Celtics 104, Magic 88: This team has been full of surprises

Celtics 104, Magic 88: This team has been full of surprises

The win was a good one for the Celtics, handily beating an Orlando Magic team that had gotten off to a surprisingly good start.

But, really, Sunday night’s 104-88 victory had a sort of ho-hum feel to it. What was far more interesting was the opportunity it afforded to look back at what has become the Celtics’ eight-game win streak. (For a complete recap, click here.)

This is not the C’s many thought they were getting this season. And the surprises are more than just living life without Gordon Hayward or the fact Brad Stevens’ club is carrying the best record in the NBA after 10 games. There have been so many unforeseen bits and pieces of this club, many of which were highlighted in Orlando.

Replacing Jae Crowder and Avery Bradley has been easier than they thought

The duo not only supplied a good chunk of offense, but both Crowder and Bradley also represented a defensive toughness teams often times have a hard time replacing. Yet, a rookie by the name of Semi Ojeleye has emerged to look a whole lot like Crowder, while Terry Rozier and Jaylen Brown are making the loss of Bradley palatable. Who would have thought that the Celtics would actually be a better defensive team without two of its best defensive players from last season? That, however, is exactly what has happened.

This transformation was put on display Sunday night, as the Celtics held their opponents to under 100 points for an eighth straight game. What was supposed to be a good three-point shooting Magic club went 6-for-29 from beyond the arc, finishing shooting 36 percent from the field.

Marcus Morris might actually be a useful player

When the Celtics got Morris back from Detroit for Bradley, many believed it was more about the salary they were dumping than the player they were receiving. Morris didn’t seem especially good at any one thing, particularly rebounding, which was thought to be a priority in the offseason.

Then along came Sunday and we got a glimpse at what the Celtics were thinking.

After badly missing his first two shots, Morris started finding his way in what was his second game of the season. The forward finished with 12 points an seven rebounds in 23 minutes, displaying a sort of James Posey, all-around versatility and toughness that will complement whatever group Stevens puts with him.

Jayson Tatum is wise beyond his years

We wanted to focus so much on how much Tatum would be scoring. Against the Magic, the rookie netted 13 in 27 minutes. It’s how he’s getting those points that should be most pleasing to the C’s. There is a surely an aggressiveness, but not really any forcing. Yes, the 19-year-old lets the game come to him, which isn’t usually the case for any rookie.

What has helped Tatum is that the Celtics have plenty of guys who can score. This time around there were six guys in double-figures with only one, Jaylen Brown (18 points), netting more than 14. There are going to be nights the Celts will need more from their top pick. The same can be said for Kyrie Irving, who scored only 11 points while playing just 27 minutes. But the combination of Stevens’ confidence all corners of his roster, and the team’s defensive acumen, allows for Tatum to be whatever he needs to be.

Nobody saw this rebounding coming

While the Celtics’ offseason moves were universely applauded, perhaps the biggest question mark was figuring how those rebounding problems would be fixed. As it turned out, they had many of the answers on their roster all along.

The C’s once again outrebounded their opponents, grabbing 54 boards to Orlando’s 45. And C’s managed the feat in much the same way they had while becoming the fourth-best rebounding club in the NBA — by getting absolutely everybody in on the action. Six players grabbed seven or more boards, three of which (Brown, Marcus Smart and Rozier) were guards.

Smart has become a pretty important player

Coming into Sunday, the numbers didn’t tell the story. Sunday’s win, however, did.

Through the first nine games, the guard’s stats actually were slightly less impressive than a season ago, shooting just 30 percent from the floor while averaging 9.7 points per game, compared to his 10.6 in 2016-17. But watch closely and you’ll see a more all-around effective player, and an undeniable team leaders. That was put on display against the Magic, finishing with 11 points, eight rebounds, eight assists, and an impressive plus-32.

Skinny Smart has been a very useful part of Stevens’ sometimes unpredictable plan.



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Source: GreenStreet Blog

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