C's Dripping with Positivity Following Inspirational Team Win in Orlando
ORLANDO – Friday night’s effort by the Boston Celtics was nothing short of inspirational.
On a night in which they were missing two starters and three of their top seven players, the Celtics got everything they needed from everyone else on their roster to still take down the No. 7 seed in the Eastern Conference on the road.
Boston fell behind by as many as 16 points early on but surged back into it by upping the ante in nearly every facet of the game. The team’s defense, led by energetic reserve Javonte Green, set the tone for what at one point was a 30-point turnaround before the C’s closed out a 109-98 victory in Orlando.
“I’m happy for our team,” Brad Stevens said after the triumph. “That was a heck of a team win tonight.”
It most certainly was, because as Gordon Hayward alluded, every player contributed, rather than one leading the team to victory by himself.
“I think more than anything, we got so many contributions from other guys that stepped up,” said Hayward. “Just about everybody that was on the floor helped us out in major ways, so that was huge.”
You can literally go down the list of all nine Celtics who appeared in the game and single out something they did to help push the team to victory.
Hayward did it all, from scoring his 22 points to help make up for the absences of Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum, to helping on the glass with his 14 boards while Enes Kanter was out, to running the offense while Kemba Walker rested and dishing out five assists.
Walker kept the Celtics in it during the first half while they were struggling at both ends. He scored 27 of his game-high 37 points during the opening half and helped Boston trim its 16-point deficit down to four heading into halftime.
Daniel Theis matched his season high with 16 points and also provided a critical blocked shot that led to a momentous dunk by Green.
Marcus Smart did Marcus Smart things, harassing the opponent while making hustle and energy plays. He finished with an even line of seven points, seven rebounds and six assists.
Grant Williams canned three important 3-pointers on four attempts, which Stevens singled out after the game because Williams effectively took advantage of Orlando’s defense sagging off of him.
Green was outstanding defensively against Terrence Ross, all while providing two boosts of energy with his high-flying slam dunks.
Brad Wanamaker came off the bench and scored eight points while shooting 50 percent from the field.
Semi Ojeleye canned a 3-pointer and continued to provide the Celtics with versatile and effective defense.
Vincent Poirier stepped in to log a career-high 10 minutes of 27 seconds of playing time in the absence of Kanter and Robert Williams. Without him, the Celtics would have been forced to play small ball all night long.
This truly was a victory to which every player contributed. That’s what led to the Celtics feeling so proud of their effort Friday night.
“You just get excited about guys getting the opportunity. Those guys haven’t played much during this year,” Walker said before highlighting the performances of Green, Williams and Poirer.
Walker then concluded, “It’s all about next man up. You have to be ready when your name is called, and those guys were ready tonight.”
Green was the player whose performance most exemplified Boston’s victory. The 26-year-old rookie had never played 20 minutes in an NBA game, but with Brown and Tatum out of the lineup, Stevens called on him for more than 28 minutes of action. Stevens discussed with Green Friday morning that the team would need him to step in and to step up defensively for it to have a chance.
“We talked to Javonte this morning about Tatum probably out, Jaylen might be out... ‘You need to be ready to guard [Ross] as hard as you can,’” Stevens said of the conversation. “He spent all day watching extra (film) and preparing extra, and that’s what you have to do. Hats off to him.”
Green helped to limit Ross, who had been a thorn in Boston’s side for years, to just eight points on 3-for-13 shooting. His defense inspired Stevens to call out his performance following the game.
“He’s the one we singled out in the locker room, because I think that’s what good teams do,” said Stevens. “They have guys that take those little things about the game and try to help you win.”
Green deserves all of the praise he received, but he isn’t the only one. Each player who appeared in this game for Boston played a role in it overcoming adversity and logging a comeback win on the road.
This victory was impressive, and even more so inspirational. While missing three of their top players, the Celtics had no right coming back from a 16-point deficit to win by double-digits against a quality opponent.
Yet somehow, that’s exactly what they did, which has given them a three-game winning streak and a boatload of positive vibes heading into a matchup with Zion Williamson and the Pelicans Sunday evening.