Eight leftover thoughts about the Celtics’ wild 121-118 overtime win over the Warriors at TD Garden Thursday night …
▪ Twitter is never a good way to crowd-source, but neither is roaming through North Station late at night while on deadline. Anyway, there seemed to be an odd push-and-pull online regarding Jayson Tatum’s performance. His supporters praised him for playing 48 gritty minutes, pulling down a career-high 19 rebounds, and being part of a win. Detractors pointed out his seven turnovers and 9-for-27 shooting.
Well, the narrative would have been one-sided if Jaylen Brown had missed his game-tying 3-point attempt with 18 seconds left in regulation, because Tatum’s last few minutes were miserable. He threw a careless pass to Brown that was easily picked off by Jordan Poole, who floated in for a layup. He had the ball knocked away by Andrew Wiggins as he dribbled upcourt.
Then his worst transgression came with 40 seconds left, with the Celtics trailing by a point, when his cross-court pass was once again picked off. It felt like a meltdown, really.
▪ It’s fair to wonder whether Tatum’s late-game gaffes were related to fatigue. He played all of the second, third, and fourth quarters, as well as overtime. From letting his players find their way without timeouts to giving them a say in their playing time, coach Joe Mazzulla clearly wants to empower his squad. But there are times the approach could be dangerous.
When he asked Tatum a few minutes into the fourth quarter if he needed a break, Tatum said he did not. But Tatum is almost always going to say that. The coaching staff should feel comfortable making those decisions.
We won’t know whether the wear and tear will truly impact Tatum until the playoffs arrive. Maybe it’ll have no effect. We’ll see. But the Celtics are on track to secure the top seed in the East, and at some point they’ll need to prioritize rest for their stars. Having 58 or 62 wins will make no difference.
The Celtics announced that Tatum will miss Saturday’s game against the Raptors because of left wrist soreness.
▪ Brown’s struggles earlier in the game were a main reason the Celtics scuffled against a Warriors team that has been awful on the road this season. It was his first game back after missing three with an adductor strain. (The Celtics referred to it as tightness all week, but Brown later revealed that it was a Grade 1 strain.)
Still, the Celtics clearly had no concerns about Brown’s readiness. He played more than 41 minutes and was tasked with shadowing Stephen Curry much of the night.
“That was a perfect way for me to make my introduction back into the lineup,” Brown said, smiling. “They started me on Curry and challenged me to be ready to chase him around.”
Curry was 9 for 25 from the field.
▪ The Warriors are 5-18 on the road and 22-23 overall. There’s a good chance they’ll end up in the play-in tournament. But after watching them Thursday, motivated and mostly healthy, would anyone really be surprised if they made it back to the Finals?
With apologies to the Grizzlies and Nuggets, the Celtics certainly would prefer not to end up back in San Francisco.
▪ The Celtics went back to last season’s starting lineup for the first time this year, with Robert Williams pushing Derrick White to the bench. This almost certainly would have been the lineup all along, of course, but Williams did not make his season debut until Dec. 16.
Still, it’ll be worth monitoring how White fares in a reduced role. He has been one of the Celtics’ most effective players all season, and his plus-11.5 net rating leads the team.
But he was 0 for 6 in just 17:28 Thursday. Inevitably, there will be some minor injury that resets things. But Mazzulla will have some tough choices moving forward. It seems that sixth man Malcolm Brogdon will still be in closing lineups more often than not.
▪ Speaking of Brogdon, he and Williams probably saved the Celtics with their third-quarter performances. As the Warriors stretched their lead to double digits and appeared more comfortable by the minute, Brogdon and Williams combined for four big offensive rebounds in the quarter, when the Celtics registered 10 second-chance points. It was an essential boost.
▪ It became a footnote, but the end of overtime nearly turned into a disaster. When the Warriors called a timeout with 38.2 seconds left trailing, 121-113, it felt as if coach Steve Kerr might remove his stars and call it a night.
Instead, Al Horford, who otherwise had an excellent night, fouled Wiggins on a 3-pointer. Wiggins made two of three free throws, but after Marcus Smart received the ensuing inbounds pass from Tatum, he fired it back toward him under Golden State’s hoop, and the ball was knocked away before Donte DiVincenzo found an open 3-pointer from the left corner.
Then Smart got the ball again and nearly fired a crosscourt pass out of bounds before Brown leapt across the line and saved it.
▪ The Celtics used the clock smartly on that final possession and probably caught a break, too. The Warriors were out of timeouts so had no way to advance the ball when they regained possession, and the Celtics let the shot clock tick down before Horford fired up a 20-footer with 6.3 seconds that missed and caromed out of bounds with three seconds left.
That limited the Warriors’ options, and Poole’s half-court shot had no chance. But replays showed that the Celtics probably should have been called for a shot-clock violation before Horford’s jumper.
The Warriors would have had many more avenues with 6.3 seconds, although the Celtics also could have fouled them in the backcourt as a precaution.