Here are the takeaways as the Celtics beat the Rockets 107-97 on Sunday to earn the first win of Ime Udoka’s career as head coach.
1. Celtics soaked Udoka (and the game ball) with water in the locker room after the victory.
“I told the guys it was delayed,” Udoka told reporters. “It took you too long to get it. Thanks, Jaylen [Brown] and Romeo [Langford] to help and see how they sat out tonight. ”
Then he became serious.
“It’s good to win, not just for the first time, but to get us rolling on the right foot,” he said. “Played the right way tonight, defending how we could after the first quarter. More important than the first victory, that’s how we proceed. May look at the ball one day, but it’s on Charlotte now, I think. ”
Udoka can say what he wants about moving on to Charlotte, but his big laugh over time came to the fore.
“I can only imagine being a head coach, first head coach job in the NBA, just to get it off my back, get the first one off,” Jayson Tatum said. “I’m sure it means a lot to him, his family. I’m happy for him. ”
2. Grant Williams impressed once again with his best game of the season so far — 18 points on 6-for-8 shooting, 5-for-7 from depth. Udoka said Williams’ versatility helped separate him from the team’s power forward in training camp.
“The biggest thing for me is just trying to be consistent all year,” Williams said. “Do not go through ups and downs, just be someone who is dependent and reliable. That’s my most important thing. Everything else takes care of itself. ”
Williams’ shooting is crucial. Before the season, he reached out to Udoka to see what would help him get on the floor.
“Get the 3-point percentage up to 40 and defense,” Udoka recalled told Williams.
Sure, Williams is 9-on-13 from the 3-point line so far, and the weight he lost helps him stay ahead of more players. It was a challenge to recover his body (again), but he said he recognizes the importance of helping a team in several ways.
“It’s a difficult job, but that’s what I signed up for: giving this team value in every way possible, no matter what they need me to do,” Williams said. “And that’s something I’ve been trying to be proud of, being a versatile guy – a guy who can stay on the floor no matter what the situation. If I ever get to a point where it’s not that important to me, I’m out of this league. ”
3. Here’s why Williams’ 3-point shooting is important.
In the double pick-and-roll, the Rockets went crazy trying to catch Schröder and stick to the rolling Robert Williams. If Grant Williams can punish defenders, such sets will be hard to contain. The distance in this unit – Schröder, Smart, Richardson and both Williams – can be catastrophic, but Grant Williams is a big boost if he hits triple down.
4. Schröder did not start well, but his performance in the second half was much more encouraging — he finished with 18 points on 7-to-14 shooting and collapsed the defense with his devastatingly fast first step.
The Dennis Schröder experience can be strange. The Celtics desperately need him to score, but they also need more floor space that he does not provide. It’s helpful to get Schröder moving towards the bar, but it can be a challenge to surround him with shooting games with the options on the list (again, 40 percent shooting from Grant Williams would be huge).
5. Robert Williams had his first quiet game of the season, except for this pass – easily the best thrown by a Celtics player through three games.
The Rockets are going to lose a lot of games this season, but they have some really fun young talents. Most notable, of course, is No. 2 pick Jalen Green, who poured 30 points into just his first NBA game on a scorching 8-for-10 from 3-point range. Green’s years with G-League Ignite seem to have prepared him well for the NBA game — he looks clear and calm until he comes out in transition.
Meanwhile, the Rockets ‘second rookie Alper showed Sengun — a 7-foot center drafted with the Celtics’ choice given to the Thunder along with Kemba Walker in exchange for Al Horford — some glimpses of high-level footwork in the post and passing vision (seven points, four rebounds, four assists, three steals).
Christian Wood and Kevin Porter Jr. were castoffs elsewhere but can play a real NBA role. The Rockets will probably have another chance to add a fun young core this offseason with a big lottery, but the vision for the future is pretty clear.
“They will be a good young team,” Udoka said. … [Rockets coach Stephen] Silas does a great job of developing these guys and giving them confidence. You can see it the way they play. ”
A quick page: The NBC Sports Boston broadcast remarked that Jalen Green is “motivated” because he felt he should be number 1, which is pretty funny when you consider Green’s thoughts on the team that had the No. 1 pick.
7. Aaron Nesmith is missing another field goal this season after a very promising Summer League and preseason. He was 0-on-4 Sunday on four 3-point attempts. The Celtics’ offense has a 3-pointer shortage in the supply chain, so it would help get Nesmith up and running.
8. Perhaps the most worrying takeaway is how the Celtics continue to struggle to get to the free-throw line. They only took 20 on Sunday and Tatum managed only four despite a recurring performance.
“We tell them they are not content with certain matchups,” Udoka said. “Attack downhill, get yourself to the free throw line, get a shot on the edge or get someone else a shot. It depends on who it is and how their night goes, whether they take a 3 or striker, but we really want them to come downhill. ”
Not for the first time (and probably not for the last): Tatum scored 31 points on Sunday. He could probably average something close to that if he averaged 7-8 free throws per game. Match.
9. Still, Tatum looked more like himself-31 points on 12-to-24 shooting (4-to-11 from 3-point range). At one point in the first half, Tatum took a couple of defenders and delivered a perfect pass to Horford under the rim for an easy lineup. The Rockets called timeout, and Udoka and Tatum shared a laugh as the latter made his way to the bench.
Udoka said just before the game he shouted at Tatum not to settle down.
“It looked like he was going to take a shot,” Udoka said. “We actually drew it for a tight-in-the-corner pick-and-roll. And when he handed it over, I said, ‘Let me stop telling you what to do out there. I have never averaged 27 a game. So you make the right decision. ‘…
“I trust him that no matter where we place him. He is going to make the right choice most of the time. ”
The Celtics take on the Hornets at 7 p.m. Monday.
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