Boston’s Bench Riding High into Sunday’s Game vs. Wizards
The most encouraging part about Boston’s 118-112 win over the Indiana Pacers Friday night wasn’t just that it snapped a three-game losing streak. It was the fact that the Celtics found a way to beat a good team despite both Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum having shaky offensive performances.
This season, Brown and Tatum have combined to average exactly 50 points (25 apiece) per game, which has accounted for 45.1 percent of Boston’s scoring. On one hand, that statistic points to their collective excellence, but on the other, it points to them needing more scoring help.
On Friday night, they received such aid in many forms.
Brown and Tatum combined for just 24 points on 9-of-30 shooting against Indiana, but plenty of others stepped up around them. Kemba Walker erupted for a season-high 32 points, Daniel Theis dropped in 17 of his own, and Boston’s bench combined for 39 points led by a pair of 14-point efforts from Jeff Teague and Robert Williams, along with a nine-point effort from rookie Payton Pritchard.
Reflecting upon the win Sunday afternoon, Tatum said he was impressed with “the energy that those guys played with, the guys who came off the bench. Myself, I didn’t have a great shooting night. JB didn’t have a great shooting night. But Kemba did and the guys off the bench really, really played well.”
It was the second straight game in which Boston’s bench performed well, after erupting for 55 points Wednesday night in Atlanta. And while Wednesday’s outpour was largely a result of Boston being blown out by the Hawks, it still served as a great opportunity for the second unit to generate a rhythm and build confidence, as it has shot 62.7 percent from the field over its last two matchups.
In particular, the confidence of both Teague and Williams appears to be soaring. On Friday night, Teague logged his second straight 14-point effort after registering six DNPs over the previous eight games. Williams also registered 14 points and was even inserted into Boston’s crunch-time lineup near the end of the game.
“Obviously, it's a big upside for me, knowing that they trust me and believe in me,” Williams said of earning such a promotion. “Most of all, they are letting me know that they need me in those situations. That boosts my confidence even more.”
It also boosts the team’s confidence having guys like Williams and Teague step up to the plate on a night when both Brown and Tatum are struggling.
“There’s gonna be nights like that,” Tatum said. “For us to still find a way to beat a really good team (like Indiana) was good. Hope we can keep that up.”
Boston will look to keep that trend going into Sunday night when they host a Washington Wizards team that has won seven of its last eight games. Washington’s hot stretch began with a 104-91 win over Boston on Feb. 14, which served as a good example of the Celtics not getting enough scoring help around Brown and Tatum. However, the team realizes that it must continue to improve in that area, and it has done so in its last couple of games.
“We need everybody,” said Williams. “We can't put the burden on (Jayson and Jaylen), it's a team effort. I feel like everyone needs to be aggressive, whether it's coming off the bench, starting, or whether it's offense or defense. It's the only way we can win.”