6 takeaways as Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum combine for 77 points in win over Rockets

Plus: The Celtics honor Paul Silas for his son Stephen and more.

Celtics Rockets
Jaylen Brown takes a 3-point shot over Houston Rockets forward Tari Eason. AP Photo/Charles Krupa

The Celtics continued to surge on Tuesday by beating the Rockets 126-102, getting a big game from both of their stars and a little help from a new face at head coach.

Here are the takeaways.

1. The Celtics made a late scratch to their lineup on Tuesday, but it wasn’t a player: Joe Mazzulla missed the game with eye irritation. Assistant coach Damon Stoudamire took over and coached in his place.

Mazzulla could be seen squinting in obvious discomfort on the NBC Sports Boston broadcast in a pre-game interview with Abby Chin, but he wasn’t officially ruled out until about 10 minutes before the game.


“In a lot of ways, it’s better that way,” Stoudamire said after the game. “Just go out there and do what we’ve been doing. We put together game plans as a staff, obviously. We pretty much know what we wanted to do. Joe wasn’t able to go tonight and I stepped in, but honestly it’s a collaborative effort. Everybody plays their part in situations like this. It’s been like this pretty much all season. So, for me, it was just a matter of going out there and truly not messing it up.”

The Celtics were happy to get Stoudamire his first NBA victory as a head coach. Jaylen Brown called Stoudamire one of his favorite people in the organization, and Robert Williams said the team loves all of its assistant coaches.

“It was a burst of energy,” Williams said.

2. Another burst of energy: Brown and Jayson Tatum, who scored 39 and 38 points, respectively (77 total), including a combined 42 in the second half. Brown poured in 15 points in the first quarter and 14 in the third, while Tatum dropped 12 in the fourth as the Celtics pulled away.

Both players are no-brainer All-Stars at this point, and while Tatum is nearly guaranteed a starting spot, Brown is quietly building a strong case of his own. Players like James Harden and Trae Young average more assists, but Brown is averaging 27 points and 7.4 rebounds per game on the team with the NBA’s best record.


“I think offense is better just to start the season compared to last year,” Tatum said. “I think we’re both individually playing at a higher level at this time of the year compared to last year. The team is playing at a higher level. So we’re just better as a team than we were last year at this time.”

3. Before the game, Mazzulla said the Celtics might consider bringing Robert Williams off the bench for the rest of the year, if they keep playing at a high level — a major surprise given how valuable Williams was to the team last year.

When asked about it post-game, Williams took the comments in stride.

“He talked to me about it before I came back, which was expected,” Williams said. “I’m a team player. If we’re rolling with something, I feel like we’re supposed to keep rolling with it.”

Still, Williams was part of the closing unit in the fourth quarter and recorded a monster stat line in just 20:45 of action: 11 points, 15 rebounds (including five offensive), two assists, and one block per the NBA’s stats.

“Rob is special for us,” Brown said. “He was special for us last year, so having him confident and comfortable is going to be key as he’s starting to integrate back and get healthier and starting to gain his confidence, that’s what we need, because down the line, Rob brings an element to the game that I don’t think anybody else on our team can bring.”


4. The Celtics showed an example of what Williams brings in the closing minutes, with a little help from a Rockets team that had thrown in the towel.

Full disclosure, we are still chuckling about this play long after the final buzzer: Marcus Smart could not have telegraphed the play any more obviously, talking and gesturing to Williams as the duo walked up the floor. Poor Kevin Porter Jr. worked and pushed Brown away from the screen, only to watch Williams switch the screen and catch a lob in front of a half-hearted Alperen Sengun.

The Rockets have a lot of young talent — Jalen Green in particular has a chance to be really special — but they have a long way to go. Watching their young players is a reminder of how far Tatum, Brown, and Smart in particular have come together, and how much young players have to learn about winning basketball games in a league full of grown men.

5. Tatum threw down a windmill dunk late as the Celtics pulled away. He isn’t a high-flyer, but he knows how to finish in style (just ask Giannis Antetokounmpo).

6. The Celtics honored former forward Paul Silas, who died earlier this month at 79. Silas won a pair of titles with the Celtics, and his son Stephen is the Rockets’ head coach.

The team handed out pins of Silas and put together a tribute video, which aired during the first quarter.

Per Stephen Silas, his father always considered himself a Celtic.

“It meant a lot,” an emotional Silas told reporters after the game. “I didn’t see it, but they sent it to me before so I was able to see it on my phone before I got here, but that’s just a classy, classy, classy act. My sister was here, and I’m sure she was tearing up, and my nephew was here as well.


“It was really just a special moment and thoughtful, because they didn’t have to do any of this. Like, my dad played here for four years. He was part of two championship teams, but it wasn’t like he was here 15 of his last 16 years or anything. The love they showed him with the pins and the moment of silence right after he passed … and then tonight just means everything to my family.”

A reporter noted that, in a divine twist of fate, Williams recorded 15 rebounds in 21 minutes — the first Celtic to do that since Paul Silas in 1972.

“Was it really?” Stephen Silas said. “How about that. Tip of the hat to Robert Williams for that.”

The Celtics take on the Clippers in Boston on Thursday at 7:30 p.m. in their final contest of 2022.


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