The Celtics have a lot of good players: 7 takeaways from Celtics vs. Hawks

"We just got a lot of guys that can do a lot of things to help us win games."

Celtics Hawks
Boston Celtics center Luke Kornet scores with a behind-the-head dunk during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Atlanta Hawks. AP Photo/John Bazemore

The Celtics rolled to their eighth straight victory on Thursday, blowing out the Hawks 126-101 despite missing both Marcus Smart and Malcolm Brogdon.

Here are the takeaways.

1. The Celtics aren’t going to stay this hot (we assume). As great as they’ve looked during this winning streak, teams do eventually lose basketball games during an NBA season. They will even — if you can imagine it — lose a couple more games the rest of the way. Some of those losses might even stack up against one another.

If and when this happens, Celtics fans can take a lot of comfort in what we’ve learned during this streak — a fact that was hammered home Wednesday during their blowout win over the Hawks. This Celtics team is good. Top to bottom, side-to-side, on and off the bench.


On Wednesday, the primary takeaway was the depth. Jaylen Brown scored a team-high 22 points on 10-for-17 shooting, but he finished 1-for-6 from 3-point range, turned the ball over three times, and didn’t record an assist. Jayson Tatum scored 19 points on 6-for-19 shooting, including 3-for-10 from 3-point range.

That was more than enough. The rest of the team picked up the slack: Seven players scored in double-digits, and the only player who played real rotation minutes and didn’t score double-digits was Al Horford, who finished with seven points, 11 rebounds, and four assists.

Up and down the roster, the Celtics have excellent players filling their roles perfectly. That means when a superstar has an off night, others have the ability to step in.

“We got some guys that stay ready,” Brown told reporters after the game. “We got a style of ball that we’re trying to play, and every guy is ready when their name is called. You can’t ask for more.”

Derrick White concurred.

“We just got a lot of guys that can do a lot of things to help us win games,” White said. “Smart and Malcolm out today, so Payton [Pritchard] and Sam [Hauser] stepped up, and that’s just the team we have. We trust every person on this roster, and when they come in, they do good things for us.


2. On a night when the entire bench pitched in quite a bit, perhaps nobody’s contributions stood out more than Luke Kornet. Kornet was a consistent target for Celtics guards looking to generate easy baskets, towering over Hawks defenders and scoring easily in the pick-and-roll.

The Hawks simply never found a way to make Kornet — or the Celtics guards who kept finding him over and over for layups and dunks — look uncomfortable around the rim. He finished with 15 points and shot 7-for-7 from the field, which included a 3-pointer from the corner.

3. While Kornet’s stat line stands out, Derrick White was the best player on the floor for lengthy stretches on Wednesday, finishing with 16 points and 10 assists. Entrusted with the lead ball-handling role with Smart and Brogdon both on the bench, White flourished, showing excellent patience in the pick-and-roll and generate a healthy portion of easy baskets.

White has been in and out of the starting lineup, but he got the call on Wednesday.

“Just trusting whatever the coaching staff decides is best for the team,” White told reporters when asked about staying ready. “And when your name and number is called, you go out there and compete and make the right plays. So any time my name is called, whether it’s starting or off the bench, I’m just going to go out there, compete and have fun with it.”


The Celtics have an incredible luxury employing both White and Payton Pritchard. They barely felt the loss of their former All-Star and reigning Defensive Player of the Year guards.

4. Sam Hauser, meanwhile, finished 5-for-6 from 3-point range, a key part of a bench attack that left the Hawks deflated (by their own admission). Hauser’s units continue to pound opponents — on Wednesday, he finished +35 for the game — and several of his 3-pointers stymied moments in the first half when the Hawks felt like they were on the verge of grabbing a little momentum.

5. After spending most of the first month of the season in the bottom half of the league in defensive rating, the Celtics allowed the Hawks just 101 points per 100 possessions on Thursday. Per Cleaning the Glass, that’s a 17th-percentile total this season. The Celtics have managed to boost themselves up to 13th in defense, pairing nicely with their No. 2 offense to give them the league’s second-best net rating.

6. Pritchard was great off the bench as well, with 14 points on 5-for-8 shooting, 4-for-6 from 3-point range. His 3-pointer right before the half pushed the Celtics’ lead back up to nine and may have also been part of what deflated the Hawks.

The Payton Pritchard conundrum isn’t the biggest problem of the season for the Celtics, but it is an interesting puzzle. Whenever Pritchard is entrusted with minutes, he proves capable and deserving of more. At some point in the relatively near future, the Celtics won’t really have any minutes at all to dole out when Smart and Brogdon return.


Do the Celtics keep Pritchard on the off chance their guard depth gets cut in half again? Do they hope teams have been watching the little bits and pieces of time on the floor Pritchard has gotten and try to move him in a trade? Do they try to get even more creative with the rotations? The Celtics have some decisions to make on Pritchard.

7. And finally, the Celtics tweeted out this photo and this caption on Wednesday.

Seems pretty significant!

The Celtics play the Pelicans on the road at 7:30 p.m. on Friday.


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