For the Celtics, size matters
In the past 28 games in which Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart, Rob Williams, and Al Horford were the starting line-up, the C’s have gone 26-2 including the most recent 117-113 victory against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Wednesday night.
Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Rob Williams, Marcus Smart, Al Horford
Last 28 regular season games they all started
And their last 8 in a row
— Boston Sports Info (@bostonsportsinf) March 2, 2023
Tatum was the star of the show collecting 41 points, 11 rebounds, and eight assists, but the performance would be empty without Williams and Horford securing individual double-doubles.
At points, any shot coming out of Horford’s hands was destined to be a bucket, scoring eight consecutive resulting in a season-high 23 points—tying a career-high six treys—in tandem with 11 rebounds. In a post-game interview with NBC Sports Horford noted the team’s ball movement to be key in finding open looks.
“When we make the right plays and we’re moving it like that it opens the floor up for everybody,” Horford said. “The guys are looking for me and I’m stepping up and taking them.”
The 36-year-old looked in his prime over the past six games shooting 56.8 percent from the perimeter which was an area of his game he looked to improve upon in the offseason.
“I knew I had to continue to evolve as a player and grow, be able to shoot more,” Horford stated in a postgame press conference. “It’s fun when you’re out there getting those opportunities.”
The performance came after a 109-94 loss to the New York Knicks on Monday night full of poor shooting, but Horford’s established lead-by-example style helped the C’s raise the level of play.
“Everybody respects Al [Horford], he’s been doing this the longest and he is the ultimate team guy,” Tatum said after the game. “He puts in the work, Al is in the gym every day…and guys notice that, it’s a domino effect.”
Williams didn’t disappoint either as the 6’9” center connected early in the first quarter with his height twin Horford for his signature lob before finishing the night with 11 points and 11 rebounds according to ESPN.
Although a stellar record when on the court, the starting five have only started in four games this year, mostly due to Williams being injured for the first half of the season, but also a bad stretch of ‘Hospital Celtics,’ last month.
In the first quarter, the Celtics were getting beat on offensive rebounds, allowing 10 second-chance points to Cleveland, but after adjustments, Wednesday’s holy trinity totaled 27 of the team’s 36 defensive boards.
Celtics head coach Joe Mazulla is also choosing his rotations strategically and against a large Cavaliers roster, he decided not to play 6’6” power forward Grant Williams who to this point averaged 27.3 minutes per game. When Mazulla was asked after the game about his decision he kept it simple citing “matchups.”
The Celtics are now percentage points away from returning to the top spot in the Eastern Conference behind the Milwaukee Bucks who are on a 15-game winning streak.