How thin is the Celtics' secondary shooting at the moment? The Celtics took the floor in the final minute of a crunch-time game on Sunday afternoon with Semi Ojeleye on the floor for offensive purposes.
Part of the reason for that was Jeff Teague being sidelined with a sprained ankle in the fourth quarter of Boston’s 122-120 win on Sunday over Detroit, but it also speaks to where Boston’s depth is on that side of the floor right now. Reinforcements are going to arrive for this offense eventually via trade and returns from injury (Kemba Walker, Romeo Langford) but the personnel mixing and matching that Brad Stevens is trying to pull off right now is reflective in the uneven 4-3 start that we’ve seen from this group.
While there are a healthy number of issues for this team that need to be addressed in the short-term (particularly on the defensive end), one area that has exceeded expectations early has been the offensive side of the ball for Boston. Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown lack a reliable third scorer around them most nights, but they have managed to carry the Celtics to what is currently the seventh-best offense in the NBA through seven games, posting 111.6 points per 100 possessions, just a slight decline from last season’s output (112 points per 100 possessions) despite the absence of Walker and Gordon Hayward in this year’s lineups.
Tatum and Brown’s immense talents were front and center yet again on Sunday afternoon, all day long and in crunch time. Tatum was the star of the show in the final minute of the game, tallying two blocks, an assist and a game-winning midrange jumper that concluded two perfectly executed plays for Boston in the final minutes of play. Stevens ensured the ball got to the right players after his timeouts — with Tatum in the midst of his best passing night of his career. The C’s executed good crunch-time offense during most of Friday’s loss as well when the ball got to the right people, but this time around, the shots fell.
still in this 💪
— Boston Celtics (@celtics)
Today’s Play of the Game solidified the win ☘️🔥
— Boston Celtics (@celtics)
“Last two plays were great. They executed great,” Stevens said. “I thought they executed well the other day. We just missed the shot. I don’t think we can overreact, in my shoes, to shots made or missed. But multiple plays later in the game that I thought we’ve executed well on. Jayson made the nice play to Jaylen on the lift, opposite—on the opposite side of the floor with 30 seconds left or whatever. And then obviously we wanted to milk the clock all the way down to the end and try to get it to Jayson a little bit lower than we had on previous occasions so that he could then play off the live dribble at the top of the key. I thought he made a really hard move to his left and made a good decision to pull up. If he would have tried to go in there any deeper, you’ve got a bunch of hands and arms and all that stuff.”
The performances capped another sensational day for the young duo offensively. Tatum posted 24 points, 8 rebounds and a career-high 12 assists to go along with zero turnovers. He’s now averaging 24.3 ppg on the year while shooting 45 percent from the field and 40 percent from the 3-point line. His 7.9 rebounds and 4.3 assists per game are both career-highs as well — with the only early blemish on his resume being some poor crunch-time decision making and a lack of trips to the free throw line.
Meanwhile, Brown is producing the best offense of his pro career in a landslide. After scoring 31 points on Sunday (13-of-16 FG, 5-of-8 from 3-point range), the 24-year-old maintained his spot as the 5th highest scorer in the NBA over the first two weeks of the season, posting 28.0 PPG. His splits are not sustainable (59% FG, 42.5% 3PT) but they signal the kind of groove he’s been in to form the most potent 1-2 scoring combo in the East over the beginning of the year with Tatum.
Look closer over Brown’s last three games and you’ll find 70 percent shooting from the field and a 29.9 ppg average over that stretch (Memphis, Detroit x 2). That kind of efficiency is simply making opposing coaches try to throw the kitchen sink at