By: Danny Kramer — School Sports Editor
The Celtics faced the Hornets in Charlotte last night after an embarrassing 30-point loss to the Toronto Raptors and a win that was too close for comfort against the Houston Rockets. The overall defense was lackluster throughout the game by both sides as the first half concluded with the Celtics up 68-66. However, the 41 point performance by superstar forward Jayson Tatum and the 24 point second half by star guard Jaylen Brown were enough to outlast the shootout with the Hornets.
An early 14-7 lead for the Hornets following an escape against a bottom-tier Rockets team, left Celtics fans wondering whether standards might need to be reevaluated. Frustration grew as Hornets’ forward Kelly Oubre Jr. started the night perfect from three-point range as he went five for five and dropped 15 points.
A surprise spark came from Celtics forward Jabari Parker, a former number one overall pick whose career has been derailed after two ACL injuries. The now 26-year-old had 11 points in the first quarter with three three-pointers to tie the game up at 33.
Celtics guard Dennis Schröder’s role continues to be a question mark. Coming into the season, Schröder was looked at as a sixth man who could add needed point guard depth, but after scoring 17 points against the Rockets and 23 points last night as a starter, Schröder might be carving out a starting role.
Boston center Robert Williams III, who signed a four-year 54 million dollar contract extension, may prove to be a steal. Williams III contributed 12 points, 16 rebounds, and 3 blocks, including a powerful putback to put the Celtics up four in overtime.
Celtics guard Aaron Nesmith has been buried in the rotation, as the promising second-year player has struggled to shoot in the regular season. Nesmith has yet to make a shot, and if you cannot shoot or are not a seven-footer, you will not be able to play meaningful minutes in the National Basketball Association. Expect Nesmith to work his way back into the rotation shortly, but to hold his spot, he will need to start seeing some shots drop.
It is not necessarily good to see the starters have to do the heavy lifting, but it is relieving to know that if Boston’s best players need to carry the workload they have the ability to do so. The Celtics starters, consisting of Schröder, Smart, Brown, Tatum, Williams III, combined for 113 of Boston’s 140 points. Celtics starts Tatum and Brown contributed 71 of those points, while the entire bench combined for 27. This is a little bit concerning, but with forward Al Horford and guard Romeo Langford out last night, the Celtics’ depth was slim. The lack of bench points should not be a constant throughout the season once Boston returns to full strength.
Tatum has obviously responded to the backlash he faced after his embarrassing opening night, for in the two wins following the disaster against the Knicks, Tatum has totaled 72 points. Tatum’s 50% from the field was impressive, but the 8 assists displayed an extension of his game that people had only dreamed of. Now that Tatum has the ability to either take advantage of a one on one or pass out of a double team, Tatum has taken the next step in becoming virtually unguardable.
Ultimately, the Celtics were able to shoot their way to another nail-biting win, but if the Celtics can continue to lead in field goal percentage, assists, and rebounding while having fewer turnovers and fouls, the Celtics should win more than they lose—especially if the team has the perseverance to end up winning an overtime game by 11.
On Wednesday, the Celtics head back to TD Garden to face the Washington Wizards, and rumored Celtics target, Bradley Beal.