Last night we saw the Boston Celtics handle the Philadelphia 76ers with ease in a 105-87 victory last night in the TD Bank North Garden in Boston. The Celtics looked a little shaky to start the game and their starting unit of Irving, Brown, Tatum, Hayward and Horford looked like a unit that hasn’t quite gelled together yet which is to be expected. We must remember that this is the first time this team has truly played a full game together with all their pieces healthy and will take some time for them to start firing on all cylinders. But if last night was even 60 percent of what they can inevitably be than this is gonna be a scary scary team come the playoffs. I mean Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward combined for 17 points on 6-26 shooting, we won’t see that type of output from arguably the teams best two players moving forward. Again though, the scary part is it didn’t even matter.
A large reason it did not matter was the production of Jayson Tatum and the Celtics seemingly endless depth on their bench. Tatum went for 23 pts in just 29 minutes and shot 53 % from the field to go along with 9 rebounds and 3 assists. He played with a sense of poise and focus that would make you believe that he doesn’t feel he needs to play second fiddle to anyone on this Celtics team, a sense that he is going to be the man on this team and the guy who takes the big shot or gets a hoop down the stretch. It’s something most Celtics fans wish he had done at times during the playoffs last season but was excusable given the fact he was 19 years old trying to match the performance of the greatest player of a generation in Lebron James during the ECF. But still last night it seemed to me that Tatum heard those who wished he would just let his offensive skill take over games and he has built the confidence to let that happen. I would suspect working with Kobe Bryant over the summer may have played a part in that, (Kobe never had a shot he didn’t like).
It will take time to see how that dynamic truly plays out given the fact that Kyrie Irving is supposed to be “the dude” of this talented Celtics team, but I think we saw last night that Tatum is ready to take on that role and it will be interesting to see who Brad Stevens decides to have shooting big shots down the stretch. My main takeaway from last night would be that Tatum isn’t looking to wait to be a superstar in this league, he believes the time is now and I believe it as well. I don’t think we have seen such a young, polished pure scorer on the Celtics since Paul Pierce was dropping buckets early in his career alongside Antoine Walker doing the shimmy. Jayson Tatum doesn’t need to wait to be an all-star in this league, he can become that this season and for many years to come.
Back to the depth of this team and the glaring stat that is sticking out to me as I go over the box score. No Celtics Player played more than 30 Minutes last night. This just goes to show you how ridiculously deep this team truly is, if this is a trend they can continue to build on and be successful with it will enable this team to be fresh come the playoffs without having to sacrifice wins like other teams we have seen using this strategy of limiting minutes for their stars. The difference for these Celtics is that there doesn’t seem to be a drop off when they have their second unit on the floor.
Gordon Hayward looked a little timid to start last night but looked to ease his way into a few buckets and overall it was just great to see this guy play basketball again one year removed from the horrific injury he suffered last year on opening night. He has certainly battled through a lot and there is definitely a mental block that goes into recovering from an injury of that severity. I think he will take a couple of weeks to really get back in the swing of things, but look to see him back scoring consistently and finding his role on offense once his minute restriction is lifted.
One last thing I’d like to point out before I get too excited over the prospects of this teams title hopes is the play of Aron Baynes. This team seems to be at their best when he is on the floor protecting the rim and hitting timely threes and grinding out rebounds. He is such an underrated part of this Celtics team and will provide major minutes for them when Horford isn’t on the floor. Also as Tommy Heinsohn let us know the dude is packing a hammer.
I know, I know it’s only been 1 game, but I’m most definitely swimming in the Green Kool-aid, LETS GOOOOOOOO