With a 107-96 Win over the LA Lakers, the Boston Celtics win 10 in a Row led by a career night by Center Aron Baynes. Baynes, 31 years young, had spent his last five years in the league split between the Spurs and Pistons respectively. This is only the fifth time in his career that Baynes has led his team in scoring! 6' 10" and 260 lbs, Aron seemed to be at the right place at the right time, attacking the paint, rebounding and even a few explosive dunks*. With Al Horford out due to NBA's concussion protocol, Baynes really lifted this "improvising" Celtics team with 21 points and 8 rebounds, while shooting 66.7% from the field. Plus, Horford's absence gave us an extended look at German center Daniel Theis, and he look good! Theis, a 25 year old rookie, scored 8 points with 5 rebounds, while sporting the awkward t-shirt under jersey look. Regardless, I prefer both of their looks than how Kelly Olynyk lacked any kind of intimidating swagger.
I say "improvising" because they squandered a 21 point lead with momentum seeming to slip until a few clutch shots by Kyrie Irving, who finished with a respectable 19 points but with only 1/3 of his shots going in. Kyrie was clutch when we needed it, and I am sometimes speechless at the beautiful layups, with precision dribbling through traffic.. it's just WICKED. But... Kyrie was off today... only 1 out of every 3 shots went in, and he laid a big goose egg beyond the arc. Seriously, he was 0-7 on 3pt attempts... that doesn't leave you with a good feeling, but most fans, especially after a W, will just shrug it off as an outlier.
What really made me feel good about watching this game, besides Tatum's slick steal early in the game before departing with an ankle injury, was the play by Marcus Smart, Terry Rozier and Marcus Morris. Smart continues to play smart basketball (no award for this obviously overused pun). He fights hard for loose ball and he's becoming the selfless player that we wished Rondo would become. Yes, smart didn't shoot well, 3 for 11, but he led the team with 6 assists. Smart, a 1st round Pick (6th Overall) in the 2014 draft, is still only 23 years old. Smart, Rozier, Irving, Tatum and my boy JAYLEN BROWN, are a young and talented core. Sure, I'm not expecting any of these kids to put up Lebron or even last season Isaiah Thomas numbers, but they have time to a Dwayne Wade (Smart) or Jimmy Butler (Brown).
This is no longer the team that has to rely on flukish performances by Jeff Green, Avery Bradley, Olynyk, Brandon Bass and Jae Crowder. And for the record, we never expected the last two, Bass and Crowder to carry us for any stretch, but they were our Smart, Rozier and Tatum. I'm a short guy, 5' 7" on a good hair day, and trust me, no one else loved seeing Isaiah Thomas at 5' 9" weave in and under people. But when it came to the postseason, we were small!!!! Irving gives us an extra half a foot with time to grow.
AGE: Bass- 31; Bradley 27; Crowder 27; Thomas 27; Green 31; Rondo 30; Olynyk 26.
Irving 25; Smart 23; Rozier 23; Brown 21; Baynes 30; Tatum 19;
Tell me this doesn't make you giddy for the next 5+ years. If we can keep this core together.. yes, guys like Baynes, Horford and Morris will come and go as they impart veteran guidance to these young kids, but with your oldest player Al Horford at 31, everyone is still fresh. This isn't an aging Cavaliers with an average age over 30!! No other team in the NBA has a roster that averages that old, the second closest my guess would be the Spurs and at 28.9 I was right, just ahead of the Warriors at 28.8. 28 is the prime peak year. It is the year I will turn in just 3 short days. But the Celtics are among the youngest in the league with an average age just over 25 years old. The Celtics have youth and just won the division last year. The Celtics can handle the marathon, they have enough players capable of scoring 15-20 on any given night that putting up 100 points seems easy. What the Celtics need to worry about is whether they have that playmaker that can make the Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant-esque game winning shot with the clock winding down. Tonight, Kyrie made some clutch shots in the fourth quarter, but he wasn't black mamba, nor mini-lebron. That's why I wanted the Celtics to trade down and draft Dennis Smith Jr., HE is fun to watch. But this team adapts and it will be interesting to see how Brown, Tatum, Irving, Rozier and Smart mature in high pressure situations.
Do you want to give the ball to Smart and hope when he drives the rim he'll get fouled? Do you want to give it to Irving to tie up people with his dribbling skills? Who has the dunk authority? My money on the long run is on Rozier. Something about this guy man.. great guy to have alongside Smart. Also always seems to be in the right place at the right time. I see Brown turning into a more advanced version of Ray Allen. I think with the eye test he has some of the better 3pt range on the team. Irving, i don't know will he reach the next level or will one of the kids surpass him. If Irving turns into Derrick Rose, no doubt fans will be disappointed, because Rose never really became an Elite franchise difference maker that he was predicted to be.
I'm not sure what the extent of Tatum's ankle injury is yet, but he seems like a great pick so far. Eyes open, confident, playing good defense. No complaints, just stay healthy.
Ok enough jabbering. I'll do another post about why I like this team later. I had originally spent 2 hours writing a comparison to the Bulls, Lakers and Spurs; the last generation of dynasty teams. I'll re-write that tomorrow.
10 in a row! Feels great. Up next: game lucky number 13 against the Hornets on Friday. Talk to you then.