As the new and improved Eastern Conference is beginning to take shape the one team that reigns supreme handed the Boston Celtics a 123-95 Christmas Day trouncing – which raised an important question for All-Star Jayson Tatum after the big loss.
Do you think the Celtics are moving in the right direction?
“Yeah, I do,” Tatum said Friday. “The first two games of the season we played two of the best teams in the league. So, it was a good test to kind of see where we’re at and I like where we’re at. But obviously, we got a long way to go. It’s only the second game of the season but I think these first two games were great for us.
“Like I said, we played two of the best teams in the league and we’re just going to build off of it.”
Brad Stevens On The Celtics’ 1-1 Start: ‘We Just Have To Become A Better Execution Team’
Tatum has plenty to build off of, combining for 47 points alongside Jaylen Brown isn’t an awful place to start but when you’re facing Kevin Durant (29 points), Kyrie Irving (37 points), and the Brooklyn Nets it’s going to take a lot more to bring down the Conference’s early-season favorite. Boston trailed by nine (86-77) at the start of the final frame before the Nets proceeded to outscore the Celtics 37-18 to secure the win.
“We just have to become a better execution team,” Stevens said after Friday’s loss. “We executed great after Milwaukee; we really locked in for that. Brooklyn did a great job of jumping actions and they’re switching all over the place. We had some good slips, some good cuts – I thought that those were, you know, we could have had a lot more, I’ll put it that way. So, I think we have to lower our offense, I think we have to have everybody be a little bit better and I think we will.
“Those are the things you get a chance to style into and work on. I was really pleased with how we attacked Milwaukee and I was, you know, I’d say semi-pleased for three quarters. I thought in the third we didn’t have much threat at the rim other than Jaylen (Brown) driving the ball and Tatum driving the ball.”
Brooklyn’s stifling defense forced the Celtics to shoot at a 37.8% clip and impressively enough, Boston still managed to hold a second-half lead before the Nets went on a 13-1 run and pulled ahead, 82-70 with 2:30 left in the third quarter. From there, Brooklyn’s defense tightened, and the Celtics offense grew stagnant.
The Nets tacked on 41 points in the final 14:30 in contrast to the Celtics, who mustered up 25. Brown, who is currently averaging 30 points after two impressive performances, has anchored most of the scoring next to Tatum while Tristan Thompson’s presence manned the defense.
It was one of the biggest reasons the Celtics, for nearly three quarters, held their own against the Nets despite their poor shooting and an inefficient attack. As for chemistry; it leaves a lot to be desired but that’s normal for Stevens’ team out of the gate.
Jaylen Brown On Celtics’ 1-1 Start: ‘We’ll Be In A Position That We Want To Be In As A Team’
Under the circumstance of playing without an All-Star point guard, we expected this, especially against elite teams. However, between Jaylen’s 30+ point performances, the defense – that held the Nets to 25 second-quarter points, and unsung heroes such as Semi Ojeleye (9 points, 4 rebounds) and Payton Pritchard (7 points, 2 steals) adapting quickly, I’d say Boston (1-1) is off to a decent start.
There’s seemingly enough talent for Stevens to build off of, even if it means waiting four-to-five weeks for Kemba Walker’s return. As for Brown, he loves what he’s seeing, so far.
He believes his teammates are competing at a high level and that he’s excited to see it all unfold – the inevitable growth that occurs throughout the course of a regular season.
“It’s a journey,” Brown said. “It’s about the marathon, not the sprint. The team that looked great two games in or in the preseason may not look great towards the end of the season. We won’t get too happy with winning games or losing games right now, we just got to keep building great habits and we’ll be in a position that we want to be in as a team.”