Hospital Celtics come through once again: 10 Takeaways from Boston/Washington

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Washington Wizards v Boston Celtics
Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

Tacko Fall gave Boston a boost with three rotation bigs out

1. With the Celtics down three bigs, Brad Stevens got a little creative and went deep into his bench in this one. Semi Ojeleye got the start with Tristan Thompson, Grant Williams and Robert Williams all out. Ojeleye had a quiet first half, but then opened the third quarter with eight straight points. He didn’t score again, but he was solid throughout the game. It’s been a good start to Ojeleye’s fourth season in the NBA.

Ojeleye wasn’t the only one to step up though. Javonte Green returned from his time in the health and safety protocol and delivered seven points off the bench. Green is a guy Stevens can turn to when he needs energy, because Green always brings that to a game.

And, of course, Tacko Fall played a huge role in the win. But we aren’t burying the big fella here. He’s getting his own Takeaway, or Tackoway as CelticsBlog editor Bill Sy calls it!

2. One of Jayson Tatum’s basketball heroes growing up was fellow St. Louis native Bradley Beal. Tatum said after the game that going against Beal was “all that I dreamed about. I always wanted to go against him.”

Beal scored 41, but Tatum got the best of his buddy with 32 points in the victory. Two of them were this shot right in Beal’s face:

3. Daniel Theis was Boston’s lone rotation big available. That put Theis back at the five, where he’s most comfortable. Outside of some early foul trouble (What else is new?), Theis looked as good as he has all season. When he’s the five, Theis can be the roll-man in the pick-and-roll game. That results in plays like this. It’s also a nice read from Jaylen Brown, who did a good job as a playmaker in this game.

When he’s playing as the five, Theis can also help more as a shot-blocker. He doesn’t feel pressure to stay attached to a perimeter player. Here, he drops off Thomas Bryant to spike Deni Avdija’s shot:

4. As mentioned above, Theis picked up two early fouls. Brad Stevens rode him for a bit longer, but then went to Tacko Fall off the bench. Fall said Stevens told him to be prepared to play a lot of minutes earlier in the day. Stevens said the initial plan was to play Fall in four-minute stints, but that “He was too good to take out”.

On his first play in the game, Fall gets challenged by Russell Westbrook at the rim. No dice for Westbrook. But watch to the end of the play too. Fall runs the floor and attracts the defense at the rim. That opens up Jaylen Brown for a three:

The next two clips work best if you watch them back-to-back:

First, Fall works pick-and-roll with Brown to get the alley-oop finish. Washington tries to go the other way quickly. Robin Lopez thinks he has an easy layup. Nope. Fall sprinted the floor for his second block of the game.

Just a terrific sequence for Fall. You only wish the TD Garden could have been packed with fans, because they would have blown the roof off the place.

5. One thing Boston did with Fall in the game, which they rarely do otherwise, was to go zone. The Celtics are one of the least-frequent zone teams in the NBA. It’s a way to use Fall’s unique size and shot-block skill. It also keeps him from being a target in pick-and-roll.

The wrinkle? As Fall showed he was more and more comfortable, Boston came out of the zone. They let him play man-to-man more and ran their switching defense as per usual.

6. It’s going to get a little bit lost because of all the others, but Jaylen Brown played another really good game. He finished with 27 points, 13 rebounds (which tied his regular season career-high) and five assists. Brown is playing very much within the flow of the game. Everything is unlocked for him now.

7. The Wizards, as they are prone to do, fell behind big and then made a huge run to make it a close game late. The Celtics aided in the comeback by throwing the ball away over and over. Boston had 21 turnovers, the vast majority of which were live-ball turnovers. That led to Washington scoring 36 points.

The other thing that helped the Wizards come back was Jayson Tatum’s propensity to walk the ball up the floor late. It’s been an issue dating back to last season’s playoffs. The Celtics give him the ball and let him direct the offense. That part is good, but walking the ball up and using the whole clock before taking tough jumpers is not.

8. One more play from Tacko Fall, with a bit of Payton Pritchard thrown in! Pritchard was very good again with 11 points off the Celtics bench. Here, he and Fall team up to keep the ball alive for a big putback slam:

9. After a few possessions of holding the ball, Boston got back to running the floor. Plays like this are the ones the Celtics need to have late in games to create easy offense. Marcus Smart did a nice job of pushing the ball up the floor quickly to find Jaylen Brown for the transition triple:

10. As noted above, there is a lot of hand-wringing about Jayson Tatum settling for jumpers late in close games. Here, after several plays where he walked it up and took tough shots, Tatum reversed course. He puts the ball on the floor and finishes with his left hand:

Then, for good measure, he finishes off the Wizards with another tough drive. This time, he goes by his buddy Beal:

Growth at the end of games is great to see from Boston’s young closer.