Boston Celtics: Player grades from a well-rounded win over Orlando

BOSTON, MA - JANUARY 15: Aaron Gordon #00 of the Orlando Magic controls the ball against Javonte Green #43 of the Boston Celtics in the second half at TD Garden on January 15, 2021 in Boston, Massachusetts. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Kathryn Riley/Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - JANUARY 15: Aaron Gordon #00 of the Orlando Magic controls the ball against Javonte Green #43 of the Boston Celtics in the second half at TD Garden on January 15, 2021 in Boston, Massachusetts. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Kathryn Riley/Getty Images) /

After a weeklong delay, the Boston Celtics took the floor with a decisive victory against the injury-riddled Orlando Magic

There are stressful wins, and then there are the ones that make you smile. I know they waved off the Tacko Fall three and counted it as a two, but what a great way to top off the night, as the Boston Celtics finished with a well-balanced scoring attack with much-needed bench production.

This was a ‘make you smile’ type of win, as the Cs successfully dismantled Orlando quarter-by-quarter. Coming into tonight’s game as one of the league’s most inefficient offenses in terms of shot selection, the Magic could not keep up with the team’s hot shooting and zipping ball movement.

So without further ado, let’s get to player grades on the night.

Jaylen Brown: A-

While the shots fell a tad short initially, Jaylen Brown was in initiation mode all game as he tied his career-high in assists, dishing out eight dimes on the night.

Darting around screens, Brown found the open man even when he left his feet. When the shamrocks are at home, Brown leads the entire league in scoring, but, frankly, this game wasn’t about scoring.

It was about his work running the offense and making the extra pass. To get a bit more granular, his ability to find the open man in the corner and throw a laser pass to their shooting pocket has been something to keep an eye on as we head into this abridged season.

While he finished with an impressive 21 points on 7-7 from the charity stripe, Brown’s playmaking was on a new level this game.  While the focus may be geared more towards his scoring, he’s improved his assist percentage from the 45th to 82nd percentile this season, an extremely notable jump.

Brown collected a steal on defense and had some important moments guarding the isolation and running his man off the three-point line without fouling.

Marcus Smart: B+

Last season, Marcus Smart at the point guard spot was an extremely effective strategy in the points per possession department. This season’s been a different story with more responsibility as he has had his fair share of struggles running the helm.

At times he looked out of control with his rim attacks, he made some questionable decisions in the pick-and-roll setting and also failed to get to the line in 28 minutes of play.

Still, Smart redeemed himself with an efficient shooting performance (4-10) from beyond the arc and the always typical willingness to dive on the floor as he still leads this team with Tommy Points.

Jeff Teague: A-

Was this opening night Jeff Teague? Is opening night Teague the real Teague?

Let’s hope so, as the veteran point guard was all over the place throughout Friday night’s win.

On paper, one could make a strong justification for giving him a flat out A, as he only played a total of 21 minutes, but his impact was felt.

He came out with a hyper-productive start, forcing two (non-steal) turnovers, knocking down an early corner triple, and converting on a crafty veteran foul on Cole Anthony, all within the first three minutes.

While his off-ball gambles were well-calculated and resulted in steals and thrown away passes, he struggled at times to contain Anthony as the point of attack defender when isolated. He had issues stopping the Anthony-Vucevic two-man game, but, overall, let’s laud Teague for his exceptional patience and poise in this Boston Celtics win.

Tristan Thompson: B

Sometimes we don’t give the act of taking a step back enough credit, as Tristan Thompson and Daniel Theis both may be in the running for the PJ Tucker award, an award given to non-shooting, heavy minutes logging impact player, as Thompson was fairly quiet on that side of the floor.

Like Teague, he displayed some nice patience on old school back to basket hook shots on his rare paint touches.

He ran the floor with effort, collected 11 boards, and forced a jump ball. While physical with Nikola Vucevic, Thompson’s lack of height was apparent in this matchup. That said, Thompson forced Vuc into several difficult attempts.

Grant Williams: B

Grant Williams is another name to throw in the PJ Tucker award race, as he also took three total shots in 23 minutes.

Out of Thompson, Theis, and Williams, Grant has the highest chance of achieving PJ Tucker level status with the Boston Celtics, given his physicality and speed on the perimeter. With a fairly empty traditional boxscore, his defensive malleability and willingness to switch from Aaron Gordon onto Nikola Vucevic on the same possession is deserving high praise.

Think about it, there aren’t many players who can guard both of these guys. Also, while fouling is still very much his kryptonite, already there are signs of improvement, as Williams appears to be doing a better job of sliding his feet while keeping up under the rules of verticality

Again, not every stat or good play is kept in the record known as the boxscore as Grant also had several high quality passes that didn’t result in assists, one in particular which ended with a Marcus Smart blown dunk.

With Robert Williams inactive, the Boston Celtics went small with their starting lineup for the second time this season. While the center minutes are a messy math equation to deal with, starting the game with Grant Williams means more spacing and defensive versatility.

Daniel Theis: B+

In a productive outing as the first Celtic off the bench, Theis was in the right position at the right time.

The battle on the glass between Theis and Khem Birch was a physical one to watch. While Birch finished with seven offensive rebounds, out-rebounding the entire Boston Celtics team on the offensive glass, Theis was only responsible for letting up two of these boards given his positioning on the floor.

Simply put, the German Hammer made winning plays. He gave up his body, more specifically his face, to force a crucial reviewed offensive foul against Cole Anthony, made those needed help-side rotations, and snatched ten rebounds in 21 minutes of action.

Payton Pritchard: A-

Suppose every rec YMCA basketball player had the confidence of Payton Pritchard.

Well, in that case, they’d probably be a more confident version of themselves, as P-Rabbit was hoisting up looks from way downtown. Some fell, some missed, but his aggressiveness is atypical compared to most rookies.

Again, the counting stats do not tell the full story.

The best passes aren’t always assists as Pritchard had several nice dishes to open players for makeable shots. In a rare occurrence of events, the rookie shot better from three than two, chipped in four rebounds, three assists, and a block against Cole Anthony.

At the 6:40 mark of the second quarter, Pritchard subbed into the Boston Celtics lineup as they went ultra-small to close out the quarter. This move was a success as the Cs built up their lead during these minutes.

The Oregon product also led the C’s bench in +/-.

Semi Ojeleye: A

During the 2020 free agency, Semi Ojeleye was a name that many Boston Celtics fans saw on the move, both for financial and personal reasons.

Eleven games into this season and the Cs are slotted in first place in the Eastern Conference, these fans are looking pretty wrong about this one.

If anything, this has been the year of Semi. The forward has earned his spot on his team and is undoubtedly capable of logging important rotation minutes, even deep into the playoffs.

Outside of an efficient shooting night and some strong takes to the cup, Ojeleye overall seemed more confident in his ability to make quick decisions. He was creating for others, made these quick passes within the offense’s rhythm, and relocated for shots after the initial dish. Still, despite his strength, Boston was reluctant to play him as a true small-ball five, but this is something they should consider moving forward.

Javonte Green: A

After coming off yet another spectacular, energy igniting performance off the bench, as one of the most under the radar international signings for the Boston Celtics, Javonte Green is also another player that should not be left out of the mix come playoff time.

Despite an 0-2 performance from three, Green was everywhere else with his jumping out of the gym athleticism and anticipation jumping the passing lanes.

The wing got to the 50/50 balls, made well-timed cuts, sought out contact, and made the right play at almost every instance. His trailing defense against Terrence Ross was exquisite, and his off-ball help rotations wreaked havoc for the Magic.

Aaron Nesmith: B-

While the rookie jitters are apparent, and the shot wasn’t there, Nesmith had some nice flashes during Friday’s win.

Especially on defense, I really liked how he stayed attached to Terrence Ross’ hip, fighting off the multitude of Orlando Magic pin-down screens. Nesmith had a deflection, and, while his defensive footwork looked iffy, I enjoyed his ability to make some well-timed contests, one of which resulting in a rejection.

He also had a nice strong take to the rack against Ross, and Nesmith looks more athletic than perhaps scouts thought. Again, it’s still early, and Nesmith is still young, so let’s give him more time to develop within this C’s system.

Tacko Fall: A-

After a heavy minutes-log against Washington, Tacko Fall only played in garbage time.

Perhaps that was matchup dependent, as it would have been an interesting case study to see how Fall defended Vucevic’s modern pick-and-pop game. That said, we aren’t here to talk about the lineup schematics.

We are here to watch this ‘almost three-pointer’ splash in as the Boston Celtics celebrate in style.

Tremont Waters: B

Waters also only saw late fourth-quarter minutes but was productive in his nine minutes of action despite two wild one-armed flings of passes.

Waters did an excellent job of piercing the defense and circling back to find the open man. In spot minutes, Waters is someone who is capable of initiate out of the pick-and-roll setting.

Next. “Pass or Pursue” on 3 recently rumored Cs targets. dark