Even though he’s stuck in a terrible situation as the centerpiece of a truly nightmarish organization, Knicks big man Kristaps Porzingis remains an incredible talent.
The Celtics were interested in acquiring the youthful Porzingis, too, with names like Jaylen Brown and the 2017 No. 1 overall pick (which was eventually traded to Philadelphia and became the No. 3 overall pick, which became Jayson Tatum), as well the Nets’ 2018 first-round pick making up the expected ask from then-Knicks president Phil Jackson.
But a 110-89 win over Porzingis and the Knicks should have done more than enough to make you happy that those guys are still indeed in Boston and wearing Celtic Green.
“They’re here and they’re making their mark right now,” Al Horford said of Brown and Tatum’s impact in the team’s second straight victory.
I know. I know. I know. Wins over the Knicks should come with an asterisk, as they’re basically a G-League team when you get beyond Porzingis. Jarrett Jack played meaningful minutes, and I could have sworn that guy went missing seven years ago. But this is not about the Knicks being the Knicks as much as Brown and Tatum’s value being off the charts through the first four games of the season for the ‘finally’ .500 C’s.
Celebrating his 21st birthday, Brown began his night with a 5-for-8 (including a 2-for-4 mark from downtown) for 13 points in the first quarter, which was the Celtics’ highest-scoring opening quarter of the season (they scored 30 points). And by halftime, and with the C’s holding 21-point edge, Brown had a game-high 18.
Brown and Tatum’s combined impact in the first half (30 points) was just three points fewer than the entire Knicks through the first 24 minutes of action, too.
Brown paced the Celtics until the end of the night, too, with a team-high 23 points, makes on nine of his 16 field goal attempts, and four rebounds in 32 minutes of action.
Much of Brown’s accelerated development this year has come back down to the work he’s put in this summer, but it’s been aided further by the likely season-ending injury to forward Gordon Hayward. It’s forced Celtics coach Brad Stevens to instead rely on Brown to become more of a steady scoring presence than the lockdown defender they expected him to be when the season began, and the 6-foot-7 Brown has delivered.
Through the first four games of the season, Brown is shooting 47.6 percent. It’s over two percent better than his 2016-17 figure, and Brown has at least 15 points in three games this season. He didn’t have three games of at least 15 points until February last season. Surprisingly, Brown’s effectiveness has grown in unison with the minutes of this new role.
Tatum, whose pick would have been moved to New York to acquire Porzingis (and likely used to draft Josh Jackson, a player that Phil Jackson was reportedly enamored with at the draft), meanwhile, came through with a career-high 22 points. He also had a first half play that saw him come through with a stellar defensive effort at one end, then rush back and come up with a beautiful finish at the other. In addition to his 22 points, Tatum’s night included four rebounds, four steals, and two blocks in 31 minutes.
“It was just nice to see them have some success on offense, but defensively, that’s where I’m focused with them,” said Horford. “They’ve been doing a good job.”
They were not the only ones doing their part on defense, however, as Porzingis was shut down by Horford, limited to a season-low 12 points in 32 minutes of action.
That alone, at least tonight and given this new Hayward-less scenario for the Celtics, made it was easy to see the value of the Celtics hanging onto their assets — with an undeniably Stevens-favored team concept in mind over the idea of a superstar-laden group — instead of paying a premium for the 22-year-old big. (For now.)
“They are young guys,” Stevens admitted of his invaluable and high-energy Tatum-Brown combination. “But to us, with the situation we’re in, they’re guys.
“We need them to play well on Thursday. We have high expectations for them, and they should have high expectations for themselves.”
Higher than the 7-foot-3 Porzingis, too, which is saying something.
Full article @ Celtics 110, Knicks 89: Who needs Kristaps Porzingis?
Source: GreenStreet Blog