It was the 4th leg of the Celtics 5-game road trip that saw them square off against he Clippers after going 2-1 in their previous 3. The Clippers had been without Kawhi Leonard, Paul George or both thus far this season, however, the long awaited debut of the tandem on the court together would come to an end as both superstars suited up against the shorthanded Celtics.
This was truly one of those beautiful, edge of your seat, back and forth NBA regular season games between two very, very good teams. Kawhi & PG13 came out firing in the first quarter as they hit back-to-back threes each, respectively, but the Celtics would respond and keep it close.
He’s been on the radar since the 2018 playoffs, but if there were ever a coming out party for Jayson Tatum to the rest of the country, this was it. Celtics fans have lauded how special Tatum is and how much more special he could become, but if you asked twitter, Tatum was an overrated forward with a low ceiling. After last nights game, you wouldn’t be able to say that with a straight face again. While Tatums stat-line was impressive, it was how he did it that really stood out. Tatum had 30 points, 6 rebounds and 3 assists, which is a nice stat line for a scoring forward, but if you watched last night, he was going eye to eye with George and Leonard all night, matching every big shot in every scenario topped off with the 3 that put George on his ass and the game into OT.
🔥 J A Y S O N T A T U M 🔥 pic.twitter.com/PQrKvyrYTc
— Boston Celtics (@celtics) November 21, 2019
And while his compadre guard Marcus Smart had a pretty miserable night shooting the rock, his defense was outstanding. He was matched up with Kawhi for most of the night, holding Leonard to 17 points on the night, including probably the defensive play of the year so far when he was diving out of bounds and threw the ball of Kawhi’s foot so perfectly to gain possession for Boston in the closing seconds of the game. Smart should be a lock for a Defensive Player of the Year candidate (as he should every year).
Marcus Smart is incredible pic.twitter.com/oC2SEuGUNr
— Dan Greenberg (@StoolGreenie) November 21, 2019
And while Smart said that this game wasn’t so much a measuring stick for Boston, he said that the team learned a lot about themselves: “Not so much a measuring stick, but it is going to show us a lot about this team and really, really tell us what we want to know to be able to go out there and play against a good team and come out with the victory,” Smart said. “We know it’s not going to be easy but if we are able to continue to do what we did tonight, we should be OK.”
Still, the glaring weakness Boston has is their size. They play fluidly, they enjoy playing with each other, however in OT Paul George missed a three that Kemba Walker had his man boxed out on perfectly, he was just simply too small to grab the rebound and the ball found its way back to George for a three, which was ultimately the difference in the outcome.
It’s easy to say had Hayward played tonight the Celtics probably would have won, but that’s what there is to look forward to. Hayward will be out another 5 weeks, but if this team can play like that against the top contenders in the league while he’s out, they are going to be very dangerous down the stretch, and in the meantime, the Celtics should be on the phone with Indiana inquiring about the availability one of their two big men to round this roster out.
While it’s a tick in the loss column, it was a pretty good showing of what this Celtics team is and can grow to be. And that duo of Kawhi and George could grow to be the best duo out west.
The C’s face the Denver Nuggets Friday night to close out their road trip.