By: Kenny Doyle
Regardless of the opponent, any game where your two leading scorers combine to shoot 10-32 and 0-10 from deep, your star center is out with a concussion, and you lose your 14 ppg rookie star at halftime to an injury it's going to be hard to win, but the Celtics were able to do it. Even though coming into the season many called the Celtics depth worse than last season, the role players have proven their worth early on and it's exactly what helped the Celtics win a surprisingly important game early on in the season.
Tonight it was Aron Baynes that led the Celtics in scoring. Yes, Aron Baynes. With 21 points, 8 boards, 3 assists, and some great screens in just 23 minutes, Baynes did a marvelous job filling in for the concussed Al Horford. While Baynes' conditioning has limited the time he can spend on the court every night, he's been a revelation when he's been out there.
Baynes is the exact type of player the Celtics fans wanted last season and even if he can only give them 20 minutes a night, his screening and rebounding are enough to make him well worth it. Baynes won't give the Celtics 21 every night (I'd be surprised if he gave them 20+ again this season), but when they needed him to fill the role as the go to scorer he did just that, which only speaks Baynes' value as a player who can do whatever Brad Stevens an asks him to do.
Baynes was not alone in stepping up as his former Detroit Pistons teammate Marcus Morris scored a season-high 18 points and seemed to score every time the Celtics needed a basket. There's a reason Morris has earned the nickname "mini-Melo". He has somewhat a reputation for wild contested shots and tunnel vision isolation possessions, but on nights where the shots are falling he can be one of the reasons the Celtics come away with the win, and he was tonight.
For Kyrie and Brown it wasn't a good night. As aforementioned Kyrie and Jaylen did not hit a single three pointer against the Lakers and ended the night shooting just 31.3% from the floor. The Celtics leaders in points per game had to be carried by their teammates tonight. Kyrie had a few dazzling plays in the game and his poor performance is not very concerning. He still finished with 19 points and will probably bounce back next game.
The concern is with Brown who followed a poor game against the Hawks with another poor outing against LA. Brown is now 1-8 from three in his last two games and hasn't been getting the driving lanes that he was early on in the season. It was starting to look like Brown could be relied upon to be the second scoring option next to Kyrie Irving, but that doesn't appear to be the case.
Brown was tentative in tonight's game and constantly mishandled the ball and should have ended with one more turnover and 2 less points if not for a bad foul call on Kentavious Caldwell-Pope in the 3rd quarter. The Celtics might not be able to rely on Brown like fans have hoped and the secondary scoring might be more by committee than solely from Brown. Only time will tell if the driving lanes open back up for Brown and he can start to get back to scoring in the high teens.
The real concern coming out of the game is the statuses of Jayson Tatum and Al Horford. Horford missed 9 games last season with a concussion, but the Celtics are going to need him back sooner than that if they expect to beat the Warriors on November 16th. The news of Horford's concussion came somewhat out of nowhere after he played the entire second half of the Hawks game with it. It's hard to know when a player out with a concussion will return, but early reports say that this concussion isn't as bad as last years. Still, there's always the chance this could end up sidelining Horford for a week if not two.
Celtics rookie Jayson Tatum left the game at halftime with what was called "ankle soreness", but was then seen in a walking boot after the game. The team called it precautionary and said he will have tests tomorrow, but there is no further update on his situation. We'll know tomorrow what exactly is wrong with his ankle. The Celtics may have to face off against the Hornets without both Al Horford and Jayson Tatum.