Another week, another handful of wins for the Boston Celtics. A blowout against the Kings, an 18-point comeback on the road against OKC, and the first win against San Antonio during the Brad Stevens Era highlighted a perfect 4-0 week. Kyrie was amazing, Al Horford was a force on both ends of the floor, and Marcus Morris made his team debut. Let’s take a look at all the Ups and Downs from last week’s Celtics action!
Kyrie Irving Dazzles
Kyrie, understandably, took some time to adjust to leading Boston. With a ton of new, young players around him, it took Kyrie a few games to learn how everyone wanted to play. It’s still a work in progress, but he is stepping up in a big way. He has scored 20+ points in seven of the teams eight wins and has done a great job of finding his teammates. His chemistry with Horford has unlocked the offense and he has completely bought into Stevens’ system. Kyrie’s wizardry with the ball is unmatched, and the more comfortable he gets with this roster around him, the better he will be. He is even competing on the defensive end, leading the league with 24 steals. Kyrie is special, and Celtics fans are getting a front row seat to his evolution.
Marcus Morris Makes His Celtics Debut
Morris missed the first eight games of the season with knee soreness, and as you can imagine it will take him some time to get back into game shape. In two games, on a 20-22 minutes per game restriction, Morris averaged 10.5 points and 5.5 rebounds. The numbers won’t jump off the page, and Morris is certainly still trying to find a rhythm with his shot (7-18 from the field, 0-5 from three), but his impact is already being felt. His physicality and intensity nearly match that of Marcus Smart, which is saying something. His versatility on defense is key and his skill on the offensive end is rare for a power forward. Boston will work Morris in slowly, but a starting spot will be waiting for him. His ability to contribute on both ends will be greatly needed as the season goes on.
Boston’s Defense Is No Joke
In last week’s Ups/Downs, I wondered if Boston’s strong start on defense was for real, or just an early season abnormality. Well, during their 4-0 performance this week, the Celtics held their opponents to under 95 points, something that they have done in all eight of their wins this season.
Boston has held opponents to 95 pts or less in 8 straight games, marking its longest streak since doing so 9 times (3/25/12 – 4/8/12)
— Celtics Stats (@Celtics_Stats) November 6, 2017
The elite defense is here to stay, and everyone is stepping up to keep it that way. Horford continues to be a star on the defensive end, but the entire starting lineup have been holding their own. Horford (1st), Kyrie (2nd), Jayson Tatum, (6th), and Jaylen Brown (7th) all rank in the top-10 for individual defensive rating. The fact that a rookie, second year player, and Kyrie, a known poor defender, have been leading the league on the defensive end has been eye-opening. Add in defensive mainstays like Smart, Rozier, and Aron Baynes and it’s no wonder Boston has been suffocating opposing offenses. Let’s see how many points they are able to rack up tonight when the Celtics face off against the Hawks.
Jaylen Browns Home/Road Splits
Let me qualify what I am about to say; Brown is 21 years old and is only in his second professional season. Every criticism of him could go out the window as his career continues to progress. BUT, after 10 games, his performances on the road and in Boston are drastically different. In four games at home, Brown is averaging 20.3 points on 60.9 percent shooting from the field and an ungodly 61.1 from beyond the arc. On the road, though, Brown drops down to 12.8 points on 37.8 percent shooting and just 31.0 percent shooting from three. Brown has still been able to be a net positive in road games because of his presence on the boards and defensive effort, but consistency will determine whether he remains an above average role player or becomes a star.
Can We Please Make Some Free Throws?!
We are pulling at straws here a bit considering a 4-0 week doesn’t garner much criticism, but the inability to consistently make free throws is starting to get frustrating. Boston gets to the line 12th most in the league but ranks 20th in the league in free throw shooting at 75.4 percent. At some point the young players will need to show some improvement from the charity stripe.
Where in the World is Daniel Theis?
After Morris’ return, players like Theis and Shane Larkin were obviously going to lose playing time. Theis has been very effective in his time on the court, but saw just three minutes on Sunday night against the Magic. Theis has earned minutes. He can add rebounding, and his chemistry in the pick-and-role game with Smart has been undeniable. Let’s see if he can work his way back into the rotation as Boston’s fourth big.