Kyrie Irving had a team-high 28 points and the Celtics drilled a franchise record 24 threes to hand the Bucks their first loss of the season on Thursday night. A few quick thoughts on last night’s wild win coming up right after I stop smiling like a doofus at this video…
Gordon Hayward Heating Up
The Celtics are still being careful with Hayward, with good reason. The star forward has been understandably inconsistent in his first 7 games, as he shakes off rust and continues to make his way back from last season’s gruesome injury. However, last night he showed flashes of why he was such a highly sought after free agent two summers ago. Hayward scored a season-high 18 points on 6-of-11 shooting, and added 4 rebounds and 5 assists. He drilled three triples as well, and is shooting 40.7% from downtown so far this year.
Hayward’s most encouraging moment came early in the 1st quarter:
Hayward turns defense into offense! pic.twitter.com/IpdxrKV0Pd
— Boston Celtics (@celtics) November 2, 2018
That play is a microcosm of what a healthy Hayward brings to the table. Smart defense (and the athleticism to execute), the ability to go coast to coast, and finish strong in traffic. Hayward has now attempted double-digit shots in three straight games, a sure sign that his game is beginning to round into form.
Greek Freak: Definitively Good
Milwaukee’s MVP candidate was lights out again last night. Giannis Antetokounmpo poured in a 33-11-2 game, and added three steals to boot. He was also out there traversing time and space like William S. Preston Esq. and Theodore Logan:
— NBA (@NBA) November 2, 2018
I mean COME ON. He’s doing up-and-unders now?
— Milwaukee Bucks (@Bucks) November 2, 2018
The Celtics still have as good a chance as anyone to make the Finals this year. But they’ll likely have to go through Giannis and Kawhi Leonard to do it, making things a taller task than expected a couple of months ago.
Get ‘Em Mook!
Marcus Morris has been huge this season. With Gordon Hayward working his way back to form, the C’s have needed one of their top role players to step up. He’s done that, and more. After last night’s 17 point, 5 rebound performance, Morris is averaging 14.8 points and 7.1 boards in only 25.3 minutes per game. It helps that he’s been on fire from beyond the arc. He’s drilling threes at a 51.3% clip, including a 5-for-8 performance from downtown on Thursday.
There was some question entering the season whether or not Morris would have a defined role with the return of Hayward and the continued progression of Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. As fate would have it, he’s been more important than ever.
Shot Selection Struggles
On one hand, last night was an improvement in this area. 55 attempted three pointers is better than the bevy of long twos we had seen through the first 7 games. It also helps when you make 24 of those shots.
Yet, despite nearly setting an NBA record with made threes, the Celtics nearly coughed this one away late. They’ll continue to find themselves in that position as long as they remain allergic to attacking the rim and getting in the paint. Boston is dead last in field goals attempted within 8 feet. They’re also only 13th in field goal percentage within that range. For comparison’s sake, Golden State has attempted the second fewest shots inside 8 feet, but is 1st in field goal percentage. It’s really difficult to build a championship level offense around that combination of lack of volume and middle of the road efficiency, especially when you aren’t getting to the line either (C’s are 26th in free throws attempted per game). The numbers bear that out: the Celtics currently rank 27th in ORtg.
Simply making more threes like they did against Milwaukee will be helpful towards rectifying things. But not being able to get easy buckets late was an issue last night. The Celtics missed their last 6 field goal attempts (4 threes and 2 mid-range jumpers). That gave the Bucks an opening which they couldn’t take advantage of. It’s absolutely something to keep an eye on going forward.
Don’t look now, but after a sluggish 2-2 start the C’s are 6-2 (a 61.5 win pace). They’ll take their 4 game winning streak on the road for the next 5 games, starting on Saturday night in Indiana vs. the Pacers.