The Boston Celtics started the season off with an absolute bang. Against arguably the best team in the Eastern Conference, the Celtics were able to hold off the late-game comeback from the Bucks and win 122-121 thanks to a Jayson Tatum game-winner.
After two underwhelming preseason games, I didn’t expect much from this Celtics team in game one. They didn’t look like they were ready to even step on the court yet, and if they continued to play like they did in the preseason, Boston wouldn’t have been able to stand a chance against Milwaukee.
Before the game, I predicted one of three things was going to happen: the Bucks will blow the Celtics out, win by around 9/10 points, or it stays close throughout and one of the teams gets the upper hand in the end. In all honesty, I didn’t expect the latter to happen. I mentally prepared for one of the first two to happen. My expectations were as low as they could possibly be, so them coming out on top with an electrifying win smashed my expectations for this team.
Besides the preseason games, last night we saw what this team would look like without Kemba Walker in the lineup. The Celtics showed that they can still compete without him, but it’s incredible to think how good this team will be when he’s back. Jayson and Jaylen will have to continue to take a bulk of the shots to make up for his absence, but if that’s what we have to do, then so be it.
Let’s stick to the Jays for a while here. Let me start with Jaylen.
Jaylen Brown has been hearing all the talk about fans wanting to trade him for Harden in a potential trade. Brown took those rumors and told you to shove them. Jaylen Brown looked freaking amazing last night. Don’t let the final shot fool you; Brown was Boston’s best player last night.
After having a not-so-great showing for most of the first half, Jaylen scored 10 points in the final 2:32 of the first half to give Boston a five-point lead at halftime. He finished the game with 33 points (13-24 FG), five rebounds, and four assists. Besides his improved passing, finishing, and ball handling, the one thing that definitely showed this game was Jaylen being more of a pick-and-roll ball handler. When asked about the new role, he said, “New year, new opportunity and new challenges.”
Not only was Jaylen hitting shots throughout the game, but he was also hitting big shots down the stretch. He was stepping up alongside Tatum in the clutch moments, showing that Tatum isn’t the only one that can be counted on in late-game situations.
Is this the next leap Jaylen Brown is taking? For this team to get anywhere close to winning a championship, Brown needs to take that next step. He took a big step forward last season, but he needs to capitalize on it. If last night showed anything, it’s that he is.
James Harden who? Boston doesn’t need a selfish ball-hog who cares more about himself than his team. Harden isn’t what the Celtics need to win a title. We need the young guys to keep getting better, and that’s happening right in front of our very eyes. If Jaylen Brown can take the next step, it will do wonders for this team and will take them to the next level.
Now it’s Jayson’s turn.
Where do I start? He didn’t have the best shooting performance of all time (12-28 FG), but he didn’t have to. He hit the shots that mattered the most and hit the biggest shots of the game. You thought the shot he hit in Giannis’ face at the end of the third quarter was cool? Well, let me show you something even cooler.
This shot right here will be in every Jayson Tatum highlight video for the rest of his life. Do you know how much confidence you have to have to shoot a stepback, game-winning three over the reigning MVP and DPOY?! Jayson Tatum is the truth, shoutout to Paul Pierce.
Tatum shot a career-high 13 threes last night, and that should be a sign of things to come. I believe Tatum needs to start shooting more threes. He shot seven threes a game last year, so I’d like to see him put up eight or nine threes a night. I trust Tatum to hit at least 40% of those.
I would like to see Jayson Tatum get the free-throw line. I’d say more, but he needs to get to the line in general. He had zero free throw attempts last night, and for a guy who drives and creates contact as much as he does, he needs to get to the line more. I know this won’t be a common occurrence, but it’ll be nice if he can get to the line around five to six times a game.
If Jayson Tatum makes another leap alongside Jaylen Brown, this team is going to be scary good. Fans are concerned with injuries and worried that the Celtics only have Jaylen and Jayson to lead us, but that’s not a bad thing. We ONLY have Jaylen and Jayson to lead us? We’re spoiled as Boston sports fans.
Marcus Smart had the most underrated stat line of the night: three points (0-3 FG), seven assists, and two blocks. Smart didn’t put the ball in the basket much, but when he primarily focuses on getting his teammates involved and playing phenomenal defense, the Celtics are at their best. He didn’t force any tough shots; he took the ones that were open and avoided contested threes. If Smart truly improves his shot selection and takes “smart” shots instead of chucking up deep or contested threes, the Celtics can be very successful.
Also, Marcus Smart finished the game with three charges drawn, four deflections, and six shot contests. He’s coming for that Defensive Player of the Year award.
The “Jeff Teague to win Sixth Man of the Year” campaign started last night. Jeff Teague is everything Boston fans could’ve wanted and then some. How crazy is it that the Celtics FINALLY have a go-to scorer off the bench that actually helps the team?
Teague finished the game with 19 points (7-15 FG, 4-4 3PT), four assists, and two steals. Teague has yet to miss a three while wearing a Celtics uniform, and although that won’t last forever, having a shooter like Teague is a relief. Not only did he come up big on the offensive end, but he also forced a turnover with 50 seconds left that put the Celtics in a position to win the game. I’m shocked he’s been as good as he’s been, and I couldn’t be happier with the newest addition to the Celtics.
Speaking of new additions, Tristan Thompson had a solid first game in Boston. Brad Stevens pulled a wildcard and decided to throw Thompson into the starting lineup after fans were uncertain if he’d play or not. He scored 12 points and grabbed eight rebounds in 22 minutes. Having Thompson in the paint to match up with opposing bigs and create second-chance points for the team is a breath of fresh air. He’s going to be so valuable to the Celtics.
If Semi Ojeleye continues to play like he did last night, I’ll never speak poorly of him again. That was the best game of Semi’s career, and it made the sting of not seeing Aaron Nesmith hurt a little less. He was finishing euro step layups, dropping no-look assists, and hitting threes. Keep it up, Semi, because if he can actually produce off the bench, it would help the team a ton.
A few negatives from last night include blowing a 17-point lead and nearly losing the game. Let’s call a spade a spade; Boston was lucky Jayson Tatum hit that game-winner. If not, the only thing people would be talking about is how Boston continues to blow big leads. Both teams were trading shots back-and-forth in clutch time, but it shouldn’t have had to get that close in the first place. Boston can’t continue to cool down after getting up by so many points. It almost cost them the game and will cost them a few this season if they continue to do so.
I love that Grant Williams and Daniel Theis have a ton of confidence in their shots and aren’t afraid to shoot the open three, but sometimes it can be too much. Williams shot 1-4 from three, and Theis finished 2-6. Theis was hot at first but missed his last few attempts, with one of them being in clutch time. If he’s open, I don’t mind Theis shooting it, but not when it’s late in the game. Anybody else should be taking that shot, not Theis.
I know it’s only one game and there’s no reason to overreact to a one-point victory, but the win was very impressive. All offseason I’ve said that the Milwaukee Bucks are still the best team in the East. I’m not going back on that, and last night the Boston Celtics defeated the best team in the Eastern Conference. That’s a massive win. That’s how you start a new season. And that’s how you make a statement.
With or without Kemba, this team is going to compete against anybody that stands in front of them and not back down. Jayson and Jaylen are poised to lead this team to a championship, and if last night showed anything, they can get it done.
Great first win Boston. One down, 71 to go.