Hello readers, and welcome to our first weekly installment of our very own Celtics report. Here, we take a look back through the week to break down games, analyze players and assess the biggest needs and storylines for the Boston Celtics as they play through a tumultuous and unique 2021 season. Without further ado, let’s get into this week’s breakdown.
Jaylen Brown is performing at an All-NBA level
Following a disappointing loss to the Miami Heat in the Conference Finals last season, the Celtics entered this season with pressure to win. Jayson Tatum exploded onto the scene last year, earning himself his first All-NBA nomination on the third team. But with Kemba Walker’s performance proving to be below expectations in the playoffs, Boston desperately needed someone to step up and score when the game was on the line. Enter Jaylen Brown, the third pick in the 2016 draft. He was alongside his teammate Jayson Tatum hoping to reach his first all-star game during the 2019-20 season, but was just short. He has progressed steadily as a scorer since entering the league, but this season he has exploded onto the scene, averaging 27 points per game and morphing into the consistent secondary scorer the Celtics need to get over the hump. Over the past week, Brown has led the offense while Tatum is out due to COVID-19 protocols, posting an astonishing 30.3 points per game and tying his career high in points with 42 against the Philadelphia 76ers. While his touches will drop as Tatum is reintroduced to the lineup, Celtics fans can count on Brown to continue to be the secondary scorer for this team. Jaylen’s ascension also allows for Walker to take more of a facilitating role, with obvious scoring talent when either Brown or Tatum are having an off night. The Celtics’ young core is ascending to stardom in front of our eyes.
The Celtics have a Joel Embiid problem
With the addition of Tristan Thompson in the offseason, the problems of rim protection and rebounding seemed to be solved. However, as we’ve seen this week, the Celtics continue to have troubles with one center in particular. Joel Embiid has been on a rampage this season, putting up absurd numbers, carrying his team to first in the Eastern Conference and drawing support for early MVP conversations. While he has carved up the rest of the league, Embiid is particularly effective against the Celtics this season, and showed that Thompson and veteran big man Daniel Theis have little hope of containing him. In the two games the clubs played last week, Embiid went off scoring 42 and 38 points, leading his team to decisive victories in both games. The major problem for the Celtics is the inability to guard Embiid without fouling. Over the two games, Embiid racked up 36 total free throws, of which he converted 31 of them. Giving free points to a guy who already is scoring at will, and from all areas of the floor, is a death wish. If the Celtics hope to make a deep playoff push this season, they need to find an answer to slow down Embiid.
Kemba Walker is back
After a slow start against the New York Knicks, Kemba Walker has returned as good as ever in his limited minutes. He is shooting the ball well and attacking the basket with aggression, something we didn’t see him do well in the playoffs with his knee injury. Over the last four games, he is averaging 18.5 points per game while only playing 24 minutes a game on average this season. He is producing at a high level despite his limited minutes and proving that he is still a valuable member of the offense. With Jayson Tatum returning from COVID-19 protocols and Jaylen Brown exploding onto the scene as a deadly scorer, Walker will have time to fully heal and return to his full starting minutes. His reliable scoring adds yet another threat on the offensive end, and his lethal drives to the rim will allow Tatum and Brown to get more open shots as defenses collapse on him. Expect the Celtics to be atop the NBA in offense in the coming weeks.
That’s all for this week, the next installment will release on Friday where we will break down their games against Lakers, Warriors and Kings and discuss any other storylines that might emerge.