The Boston Celtics claimed their second win in a row on Saturday, dominating the second half and defeating the New York Knicks 118-95.
Some things we learned:
1. Kemba Walker got comfortable pretty fast.
Remember three days ago when Walker struggled in his first game with a new team and people were genuinely worried about him? Feels like quite a while ago.
Walker isn’t going to drop 32 points on 11-for-17 shooting every night (maybe because he doesn’t play in MSG every night), but he’s good. Really good. He’s going to make the Celtics a lot better as a scorer and facilitator, and he offers a lot more defense at lead guard than his predecessor. When he gets going downhill out of the pick-and-roll, he’s a three-level scorer and a savvy passer. When he’s in transition, he makes the right play either for himself or others.
This team has some mild roster issues, and they might still be a piece or two away from their final form. But Walker looks like a great fit as a star and as a leader of a highly talented young core.
2. If you believe Jayson Tatum is a 35 percent shooter, then yes, there’s cause for concern.
If you, however, think that maybe Tatum is cold to start the season and some of these layups he’s missing will fall eventually — and that perhaps adjusting to a new style of play is bringing down his percentages a bit — then it’s probably reasonable to assume his 34.4 percent shooting from the field will go up.
3. Jaylen Brown is more aggressive and decisive.
Much has been made, correctly, about how much more Gordon Hayward is driving this season, but Brown has been significantly more aggressive going to the hoop as well. Per the NBA’s stat site, Brown is averaging 10.6 drives per game so far this season — more than double last year, at 5.1.
4. Grant Williams is going to get even better soon.
Williams has been excellent, particularly on the defensive end, and he has one area in which he can improve easily: His 3-point shot. To date, Williams hasn’t made an NBA triple.
That’s going to change. During Summer League and the preseason, Williams showed he can hit from NBA 3-point range on a consistent basis, and as he gets more comfortable offensively, he’s going to be able to space the floor as a spot-up/pick-and-pop 3-point option.
Before the season, Brad Stevens said the young players will need to contribute to winning basketball to earn minutes. With a consistent 3-point shot, and the skill set he already established, Williams should be a highly useful player for a winning team.
6. Is Brad Wanamaker out of the rotation already?
Wanamaker played well in spots last season, but he never got consistent minutes — mostly filling in when the Celtics had injuries at lead guard. When he returned this summer, he did so with the hope more minutes might open up.
So far, they have not. Wanamaker is part of a crowded point-guard rotation that includes newcomer Carsen Edwards, who played 22 minutes on Saturday. Wanamaker only played the final three minutes of garbage time.
The Celtics have a very full roster, and the competition at point guard is strong. Wanamaker will likely get minutes, but he might get crowded out again if Edwards has a strong rookie season.
7. The Celtics can now take on Milwaukee with clear heads.
After falling to Philadelphia, there was a real chance the Celtics could fall to 0-4 to start the season — Toronto was a difficult matchup, the Knicks (while bad) were a road game on the second night of a back-to-back and Boston’s next game is Wednesday against the Milwaukee Bucks. For a new team trying to figure itself out, those are four tough tests to start the year.
But after two straight encouraging wins, the Celtics can now prepare for the Bucks without the specter of 0-3 or 1-2 hanging over them. How they will defend Giannis Antetokounmpo remains to be seen (heavy doses of Semi Ojeleye and Grant Williams would be one guess — consider this a prediction that Williams gets his first NBA start on Wednesday), but some amount of early-season pressure has been alleviated.