When Danny put together the 2012-2013 roster, I thought that that was the most talented team he had assembled in the Big Three era. That summer, he added Jason Terry, Courtney Lee, Jared Sullinger, Leandro Barbosa, and Darko Milicic. The Celtics were deep and versatile. Injuries to Rajon Rondo and Sully would derail that year and eventually pull the curtain on an era in Boston, but there were some promising moments that season. In a random game in January, they beat a Suns team to get a game over .500 and I called it The Most Beautiful Box Score. Shots were evenly distributed, nobody was over worked, and the defense was clicking.
Here's the box score from last night's game vs. the Knicks:
Now, it's just the preseason and only the second game, but you can see how this team is starting to gel. Without arguably their two most dynamic players in Jeff Green and Rajon Rondo, these Celtics were able to cut up a more seasoned Knicks team where nobody was a clear #1 (unless you count Jared Sullinger's 23 points from a very efficient 12 shots) and the offense generated good looks for everybody. On a night where New York was going to debut The Triangle under Derek Fisher, it was Boston that played beautiful basketball.
Avery Bradley thinks C's can consistently score at a high level. "If we run our O the right way, it will get us good looks at the basket"
— Boston Celtics (@celtics) October 9, 2014
When Brad Stevens talks about the new read-and-react offense, you hear a lot about sets and actions. He stresses that the ball moves at a deliberate pace and that everybody should have a chance to score in this equal opportunity system. That's easier said than done, but in two games, the team has recorded two 20-point blowouts and more importantly, the Celtics are playing with more energy and purpose and without an elite superstar (until Rondo comes back), sharing the ball.
This set starts with everybody, including both bigs on the perimeter. Kelly Olynyk starts at the top of the circle and initiates the offense dribbling to his right. Marcus Smart fakes a down screen for Evan Turner, but Turner goes corner to corner on the baseline. Smart quickly reverses the ball to the opposite side with Sullinger giving Turner a dribble hand off screen as he penetrates the middle and finally kicks out to Kelly for an open 3. Watch the action over and over again as the Knicks--particularly J.R. Smith--get lost in the weave and run into each other.
This is classic Spurs misdirection. Olynyk sets up a dribble hand off with Smart. Carmelo Anthony, Samuel Dalembert, and Smith are all concerned with that weak side action. When Sullinger gets the ball on the reverse, Bradley has the option to either screen down for Turner to get the ball or cut back door. Because Smith is out of position, Avery has an open lane to the cup after a beautiful bounce pass from Sully.
In this next set, the Celtics run a similar action as above. Smart tries to cut behind Jose Calderon but Calderon sniffs it out. The sets off the counter play. Olynyk rotates the ball to Gerald Wallace and they get the switch that they're looking for. Olynyk has the smaller Carmelo on his back but Smart instead takes the elbow three.
And if all else fails, we can run Tim Frazier-Rodney McGruder alley-oops for the rest of the preseason.
Yes, it's preseason, but this early confidence breeds success and as Marcus Thornton says, "we're building habits for the regular season now. Good habits will carry over. That's what we're trying to do."