In the Boston Celtics’ second scrimmage, they dramatically improved off their first showing against the Thunder. The Celtics beat the Phoenix Suns 117-103 in an overall strong showing from their roster top to bottom. The team had a handful of kinks to work out after the Thunder scrimmage, and they went out and shook them pretty handily. Here are some of the key takeaways from the Celtics-Suns scrimmage.
Biggest Takeaways From Celtics-Suns Scrimmage
Jaylen Brown is Good at Basketball
Did that grab your attention? Jaylen Brown was the best player on the floor for the Celtics for the second night in a row as he dropped a game-high 21 points on 7-13 shooting and 3-6 from deep. He shot the ball with plenty of confidence as he led the Celtics offense in the first half. Brown’s play these last two games against the Thunder and Suns has been extremely promising and should make Celtics fans very excited.
Brown was seen as one of the team’s biggest X-factors coming into the restart when in reality, he’s gone back to the consistent, two-way, elite threat that he is and was all season. He is capable of scoring 20-plus while also locking up your favorite player.
As the rest of the team continues to work out the kinks from the lengthy hiatus, look for Brown to continue his hot streak as the scrimmages round up and the games begin to matter.
Jayson Tatum’s Bounce-Back
Jayson Tatum again found his offense in the Celtics-Suns scrimmage that eluded him in the first scrimmage. After missing his first four shots, Tatum found his footing and developed a flow like we had seen several times this season. His signature side-step fadeaway shot was hitting, which was a nice sight to see from a looks standpoint and a flashy standpoint.
Tatum finished with 16 points on 6-17 (6-13 after missing his first four shots) and a team-high 9 rebounds. While 6-17 shooting isn’t something to get excited about, once Tatum found his rhythm, he started filling the stat sheet in a hurry. Shots fell at a rapid pace, and his offense from his shots to his handles looked like he hadn’t missed a step.
Tatum also provided some much-needed help on defense, something that was missing for most of the night (more on that later). He came away with just one steal, but his on-ball defense was once again solid and he showed his quick hands to deflect a few passes on the night.
Kemba Walker’s “Burst” Was Back
In just 9 short minutes, Kemba Walker provided some nice reassurance for Celtics fans as he made some nice plays in his small sample size. He had a nice finish through contact from Deandre Ayton for the and-one, his highlight of the night.
While he only played a short while against the Suns, you could tell his offense was certainly missed in the first scrimmage and how vital he is towards the Celtics playoff hopes. Getting him healthy is the team’s top priority, but catching a glimpse of what he looks like in a game setting was better than what many thought his status was.
Kemba played with that same burst of acceleration that he had all season. His speed deterred a little towards the end of the regular season pre-hiatus as he continuously battled knee discomfort, but he looked like his usual quick self against the Suns, which was a welcome sight for sure.
Gordon Hayward’s Strong Shooting / Young Guys Producing / 3rd Quarter Run
In a quick speed round to wrap up the positives from the Celtics-Suns scrimmage, we have a few more takeaways that left fans feeling good about the team moving forward. After not having much of a presence in the first scrimmage, Gordon Hayward delivered against the Suns. He finished with 17 points and 6 rebounds while shooting 60%. He opened up the team’s third-quarter run that saw them expand their lead to 15 points.
Hayward’s play reassures fans that as the fourth option offensively, he is capable of exploiting many of the matchups he has while the defense focuses elsewhere. This will be huge for the team moving forward, as Hayward is easily the team’s greatest X-factor in this restart.
The Celtics closed out the last 7 minutes of the 3rd quarter on a 24-7 run, which included a few made threes from Gordon Hayward and some strong minutes from the Celtics young rookies Carsen Edwards and Romeo Langford.
Edwards needed this sort of game to help instill confidence back into the former Purdue point guard. He scored 7 points on 3-6 shooting and 1-3 from deep. Aside from the shooting we know he is capable of providing, he made the right pass at most opportunities and played tenacious defense during his minutes. When he’s on, Edwards can be a strong piece in the Celtics youth attack, whether that is this season or the next. Fans should be patient with the rookie point guard.
Get Back On Defense!
The biggest knock on the team from the scrimmage against the Suns and the main reason why it was so close at times was the Celtics’ poor transition defense. Too often, the Suns were able to push the ball on the break, with Devin Booker showing off a speed very few thought he had, and ultimately give up an open dunk.
This is due to a multitude of factors, including conditioning, effort, and discipline. Getting back on defense is an effort more than anything else. It is easy to quit on a play after turning the ball over or missing an open shot, but the decision to sprint back on defense requires a new level of effort. Maybe the Celtics didn’t have that at times, or maybe it was still an effect from their lack of conditioning to this point.
That wasn’t going to change dramatically from the scrimmage against the Thunder to the Suns. It’s going to take all three scrimmages and maybe an exhibition game for most players to get their wind fully under them once again. If the Celtics play a level of transition defense against teams like Milwaukee or Philadelphia, teams that love to push the ball down the opponent’s throat, then forget the playoffs, forget the Conference Finals, and forget the Finals.
Hopefully, Brad Stevens can turn this around sooner rather than later.
The Celtics have one more scrimmage Tuesday night against the Houston Rockets before the season resumes Friday against the Milwaukee Bucks.
Main Image: Embed from Getty Images