The rust of not having a normal offseason and training camp is evident in this Celtics team so far in this young NBA season. Here are some of my takeaways from the Celtics’ first two games.
What once was a staple of the Celtics in defense and grit, is nowhere to be found at the moment. This leads me to an unpopular opinion – trade for James Harden. I believe the current asking price is Marcus Smart and Jaylen Brown. I say pull the trigger. Those two need to deliver with hard defense and secondary scoring to have their greatest impact every night.
The age-old take that talent wins in the NBA is nothing new or controversial. But I do think this year that take is elevated and the talent gap between the Nets and Celtics is quite large. There was no offseason or training camp for NBA teams and talent is winning (all NBA favorites went 5-0 ATS yesterday on Christmas). Getting a top-tier player like Harden to pair with Tatum would be smart in this post-COVID NBA season.
How quickly things can change. After feeling great about beating arguably the top team in the East, the Celtics laid an egg on Christmas to former Celtics headache Kyrie Irving and the Nets.
NETS 123, CELTICS 95
Kyrie and KD dominated this game, combining for 66 points. The Celtics had no answer for these superstars and the role players complimented them with defense and rebounding. The Celtics started the game out with signature defense and grit to take a 54-51 lead into halftime. That’s when KD and Kyrie decided to take over, however.
The Nets scored 35 points in the 3rd quarter and KD and Kyrie scored or assisted on 30 of those points. Game-changers. It was more of the same in the 4th quarter when the Nets put up 37 points. The Nets are the real deal, as of now. Wouldn’t surprise me if this team was to come out of the East for a championship run.
CELTICS 122, BUCKS 121
Brad Stevens utilized a starting lineup of Marcus Smart, Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, Daniel Theis and Tristian Thompson. Newly acquired Tristan Thompson proved to be a very capable counter to the Greek Freak. His length and athleticism killed the Celtics while he was in Cleveland, and this has also been a glaring need for Boston to contend in the East. The addition of Thompson also allowed Daniel Theis to slide to the four where his athleticism will make him a matchup problem for other teams. He can use his height to cause problems inside with Thompson, or can play from the perimeter and open up space for the Jays to get to the hoop.
Jeff Teague is also proving to be a solid addition by Danny Ainge. The Celtics have needed an effective backup point guard, and that’s exactly what Teague was against the Bucks. He controlled the game and hit clutch three-pointers (4/4 from deep) when the Celtics were searching for offense.
Jaylen Brown was everything you were hoping he could be coming into the first year of the new contract. He scored 33 points on 13/24 shooting. Jayson Tatum definitely didn’t call bank on the game-winning shot. He showed he can be the closer the Celtics need at the end of games, though. Tatum didn’t have a great shooting night (12/28) but turned it on when it mattered. He might not have called bank, but he called Game!