Jaylen Brown’s two-week absence because of a hamstring strain has allowed guards Marcus Smart and Dennis Schröder to develop backcourt chemistry.
The duo combined for 36 points, 5 rebounds, and 14 assists in Saturday’s 111-105 win over the Thunder, after totaling 43, 14, and 12 in the Friday blowout of the Lakers. Entering Saturday’s game, the Celtics had outscored opponents by 6.5 points per 100 possessions during the 331 minutes that Smart and Schröder have been on the court together. They have been particularly potent on the defensive end, compiling a defensive rating of 100.9 that would rank second in the NBA for a team.
“Dennis has been a great addition to this team on that aspect of the floor,” Smart said. “He’s been able to create for others and allow me to create for others as well. When we’re rolling like that, it gives the extra energy to everybody else to kind of get into their own game and get into a rhythm.”
Coach Ime Udoka said the two players have a nice balance on offense, too.
“Dennis scores the ball well, as well as gets guys into things,” Udoka said. “And we like him off the ball, so Marcus can handle at times, take the pressure off of him at times. And we love him in off-ball actions, so he’s been great there as well as in the pick-and-roll.”
Udoka has said that Schröder will return to his sixth-man role when Brown returns, but the Celtics are hopeful that the connection between these two players endures regardless of rotation tweaks.
Brown missed his eighth consecutive game because of his hamstring injury, and center Robert Williams sat out for the third game in a row because of a sore left knee.
“They’re looking better, feeling better, hoping to have them back soon,” Udoka said. “Nothing long term, but just being cautious still. They’re not 100 percent, so we’ll keep them out [Saturday].”
Udoka said the Celtics are hopeful that both players will return for Monday’s home game against the Rockets.
KG fan club
Jayson Tatum has developed a relationship with Celtics legend Paul Pierce over the years, but he said that Kevin Garnett was his favorite player from that Boston era.
“My dad’s favorite player was Michael Jordan, and his second-favorite player was KG,” said Tatum, who had a game-high 33 points in the win. “He always had me watching him, so just the aggressiveness that he played with, the intensity, the passion. I can relate. Obviously I’m not nearly as emotional or outgoing as he is, but I understand how he feels and how he plays the game. I admire and just appreciate him being who he was.
“Even to this day when I get a chance to be around him and talk to him, he’s the same person that you see on TV. I’ve always appreciated that and just how hard he played and how his teammates and the city of Boston just rallied around him and loved him as a player and a person.”