Spirits are high after Saturday’s game against the New Orleans Pelicans, and deservedly so. For the first time after a three game slump, the Boston Celtics played like the Boston Celtics should. They came out strong, leading by 17 at the end of the first quarter. And even even with a couple waning leads, never lost control of the game. Accompanying the trouncing win were some notable stats and highlights. 55% shooting, 63 total rebounds, 88.9% FT shooting, 29 assists and 24 steals are just a few of the amazing numbers. But some of the most standout moments came from the bench, Enes Kanter and Jayson Tatum.
The Celtics bench scored 44 points, something they’ve struggled to do most of this season. Of course 50% of those points came from Enes Kanter alone, but it was great to see others contributing as well. Even though the next highest scorer Javonte Green only dropped 7 points, the bench was responsible for 41% of the 29 assists. They are fulfilling their role, moving the ball and making an impact on the game. This doesn’t mean that they don’t have work to do. Without a starter on the floor, the bench has been unable to make an offensive impact on the game. With MIL and LAL just around the corner, they need to find a way to see their shots and get them to fall. Consistency is what’s going to make the long term difference, and once they figure out their rhythm and see the offense working more shots will fall for the Celtics bench.
What a performance by Enes! If this doesn’t silencer the doubters and trade talks, nothing will. Obviously this isn’t something fans will see night in and night out, but they will always see the same level of effort from the 6’10” big man. Kanter’s impressive 22pts and 19 rebounds may have been overshadowed by the amazing night of Jayson Tatum, but it did earn Kanter the night's Tommy Award, another double-double. And placed him on the list of bench players scoring at least 22pts and 18 assists that only three other Celtics are on (Larry Bird 1982, Paul Silas 1969 and Dulph Schayes 1961). It could be argued that Enes should get the start before Daniel Theis, but his impact coming off the bench couldn’t be replaced. He continues to improve defensively, which is no surprise given he’s on Brad Stevens' team. Kanters' contribution helped place the Celtics back in the #2 Seed, and third in the Week 12 power rankings. Boston found a great asset this summer who proves his value more and more with each passing game.
No conversation would be complete about the 140-105 victory over New Orleans without mentioning Jayson Tatum’s career high 41pts. After having a few lower scoring games, it was great to see his hands on fire again. It’s equally awesome seeing the love and support of teammate Kemba Walker. Whether is was joking about replacing him on the court at 39pts, assisting the layup giving Tatum him 41st point, or applauding him during his post game interview. “That’s unreal, man. It’s hard. It’s hard to score 40 in this league so I’m happy for him.” In Tatum’s post game interview, he said “I just felt like I needed to be better, and the starters felt the same way, just to start the game better.” He continued, “Hopefully we keep it up.” All of Celtics Nation is hopeful they will keep it up as well.
With a busy schedule for the rest of January the Celtics will have their work cut out for them. If they face each game with the tenacity they played New Orleans, they could find themselves Number 1 in the East. In the words of Jaylen Brown, “Never in my life have I wanted to be No. 2.” Celtics fans not only appreciate that sentiment, but they expect the same level of perfection from their team. As we brace ourselves for the remainder of the season, we will have to ride the ups and downs. And thankfully these underdogs have proven to give us more to celebrate than to cringe.
And as always, a reason to #bleedgreen.
Featured image by NBC Sports