Ohhhh boy, what a game we just witnessed. The Celtics defeated the Washington Wizards tonight in the nation’s capital with the final score in overtime reading 130-125. The game had more of a playoff type feel rather than your nonchalant mid-December matchup that it was.
Once again for this Celtics team it was “Klutch Kyrie” Irving coming up huge down the stretch with two massive 3 pointers in overtime. He finished with a game-high 38 pts and carried this team at points tonight when it felt like the offense was stagnant. It can’t be understated how impressive Irving continues to be for this team especially when the game is on the line. We all know he is a top 10 talent in this league when healthy, but when it comes to getting a clutch basket with the game on the line you would be hard pressed to find another player in this league I would rather have. He truly reminds me of another Celtic great Paul Pierce and how he would just force himself into the zone when the game hung in the balance.
As much as the overtime score of 130-125 would beg to differ, I thought this game was won on the defensive end tonight and was defined by huge hustle plays all around. And as per usual, no one embodied this more than Marcus Smart. He was all over the court tonight, coming up with steals and taking charges and overall just sacrificing his body for this win. Being a Celtic fan comes with a love/hate relationship for Marcus at times, we hate when he jacks up too many threes, but the hate can never outweigh the love we have when he is making plays like he did tonight. He truly does all the little things and there is no one else in the NBA outside of maybe Draymond Green that can completely change a game like he does without scoring the ball. (Something he also did tonight with 18 pts) I think at this point in the season we need to start viewing him as a strong candidate for Defensive Player of the Year.
Speaking of defense, the Celtics new secret weapon Robert Williams aka Time Lord had himself a big night and is starting to look like he was truly a steal with the 27th pick of the NBA draft. This dude is an athletic freak, plain and simple. Watching how quickly he gets off the floor is unbelievable and reminds me of how Dennis Rodman used to do that and just get to the ball faster than anyone. He finished with 6 pts, 6 boards (3 offensive) and 2 blocks, but his impact seemed far greater with him also hustling all over the floor and providing a spark by throwing down a huge alley oop dunk from Irving that seemed like he grabbed the ball from the rafters to hammer it home.
Tonight was the first game that I think the Celtics felt the impact of not having some of their key players on the court with Gordon Hayward, Al Horford and Jaylen Brown all sitting out tonight. Needless to say it was huge to have Marcus Morris step up once again with another big game going for 27 points and 9 boards. He just continues to always step up for this team and is proving himself to be a truly impactful starter in this league. His 49% FG shooting and 43% from three has been impressive to say the least and is something you can tell he has made a direct effort to improve on. He is a legit scoring threat on each possession and is helping spread the floor with other defenses having to respect that fact.
Jayson Tatum didn’t have a great night scoring but still made a huge impact leading the team with 12 rebounds. The kid maybe isn’t making the leaps and bounds in the scoring department that a lot of us predicted, but he is still putting effort in on a nightly basis and it feels like he is getting less discouraged when his shot isn’t there on a given night.
The Celtics won 19 games in a row last season, this streak now stands at 7. I’m not saying they are destined for another streak like that, but then again I’m not saying they aren’t. This team when firing on all cylinders can take down anyone in the league on any given night. When they were struggling earlier in the season I said to look out for a streak like this. I knew this team has the ability to get hot and rattle off a bunch of games in a row because they don’t necessarily rely on 1 or 2 guys like many other teams across the league do. They go 7-8 deep with players that can carry the scoring load and when you play like that it can make it very hard to get beat when you’re rolling.
One thing is for certain, this team has definitely turned a corner and are reminding teams across the league that there was a reason they were favorites to win the East and contend for a championship. These Celtics are showing all the signs that they “figured it out” and have made many Celtics fans back to drinking the Green Kool-Aid.