Jayson Tatum did not feel comfortable throwing Grant Williams a lob: 5 takeaways from Celtics vs. Nets

After a brief blip before the All-Star break, the Celtics looked like a powerhouse against a bad team again.

Celtics Nets
Jayson Tatum of the Celtics drives to the basket past Andre Drummond of the Nets during the first half at Barclays Center. Photo by Adam Hunger/Getty Images

Jayson Tatum likes Grant Williams. He supports him. He appreciates his highlights, on the rare occasions Williams produces them.

But don’t ask Jayson Tatum to throw Grant Williams a lob, especially if you are Grant Williams.

On Thursday, during the Celtics‘ 129-106 victory over the Nets, Williams pointed to the sky as Tatum drove in on a fast break but was roundly ignored en route to Tatum’s dunk — part of a 30-point night for Tatum on 10-for-20 shooting.

Tatum started chuckling as soon as he was asked about the play after the game.

“When he pointed up is when I made the executive decision of taking it myself because I think — I don’t know, if he has caught an alley-oop, he’s probably caught two or three in his whole career,” Tatum said. “I just told him like, on the fast-break, there’s two guys I’m gonna throw a lob to: Rob and JB. Grant is a lot lower on that list.


“So maybe we can practice it, but in-game, I do not feel comfortable throwing an alley-oop to Grant Williams on a fast-break, so I decided to just take it myself.”

The rest of the play was pretty funny too. Tatum had two choices on a fast break break — find Williams with a pass (“he had a better chance of just calling for the ball,” Tatum said afterward) or attack 6-foot-2 Seth Curry.

Tatum wisely opted for the latter. Curry dipped out of the way a little bit, and Tatum threw down an undisturbed two-handed dunk. As he swung around on the rim, TNT cameras caught Williams saying “Oh wooow.” Tatum bumped into Williams — whether on purpose or not is unclear.

“I’ve had my fair share of highlights and sometimes, I got to remind people that I can still do that,” Tatum said. “I know I don’t do it as often, but in the right moment, I can still do those things.”

Again, though, Tatum wanted to make clear that he loves Williams and he is willing to give credit when Williams deserves it. In the fourth quarter, Williams jumped a passing lane and started a fast break. Ahead of the pack by himself with three Nets around him, he dipped his body low and hoisted a layup through contact from James Johnson — somehow coaxing it through the net.


“I’ve got nothing bad to say about that,” Tatum said. “That was nice. I mean, he shocked himself. He didn’t even know how to react. He just started smiling. But I mean, that shows the evolution of Grant. He’s been working on his game.”

Other takeaways

2. To Tatum’s point: He can still collect a few highlights, including this poster on Andre Drummond.

Robert Williams is much more of a high flyer, but Tatum has more posters over the last year or two. Opponents, it seems, are less likely to challenge Williams.

3. The Celtics pushed the pace early, which has been a bit of a recent trend — they are 16th in pace over their last five games, but 24th overall this season.

That resulted in a high-scoring game on both ends. Over the last two weeks, the Celtics are giving up 101.5 points per 100 possessions — by far the best defense in the league. Even though they gave up 106 points on Thursday, they only gave up 101.0 points per 100 possessions.

Part of the reason the Celtics played fast Thursday was to beat the Nets’ zone — even if it isn’t perfect, teams can limit some of the mismatches the Celtics create with two big wing scorers who can score in isolation.


“If we can get stops and get out and run and not play against zone, that’s great as well,” Udoka said. “So I like it. It felt like a high-paced game. We got 94 shots and it felt like we guarded better than the final number indicates, so I’m happy with it.”

Still, defense is going to remain the Celtics’ calling card.

“It’s great to be able to rely on that end every night when shots aren’t falling,” Udoka said. “That gives us a great chance.

“Defensively the guys have bought in, they’re getting physical and living up to that mantra we’ve talked about all year. But that’s rewarding. It’s good to see it, and we rely on it every night. When the offense is clicking you get 130 as well, so that’s beneficial.”

4. Brodric Thomas hasn’t played much this year, but he drew praise from Stan Van Gundy in garbage time (a term Van Gundy contends isn’t real, given its value for players like Thomas). Brodric flew around the court, collecting four points and an assist in 4:34. Like several players on the roster, he has a chance to earn a full-time deal which would allow the Celtics to take him into the postseason.

Another 2021-22 Maine Red Claw who deserves some consideration: Chris Clemons, who came up shy of his fourth (!) straight triple-double on Thursday because he only tallied 37 points, eight rebounds and 11 assists. He’s only 5-foot-9, but he is an electric scorer.

5. The Celtics moved a little closer to the big pack in the standings when the Cavaliers lost to the Pistons. The Celtics — who remain in sixth — are now just a game behind the Cavaliers. They are just 1.5 games behind the Bucks and the 76ers, who are third and fourth respectively.


The Celtics take on the Pistons not on Thursday, not on Friday, but on Saturday.


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