A great offense might score 130 points on its best day.
This Celtics offense can score 130 points even when its MVP candidate is on the sideline.
While Jayson Tatum was resting a sprained left ankle Sunday night, his teammates stepped up and made sure Boston's top-ranked offense didn't skip a beat in a 130-121 win over the visiting Washington Wizards.
In an all-around scoring masterpiece, the Celtics shot 55.0 percent from the field, 47.1 percent from 3-point range, and a perfect 26-for-26 from the free-throw line. Seven different Boston players scored at least 12 points, led by a season-high 36-point effort from Jaylen Brown.
“No matter who's out, our guys are always ready to play, ready to step up,” interim head coach Joe Mazzulla said following his team’s eighth straight win at TD Garden. “I thought Jaylen did a great job making the right play, getting the ball where it needed to go. I thought everybody else followed suit. That's a compliment to them for our depth and a compliment to guys making the right play."
Brown led a well-balanced attack, scoring eight of Boston’s 35 points in the first quarter, nine of its 37 points in the second frame, and 13 of its 41 points in the third, giving him 30 and the Celtics 113 after just three quarters of action.
Missing a 30-point-per-game scorer turned out to be no big deal for Boston, as it churned out its third-highest scoring performance of the season.
“Being able to maintain our level of play without our leader, our big dog, not being in the rotation, it was fun,” Brown said. “It challenges everybody, it allows everybody to step up in their role. But we all have capabilities, we all are talented.”
Outside of Brown, there were six other Celtics who scored between 12 and 17 points. Malcolm Brogdon was the leader of that group with 17 points off the bench to go with six rebounds. Derrick White had 15 points and a pair of steals. Marcus Smart logged 14 points and a team-high seven assists. Al Horford also notched 14 in the scoring department along with a game-high three blocks. Finally, Sam Hauser and Luke Kornet came off the bench to tally 14 and 12 points, respectively.
The second unit, in total, scored 46 points, which was made even more impressive by the fact that the C’s had to dig deep being shorthanded.
“They do the same thing the starters do,” Mazzulla said of his guys coming off the bench. “They keep our spacing. They make the right play at the rim. They move without the ball, and they defend at the other end with effort and detail. That's what I pride our guys on.”
It also helps to take pressure off the starters when there are so many starter-caliber players that can be subbed in.
“You got a whole different starting five coming into the game off the bench,” said Smart. “Malcolm, D-White, Grant (Williams), Payton (Pritchard), the way that those guys have been playing and continue to play, they're waiting for that opportunity and they're taking full advantage of it. There are not many teams that can say that. For us, that's big to be able to get Jayson and Jaylen off the court — Al, me — sit us down, give us a break and still not worry about what's gonna happen when we come out the game. That just makes us that much better and that much deadlier.”
Having such depth is reassuring throughout a long, regular-season grind. When the stars need a break, there shouldn't be much of a drop-off given what the remaining talent has to offer.
Not many offenses can put up 130 points, even on their best day. Yet, the Celtics just accomplished that against a top-10 defense while their MVP candidate was on the sideline.
Now, that is a special kind of depth.