The Boston Celtics came out on top in an Eastern Conference showdown against the Toronto Raptors.
The 97-93 win put another tally in the hard-fought win column. The Celtics are the second highest scoring team in the league and win most of their games with their prowess on that end of the court. Things get tough in the postseason and being able to win games where you score under 100 points can serve vital. Speaking of the playoffs, this win clinches them as the number two seed in the East.
Despite the team shooting 29% from three and struggling from the free throw line, some big scoring outputs helped them come out on top tonight.
Malcolm Brogdon, aka Sixth Man of the Year, poured in a game high 29 points.
His ability to constantly keep his legs and dribble alive in traffic never ceases to amaze. Furthermore, he continued his efficient shooting. 52/67/83 splits may not be surprising to C’s fans when you realize how good he’s been all year. For instance, in 67 games this season he has shot over 50% from the field 34 times. Similarly, he has 32 games shooting over 50% from behind the arc.
After he joined the 50/40/90 club his last season in Milwaukee, his percentages took a hit with higher usage in Indiana. Coming into the season there were two major questions around him. First, was the 32% he shot from three last season real and secondly, will he be able to stay healthy.
Both concerns steered in the Celtics favor.
JB continues to add stock to his All-NBA campaign.
Despite not shooting his typical 50% from the field tonight, he scored 25 points and did some dirty work. He hauled in 11 boards giving him his 12th double double of the season. In addition, he had a good defensive night individually mirroring the teams effort on that end. Toronto ended the game shooting 41% from the field and a horrid 18% from three.
In spite of the uproar he sent Celtics fans and media in with interviews talking about his future in Boston, he has continued to leave no doubt on the court. Posting career highs in PPG, field goal %, and rebounds, Brown continues to sharpen his game and make a serious All-NBA case. If Brown does indeed make any of the All-NBA teams, the Celtics earn leverage over other teams being able to offer Brown far more money.
It’s not totally clear if Brown wants to stay in Boston past his current contract but I have no doubt in my mind that he will do everything in his power to help this team put up an 18th championship banner.
Derrick White has completely reinvented himself offensively.
Tonight, he added a much needed 17 points and it’s just another stellar performance added to his season. Last season, especially in the playoffs, Derrick struggled at times with his offensive game and was honestly self check. Teams would sag off and dare him to make them pay from deep. When he didn’t make them pay it would visibly impact his confidence and all the little things he did besides scoring to affect the game would dwindle. However, this offseason he made some tweaks to his shooting motion, and it has led to a career high in 3-point percentage.
Conversely, the defensive side of the ball has never been an issue for White.
He has always been known as a good defender but this year he has taken it to another level. He isn’t the most athletic guy, but he has some defensive intangibles similar to that of reigning DPOY Marcus Smart. They both share rare instincts for the ball and anticipation skills out of this world. Furthermore, White might be the best defender in transition this season. The eye test certainly shines on his mastery, but the advanced number do too.
According to BBall Index, White is in the 96th percentile in on-ball defense. But what makes White so special is his ability to protect the rim as a guard. He ranks in the 99th percentile in rim points saved per 75 possessions. He also sits in the 93rd percentile for opponent field goal percentage vs expected on shots taken on him.
I firmly believe he should be an All-Defensive selection this season and honestly should be 1st team.
There were only two Celtics who shot over 50% from three tonight in a collective 29% effort.
One of them was Mike Muscala.
Moose was the only double-digit scorer other than Brogdon, Brown, and White and every point was needed. He came up super big in the 4th scoring 6 points which was a third of the teams total in the quarter while adding 5 rebounds. His most important bucket of the night though, came with 3 minutes left in the 4th.
Moose provides size and spacing and is mobile enough to play the four alongside Robert Williams and Al Horford.
Sam Hauser didn’t do his usual thing, which is hit threes, but his effort was off the charts.
There aren’t many games where Sam Hauser is going 1/8 from three. But I think the number of times he stays on the court while shooting bad is even slimmer. Through effort, defense, and activity on the boards, Sam was able to carve out a rule tonight that didn’t involve his specialty and that could be important come playoff time.
As noted before, the Celtics are now locked in to the two seed so it will be interesting to see how they approach these final games. Good win, nevertheless.
Next Game: Friday April 7th, Vs. Toronto Raptors
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