Tatum’s almost career night leads blowout win: 10 Takeaways from Celtics/Raptors

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NBA: Boston Celtics at Toronto Raptors
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Tatum scored 40 points, which left him one shy of his career-high

1. The fact that the Celtics blew out the Raptors is all that kept Jayson Tatum from setting a new career-high in points. Tatum scored 40, but it was a relatively highlight-less 40. And that’s a good thing! Tatum was efficient as he went 11-of-19 from the field, including 5-of-8 from behind the arc. The best part of his big night? He was 13-of-13 from the free throw line. Not getting freebies was a source of concern this year for Tatum, as he had taken just 20 total free throws in the first seven games.

In addition to using his size to get inside, Tatum was able to overpower several smaller Toronto defenders. On this play, he posts up Fred VanVleet for a fallaway that VanVleet has no prayer of bothering:

2. Because Tatum was so hot, Jaylen Brown took a bit of a backseat in this one. He still had it going though and this opening shot shows just how good Brown is feeling:

This play from the second half shows how the attention one of Tatum or Brown draws benefits the other. Three defenders are watching Tatum here. Brown is able to blow by OG Anunoby for the layup:

3. In the above clip, you might notice something else too. Semi Ojeleye is in the game, which keeps Alex Len home on him in the strongside corner and unable to help on Brown’s drive.

Brad Stevens started with the two-big lineup again, but opened the second half with Ojeleye in the game in place of Daniel Theis. Ojeleye earned it with some solid play (More to come!) and Boston having the lead gave Stevens the chance to experiment a little bit. It’s an interesting look, as Ojeleye helps space the floor more than the double-big lineup does.

4. The Celtics injury list for this one was a little long. Kemba Walker and Romeo Langford both remain out. Javonte Green is wrapping up his time being out due to health and safety protocols. Both Marcus Smart (thumb) and Jeff Teague (ankle) were out against Toronto.

That gave the bench a chance to step up, and boy did they. Semi Ojeleye, Payton Pritchard and Grant Williams will get their own Takeaways, but this is a chance to shout out Robert Williams. He scored 11 points, grabbed 15 rebounds (a career-high) and blocked two shots in just 19:40 of playing time. His energy and activity all game was almost too much for the Raptors to match.

5. Semi Ojeleye has been a different guy to start this season. The biggest thing is that he’s not tentative. Everything he is doing is decisive. And he’s finally showing some of his skills from college as well. The play before this clip, Ojeleye drove and got fouled. On this one, he gets out on the break for the layup:

Ojeleye is shooting 44% from three to open the year. If that’s even kind of real, maybe he settles around 38-40%, it changes a lot for him and for the Celtics. He can become a playable 3&D guy that can defend just about anyone aside from the quickest of ballhandlers. Again, no hesitation going up with the shot. Catch, shoot, splash:

6. On the clips above, you see Payton Pritchard delivering two of his career-high eight assists. Tremont Waters drew the start, likely to keep Pritchard in a comfortable place coming off the bench, and it worked.

Pritchard has an old-school point guard game. He probes the defense with a live dribble. He pushes pace when he can, but slows it down when he should. He also knows when he should score vs pass. He set another career-high with 23 points in this game.

Here, Pritchard uses the threat of Daniel Theis as a roller to drive all the way to the rim for the easy layup:

On this play, you can see he’ll drive to score if has to, but Pritchard wants to pass. He breaks down Norman Powell off the bounce, gets in the paint and kicks out to Grant Williams.

The other nice part of that play? Grant Williams relocating to the wing as Pritchard starts his drive. Robert Williams has the paint, while Semi Ojeleye and Jayson Tatum are in both corners. This is really good floor balance and a heads up play by Grant Williams to space to the right area.

7. A little more on Grant Williams…He’s been pretty bad to start the year. He’s struggled on both ends. Postgame he said “I’ve been thinking too much. Getting in my own head. Tonight, I just played.” Williams needed a good game to get going, and maybe “just playing” got him there.

He scored 14 points, snagged six rebounds and blocked a surprising three shots. And they weren’t those strips down low that get recorded as blocks either. He does a nice job with the late contest to take a layup away from Fred VanVleet here:

8. The Celtics didn’t have a ton of assists in this game, because Tatum did a lot of stuff one-on-one, they scored off some offensive rebounds and they got to the free throw line a lot. But the ball movement was again good.

It’s a good sign that this clip starts with Aaron Nesmith driving the ball and kicking to the opposite wing. (Baby steps for Nesmith!) From there, Tremont Waters swings it to Jayson Tatum for the corner three. This was how Boston got Toronto’s defense moving side-to-side and in chase mode:

9. The lone negative from this game? The Celtics reserves couldn’t close the deal. Brad Stevens emptied the bench with Boston holding a 19-point led with 4:16 to play. In less than two minutes, the Raptors reserves ran off a 9-0 run behind a full-court press and Stevens had to put Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum back in the game.

Boston got it back to a comfortable margin, but it’s never good when the starters have to go back in a game that was basically over. The Celtics bench was very good, but the end took just a little bit of shine off their performance.

10. Coming into this game, Toronto led the NBA with 51.7% of their field goal attempts coming from behind the arc. (Boston was 25th in the league for all those who scream “All they do is shoot threes!”) After the game, Brad Stevens said the first focus was to stop the Raptors in transition and then build the defense out from there to contest every shot.

Whether it was a focus area or not, the Celtics did a great job running the Raptors off the arc. Toronto got up 37 threes, which was only 41% of their total shots. Even better: Toronto got up only 25 triples after the first quarter. Boston took them out of their game and took control once they did.