Tuesday, September 27

Five key moments from the Celtics’ wild season – The Boston Globe

The scene after the Knicks beat the Celtics on Opening Night was a wild one.

The game itself was a doozy — a double OT thriller in which Brown dropped 46 points coming out of COVID quarantine, but Julius Randle put up 35 points and led a 10-6 second overtime period that set up the Knicks with a 1-0 record.

The 1-4 road trip — Dec. 3-10

The Celtics scuffled out of the gate, but right before a West Coast road trip, Robert Williams blocked Georges Niang in the corner as the buzzer sounded and the Celtics won a game against the Sixers, 88-87. Maybe, some thought, they could go on the road and rustle up some momentum.

They did not. The Celtics lost to the Jazz to open the trip, then blasted the Blazers, 145-117. They then dropped three straight — one each to the Lakers and Clippers, and a third to the Suns. After the loss in Phoenix sent the Celtics home with a 13-14 record, Udoka was asked about potentially losing the locker room.

Fortunately, the Celtics didn’t tune out their rookie head coach.

“It’s completely on us as players to take ownership, put a stop to something if you don’t like it,” Robert Williams said. “Can’t blame it on anybody else.”

The Celtics were still more than three weeks from losing to the third-string Timberwolves, and roughly a month from a loss Jayson Tatum felt was the low point of the season.

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This loss …

R.J. Barrett’s Game-Winner — Jan. 6

If you tend to block out negative moments, you might have forgotten that the Celtics fell at the buzzer after blowing a 25-point lead against the Knicks in another rough January loss.

Tatum certainly did not.

“The toughest moment for me was blowing that 25-point lead at New York, and then RJ Barrett hit the game-winning shot over me,” Tatum said after the Eastern Conference playoffs. “That was the lowest moment for me. But I think shortly after that, things started to turn around.”

Tatum was right — the Celtics went 7-4 in their next 11 games, then beat the Pelicans. Two days later, the Celtics beat the Heat, and Jaylen Brown dropped his now-famous “The energy is about to shift” tweet.

Barrett’s game-winner may have been a low for the Celtics, but it did seem to be something of an inflection point going forward.

Jaylen Brown’s first 50-point game — Jan. 2

The thing about stars is that once in a while during the season, they catch a heater on a random night and can turn a mediocre game into a fun one to look back on.

Brown’s 50-point outburst against the Magic was a perfect example. On his best nights, Brown has a plentiful bag of tricks — a mid-range jumper he can unleash in a variety of ways, a knock-down 3-point shot, and explosive forays and finishes into the paint.

The Magic absorbed the full arsenal, including a filthy dribble move and layup that helped send the game to overtime, a huge 3 in overtime, and a gorgeous behind-the-back pass to Josh Richardson in transition that helped seal it.

“To be honest,” Brown said, “I didn’t even realize [I had 50] until the last shot, when I had 47. Other than that I was just being aggressive, getting to the basket. I didn’t feel like those guys could stay in front of me, so I was just going to keep getting to the basket, blowing by them on the first step, and I looked up and I had 47. I was like, ‘Damn.’”

Jayson Tatum duels Kevin Durant

Chances are, if you’re a Celtics fan, you remember this game pretty well, but it bears mentioning anyway — in March, the Celtics faced the Nets in a preview of their first-round series. Durant scored 37, but Tatum dropped a season-high 54 to spark the victory.

Tatum and the Celtics showcased several of the trends that would hurt the Nets in the first round — Nic Claxton struggled to stay on the court, Kyrie Irving was a major target on the defensive end, and ultimately the Celtics simply had too much firepower for Durant alone to handle.

“Obviously, somebody like myself or JB can have nights like this,” Tatum said after the game. “And it’s contagious when guys are hitting shots, spreading the wealth and making the extra pass, driving and kicking. Just getting those open looks and seeing them go in, it just opens everything up for us. We know how tough we can be on defense. When we kind of match that energy on offense, we’ll really be special.”

Three playoff series later, it’s clear he was right.

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