1. Whether it’s the start of a new streak or not isn’t something we know yet. But this was a good win for the Boston Celtics. They put the stinker in Chicago behind them and handled a Dallas Mavericks team, one that’s been tough on them in recent years, with relative ease.
Dallas made a couple of runs in the second half, but Boston pushed back each time. The Celtics were never really threatened in this game after the first quarter.
Boston had to overcome a superstar performance from Luka Doncic, but that seemed to be sort of the gameplan. Let Doncic get his but lock down the rest of his teammates. Dallas found some workable stuff late by getting Doncic and Christian Wood working together in pick-and-roll. But a lot of that came when the Celtics were playing the NBA equivalent to “prevent defense”.
The Celtics got stellar performances of their own, too. Jayson Tatum turned in another MVP night, while Jaylen Brown showed he’s pushing beyond All-Star level to All-NBA level. It was a good night in front of a raucous Thanksgiving Eve home crowd. All around, great start to a long six-game homestand for Boston.
2. We said it above, but it was a multi-phase MVP night for Jayson Tatum. He dominated the scoring game, but Tatum also made plays as a passer, rebounder and defender too. Let’s start with the scoring.
Tatum opened things up for himself by getting to the line early and often. He finished 13-of-15 from the charity stripe. Tatum’s first score from the field was hitting Dallas with the Smitty before the strong finish at the rim:
Later in the first half, Tatum showed how well he’s seeing the entire floor. He draws Luka Doncic and each time that happened, Dallas sent a double. Instead of waiting for the double-team to come, Tatum squared up and fired before he could get there:
When you’re hot, no shot is a bad look:
Once again, Tatum draws Doncic. This time, he attacks opposite of where the double is coming from. With the Mavs in rotation, the lane is wide open for the loud finish:
3. Jayson Tatum’s passing has gone up several levels this year too. This drive-and-kick pass is harder than it looks. Finding Derrick White on the opposite wing from the baseline is big-time stuff:
Above, you saw Tatum attack double-teams to score himself. Here, Tatum is patient and lets things open up before finding Marcus Smart for the open triple:
This is a good cut and a great pass by Smart. From there, Tatum sees he’s drawn the help and finds Al Horford open in the corner:
4. Making plays on offense is great, but what vaults Jayson Tatum to the top of the MVP conversation are his big defensive plays. With Rob Williams out of the lineup, Tatum has stepped up to help replace some of Williams’ rim protection.
Late in the first half, Tatum rotates over to take away Dorian Finney-Smith’s shot at the rim:
Then, to basically cap off the game, Tatum took on the MVP candidate’s defensive assignment by guarding Luka Doncic straight up. On this play, advantage Tatum:
5. Jaylen Brown advanced beyond an All-Star level this season. Brown is playing at an All-NBA level to open the season. A big part of that has to do with him expanding his game beyond scoring.
Brown’s patience as a passer showed up a couple of times against Dallas. This is great stuff from Brown here. He comes off the screen, but let’s the play develop. He even backs it out and takes a couple of extra dribbles to let Sam Hauser cut into a screen for Malcolm Brogdon:
This was a high-level pass from Brown. He lets the double-team come, then waits for the traffic to clear before zipping it to Al Horford in the corner:
And, of course, Brown got it done as a scorer too. With Dallas threatening, Brown got right to his spot for the one-dribble, pullup that is money for him:
On the next trip, Brown saw Luka Doncic more concerned with arguing about a call than playing defense. Brown hit Doncic with the crossover and then drew the and-1:
6. Boston’s balance beyond Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown is what makes them special. Six Celtics scored in double figures. With the way Boston is shooting and sharing the ball, it’s not a surprise they are on a record pace in terms of offensive rating. Tatum and Brown lead the way, but they’ve got a lot of help too.
7. One of the guys helping is Marcus Smart. He’s leading the offense at a higher level than he ever has. Smart had nine more assists in this win, including a few beauties.
Good stuff happens when Smart works out of the post. He’s got the vision and patience to let Jaylen Brown’s cut drag Dwight Powell into the paint to open up Al Horford:
This is gorgeous stuff in transition from both Smart and Brown. Great backdoor cut and the on-time dime:
This touch-pass drop-off from Smart to Jayson Tatum is perfect basketball:
8. Malcolm Brogdon is a tremendous weapon for Boston to have off the bench. Late in the game, with the Mavericks hanging around, Brogdon took over for a stretch.
When he draws a big, Brogdon loves to attack to get to his pullup or all the way to the rim. And his ability to finish with his left hand is underrated:
Again, Dallas was hanging around at this point. Brogdon did a nice job getting downhill for the and-1 off the floater here:
And, once again, Brogdon gets Christian Wood after the scramble. No problem, he’s off the rim for another lefty layup:
9. Grant Williams had a somewhat quiet game as far as the stat sheet goes. But he made and impact as a playmaker. This was a good cut on the BLOB play and Williams sees Davis Bertans rotate to help before he even has the ball. In one motion, it’s catch and pass to Sam Hauser for three:
Because Williams has put in the work, he’s able to attack Luka Doncic off the bounce just like the Celtics guards and wings. The result is a big hoop to keep the Mavs at bay:
10. The Celtics kicked off their six-game homestand with a win. Now, they welcome the red-hot Sacramento Kings to Boston on Friday. It’s a later start than usual, with an 8:00 PM ET tipoff on the holiday weekend. The Kings had their seven-game winning streak snapped in Atlanta, so they’ll be looking to get back on the plus side.
The Celtics and Kings have also been the two best offensive teams in the NBA this season. And the two teams have played some crazy games in recent years. This should be a fun one on Black Friday.
Bonus: On this Thanksgiving Day, your author would like to take a moment to personally thank all of you. Your support and reading of the Takeaways are never taken for granted. I try to read most of the comments, and to occasionally interact in them, after each post goes up. I appreciate the insight you offer, and that you regularly catch things I miss.
In addition, the kind comments mean more than you could ever know. Here’s hoping you all have a fun day filled with family/friends, food and football. If Thanksgiving isn’t your thing, then have a great day and know you’re still appreciated. Go Celtics!