By Matthew Geagan, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) -- The Celtics picked up an exciting overtime win over the Hornets in Charlotte on Monday night, a hard-fought victory on the second leg of a back-to-back. Boston's two stars -- Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown -- were both shining bright throughout the contest.
The duo combined for 71 points on the evening, a game-high 41 from Tatum and 30 from Brown. Both were excellent at just about everything they did, giving Boston the star power it needed to come away with a difficult road win in overtime.
Tatum was 14-for-28 and hit six of his 12 three-point attempts. He made it to the free throw line seven times, and good things tend to happen for Tatum and the Celtics when he goes to the stripe that often. He led the Celtics in every way imaginable, dishing out eight assists while snagging seven rebounds and recording a block. When the Charlotte defense collapsed on him, he was able to find an open or streaking teammate for an easy bucket.
Brown was equally impressive after missing Sunday night's game with left knee tendonitis. He took a little bit longer to get in the flow of things, but he hit 12 of his 20 shots and added nine rebounds, three assists and three steals to his stat sheet. He scored five of his 30 in overtime, including the loudest two points of the night -- and potentially the season -- as Boston ran away with the win in the extra frame.
That's the kind of night you expect out of Tatum and Brown, the pillars in which Boston's success rests upon for the foreseeable future. The biggest question the last few seasons has been who will be stepping up and serving as the third cog in that "Big Three" mix that tends to be the only route to success in the NBA.
On Monday night, it wasn't just one other player. It was actually two, giving Boston's OT win in Charlotte a "Big Four" kind of feel.
Those "other" two were Robert Williams and Marcus Smart. Williams was a monster with 12 points, 16 rebounds and a trio of blocks. Six of his rebounds came off the offensive glass, leading to 12 Boston points. His biggest points of the night came late in regulation, when he rolled to the basket with Tatum and slammed down a feed to give Boston a one-point lead with just under two minutes to go.
Williams has always had a truckload of upside, he just hasn't always been available for the Celtics. In the early part of the 2021-22 season, he looks ready to take that next leap, which was abundantly clear on that late-game dunk.
Never to be forgotten is Smart, who struggled offensively with just seven points off 3-for-12 shooting. But he was a menace everywhere else to the tune of five assists, four rebounds and three important steals.
No swipe was bigger than when Smart smacked away Gordon Hayward's inbound pass to LaMelo Ball at the close of regulation, keeping the Hornets from stinging the Celtics with a potential buzzer beater.
Boston head coach Ime Udoka called that steal the "play of the game," adding that the heart and soul of the Celtics comes from Smart. But everyone showed off some serious heart and soul throughout the win. It started with Tatum though, who got everything moving by sharing the love. His eight assists were just as impressive as his 41 points, with those helpers leading to 21 Boston points. Five of those points came during Boston's 20-6 run to close regulation and force overtime.
Tatum and Brown are as dynamic of a duo as they come, but they too often feel like they're trading possessions rather than working as a lethal combination. On Monday, it was the latter, as they fed off each other and, on a few occasions, fed each other. Brown's emphatic dunk in overtime was a nice exclamation point on the win, and is something the Celtics want to see a lot more of as the duo plays their five season together.
Tatum's excellent ball movement was contagious, as the C's finished with 33 assists on 50 made baskets. There was a natural flow to the offense, as guys were looking to make a pass to lead to an easy hoop rather than force something on their own. That all started with Tatum, and it had Udoka a very happy man after Monday's win.
"As with every team, their best players usually have to be their best playmakers. So we've asked [Tatum] to do that this year, to get guys involved, and he's taken on the challenge from Day 1," said Udoka. "Whether it's from the post, isolation, he's willing to give up the ball and trust his teammates, and that makes it easier on him for the rest of the game."
Monday's game was far from perfect, and the Celtics can easily fall back into their old self-obsessed isolation habits. But they showed how easy things can be when they share the ball, when the team morphs into a trio or quartet rather than resting their laurels on their star duo.
It makes life easier for everyone on the floor. And while notching a win isn't usually easy in the NBA, that outcome is a lot more likely when the Celtics play this team brand of ball.
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