3 takeaways from the Celtics’ sixth straight win

Boston defeated the New Orleans Pelicans, 113-100.

Jayson Tatum
Jayson Tatum takes a shot over Jrue Holiday. –Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

COMMENTARY

It appears Terry Rozier will get what he wants for at least another day.

“Everybody can shut up,” Rozier told reporters after the Celtics’ 56-point shellacking of the Chicago Bulls Saturday. “Because everybody’s been very annoying when we’ve been losing. Very annoying.”

Much to Rozier and the team’s delight, Boston kept up its win streak Monday night with a 113-100 win over the New Orleans Pelicans. The victory came without four rotation players, as the Celtics continued to hush their early-season critics with another 110-plus point performance.

Here’s what we learned from the outing: 

Robert Williams is already a fan favorite.

Whether he was blocking Anthony Davis or simply checking in and out of the game, any and all activity from Williams was greeted with whistles and cheers. The 21-year-old has quickly endeared himself to Boston’s fanbase, via his rocky start — remembered by an overslept conference call and missed flight — and subsequent nickname, “Time Lord.”

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“It was awesome energy,” Williams said after the game. “I feel like it’s much love.”

The sellout crowd had several reasons to root for Williams, who was facing off against one of the players he idolized growing up. The rookie fared pretty well against Davis, allowing 15 points on 7-for-17 shooting, according to the NBA’s tracking data. His stat line was well-balanced, with 11 rebounds, 7 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 blocks, and just one personal foul. Coach Brad Stevens seemed pleased with the 26-minute performance, specifically highlighting Williams’s presence on the defensive end.

“When you’re shooting jumpers and Robert’s in the vicinity, you feel him,” Stevens said. “When you’re shooting around the rim and he’s in the vicinity, you feel him.”

Related: Robert Williams impresses in coming out party with the Celtics

A shorthanded lineup is nothing new for the Celtics.

Monday’s injury report was a blast from the past, with Aron Baynes, Gordon Hayward, Al Horford, Kyrie Irving, and Guerschon Yabusele all sidelined due to various ailments.

With only 10 active players, did the circumstances remind Jayson Tatum of last season’s playoffs?

“Because people were out?” he replied, with a small smile. “I guess so.”

Tatum, who was the team’s leading scorer (18.5 PPG) during the postseason, once again rose to the challenge of being the No. 1 option. The 20-year-old said he tried to be more aggressive as well as create for his teammates, given the heightened attention in response to Irving’s absence. He finished with 21 points on 10-for-16 shooting, including an electrifying dunk after masterfully splitting the Pelicans’ defense late in the first half.

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Forward Marcus Morris added 31 points, matching his highest scoring total as a member of the Celtics. Stevens said Morris “took it to a different level” when the team suffered its first wave of injuries last March — and has remained consistent ever since.

“I thought that was a big reason why we felt good about ourselves,” Stevens said. “I thought he played great throughout the postseason and he’s done nothing but add to it here at the start of this season.”

Things are starting to come together.

Riding their longest win streak of the season, the Celtics are finally looking like the team they were hyped up to be. During the span of their past six games, the team ranks first in the league in points per game (124), field-goal percentage (51 percent), three-point percentage (42.7), net rating (25.6), and assist-to-turnover ratio (2.51).

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“We’re all understanding what the main goal is and it’s showing,” Morris said.

That prolific level of production likely isn’t sustainable — and is probably slightly inflated due to their recent strength of schedule — but the Celtics seem to be feeling good about their progress.

“Our energy is way better compared to the start of the season,” Morris continued. “Guys are really buying into their roles. It’s starting to be fun.”

“I think as guys have gotten more comfortable playing together and the ball is going in a little bit more, you feel a little bit better about yourself,” added Stevens. “You play happier, you play freer. I think all that stuff adds into making that one extra step of effort.”  

Boston will be put to the test against the Milwaukee Bucks in about a week and a half, with games against the Philadelphia 76ers (Dec. 25) and the Toronto Raptors (Jan. 16) soon to follow. The only injury Stevens indicated beyond day-to-day was the lone non-rotation player, Yabusele, so the team, barring any unforeseen changes, should be at full strength for the highly anticipated conference matchups.

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“The key is when everybody is available, getting the most out of ourselves,” Stevens said.

Related: What Anthony Davis said about his reception at TD Garden