The Celtics defeated the Orlando Magic, 116-100, Wednesday night.
Here’s what we saw:
Romeo Langford can keep up.
With Marcus Smart and Kemba Walker both sidelined, rookie Romeo Langford earned his first career start. Langford admitted he was kind of surprised when he first found out he would be starting, as were his parents, who thought he was in Maine with Boston’s G-League affiliate Red Claws. He said his mom texted him: “You starting for Boston or Maine?”
Although the nervous butterflies crept up once he heard the decision, Langford, often the first player to arrive and warm up at TD Garden, said he felt confident in the work he’s put in. His only task of the game, according to coach Brad Stevens, was to defend Magic shooting guard Evan Fournier. Langford credited assistant coach Joe Mazzulla with helping him prepare both mentally and physically.
“It helped a lot, knowing all I had to do was basically guard him the whole time,” Langford said.
Added Stevens: “I’ve always thought if you can go in with one assignment, it’s a little bit clearer. This is where you have a discussion with Romeo [on Thursday], like this is how hard the league is. You got to be able to do that and do what Gordon [Hayward], Jaylen [Brown], and Jayson [Tatum] did.”
During his 28 minutes, Langford fared pretty well and, outside of stepping out of bounds to commit a turnover on Boston’s second possession, looked pretty comfortable. Early in the first quarter, he stayed with Fournier to reject his driving layup attempt. According to the NBA’s tracking data, Fournier scored just two points on the 15 partial possessions he was matched up against Langford.
Langford also drew two offensive fouls, the first against a barreling Aaron Gordon in the lane and the second against a driving Markelle Fultz. Langford finished with six points on 3-for-4 shooting.
Grant Williams continues to impact winning.
Grant Williams turned in another terrific performance off the bench.
Among the highlights:
-He held his ground in the paint against 7-footer Mo Bamba. In the second quarter, he swatted Bamba from behind on a dunk attempt and then, on Boston’s very next possession, created a lot of space against Bamba for Tatum to drive to the basket for an easy layup.
-He grabbed three offensive rebounds, including two for putbacks. The second extended Boston’s lead to 105-96 with 3:08 remaining in the fourth quarter and essentially sealed the game for the Celtics.
-He knocked down three threes. Despite his initial 0-for-25 start from behind the arc, Williams has shown he’s not afraid to take the shot. Said Hayward: “Certainly now, he’s a lot more comfortable shooting it. The defense is going to have to respect it. It’s going to make him way more valuable.”
-He helped force a jump ball at the beginning of the fourth quarter.
-He wrestled the ball away from Gordon’s hands as he was driving to the basket.
Williams finished with 10 points on 5-for-6 shooting — his lone miss was a three-point heave with the shot clock expiring — and six rebounds.
“I think [Grant’s] done a great job for us,” Hayward said. “Defensively, he’s usually pretty good, definitely an on-the-ball defender. Offensively, he just seems to be in the right spot a lot of the time, just helping guys out, getting guys easier looks, making other guys successful. He’s that type of player, just makes everybody better.”
Jayson Tatum is living up to his All-Star nod.
Heading into the fourth quarter, neither team had led by double digits.
Then Tatum took over.
With the Celtics leading 91-88, Tatum scored eight straight points in a two-minute stretch. He swished a three-pointer, an 18-foot stepback jumper, and another three-pointer. To extend Boston’s lead to 10, Tatum stole the ball and dished it to Brown, who threw down an emphatic one-handed jam.
Tatum finished with 33 points on 11-for-24 shooting and eight rebounds. Thursday marked the seventh time in his career he has reached the 30-point mark, six of which have come this season.
“I think some things have slowed down a little bit,” Tatum said. “For me, it’s all about reading, reading the defense and whatever they give me.”