The Boston Celtics grabbed an eyebrow-raising win against the (admittedly short-handed) Charlotte Hornets on Sunday, claiming a 116-86 victory.
Here’s what happened.
The big picture
The Celtics struggled early and looked in the first quarter like they might be on their way to a familiar ill-fated game.
Then the second unit, sparked by Evan Fournier and (maybe) Romeo Langford, helped propel the Celtics on a 19-4 run that seized control of the game. The Celtics never trailed in the second half and finished off one of the most encouraging wins of their season.
Star of the game
Evan Fournier — 17 points, 5-for-9 shooting, 3-for-4 from three
Other Celtics had slightly better stat lines, but Fournier was a huge part of the unit that changed the game and showed how important an addition he could be as the Celtics look to build toward the playoffs. More on him (and the second unit) in a minute.
What it means
It’s difficult to say. The second unit really does look stronger with Fournier in tow. Langford’s defense will be a big boost as he gets healthy, and Grant Williams played some good minutes at center. Maybe most importantly, the Celtics looked like they were having fun for the first time in a while. This team has spent most of the season looking miserable as they struggle to figure things out, but Sunday elicited some real smiles.
There are a few factors that cut into the good vibes a bit, and we’ll get into them, but the Celtics found some reasons for optimism in a season that has offered very few so far.
1. The Celtics were absolutely hoisting 3-pointers, and on Sunday, they made a hefty helping. After a slow start, the Celtics finished 21-for-54 (38.9 percent) from deep. The stretch where they looked like the worst version of themselves coincided with the stretch where they missed all of their triples.
The good news for the Celtics is that they hit a lot of shots behind the arc, and when they make a lot of shots, they are a good basketball team. The wait-and-see news is that a team that hasn’t always consistently made 3-pointers got hot, and we should probably reserve judgment until we see whether they continue to roll.
2. All of that said, the second unit looks so much better with Fournier. His presence keeps good players on the floor longer and adds a ton of scoring punch. Previously, second-unit lineups needed Jayson Tatum to be a superstar to have any chance. Now Tatum isn’t the only reliable presence, which means the Celtics can actually win stretches during which they have gotten pulverized often this season.
3. Robert Williams continued to shine, finishing with 16 points on 7-for-9 shooting and eight rebounds. At this point, it seems impossible that Brad Stevens could consider putting Tristan Thompson back in the starting lineup when he returns — Williams’ impact has been obvious. Prior to Sunday’s game, Williams’ net rating in the last five was +15.8.
Williams has a difficult test looming with the Philadelphia 76ers and Joel Embiid — a test he hasn’t really ever taken. If Thompson isn’t back (and it seems unlikely he will be), Stevens might have no choice but to let Williams take it.
4. Tempering expectations slightly: The Hornets were without LaMelo Ball and Gordon Hayward (and will be for the next four weeks) and never really looked competitive. Don’t be too surprised if they fall off for an extended period without two of their best players.
5. Good to see that the Celtics still appreciate Rozier, who was a very fun personality in Boston (with the exception of the 2018-19 season, but it’s difficult to blame him for that one).
Terry Rozier and Robert Williams are swapping jerseys… but Marcus Smart swooped in to try and steal Rozier's
— John Karalis 🇬🇷 (@RedsArmy_John) April 5, 2021
Sunday’s game looked fun. Very few Celtics games have looked fun this year. We will see if it continues.
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