-25 and gave us a real scare at the end. They were as close as three points with 17 seconds remaining and had a chance to tie the game. The starters were put back in rather late, which Brad Stevens took blame for, but stopped the comeback from happening.
Listen I don’t care who we’re playing. Whether it’s the Warriors, Cavs, Timberwolves, or the freakin’ Brooklyn Nets, you never step off the gas pedal. You don’t stop playing after gaining a 20 point lead. Leads can be blown in the blink of an eye in the NBA. Even if you’re up by 20, you got to keep pushing and don’t stop until the final buzzer goes off. The Nets’ bench was on a 15-2 run at one point, and we made their defense look elite (which they certainly aren’t). Brad Stevens should have put the starters in earlier, but that’s a coaching mistake that can be fixed.
You can just tell by watching that the bench, or the team as a whole, was just missing something; offense, defense, or both. When Marcus Smart comes back, so will his elite defense. When Kelly Olynyk comes back, so will his ability to spread the floor and help lead the charge in bench scoring.
Although it was only a five-point win, it was a win, and it was against Brooklyn, so that’s always good. That will probably be the easiest matchup of the year for us, so we need to take advantage of games like these and make sure we continue to take these easy wins. One game down, 81 to go. On to Chicago. #1-0 #AllAbout18