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Tale of two cities: Celtics pacing-and-spacing circles around the Wizards

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This is the third year that Boston has run Stevens' read-and-react system. Washington made a similar shift late last year. Two blowout wins this season show how it takes time to develop and find the right players.

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When Randy Wittman decided to tinker with the Wizards' offense in order to take advantage of his stars John Wall and Bradley Beal and an evolving roster that included other scoring point guards and versatile wings, he called Brad Stevens about pace-and-space.  But in two games against the Celtics, it looks like Washington still has plenty to learn.  The Wizards have been outscored 229-176 and have been turned over a total of 46 times.

So what's the problem?

During yesterday's blowout, I was talking to a friend of mine who's a big Wiz fan and he thinks that Wittman has lost the team, that Wall is staging a mutiny, and that a new coach is in order. As a Celtics fan, I cautioned him about impatience. Wittman has been in DC for five years, but when you implement a read-and-react offense, it's a long process, particularly for a team with a star that's used to having the ball in his hands.  Guys need games and even seasons to gel.

But after your team has spent a few years working together, it's beautiful basketball.  The Celtics returned ten players from last season's squad and when they're clicking, there's nothing like it.  In fact, they have the highest winning margin in the league at 17.7 points.

In the past, we've seen beautiful box scores from the Big Three and here's one from last year's preseason, but I thought last night was the best the team has looked all year and maybe in Stevens' coaching tenure.

Celtics-Wiz box score

Six players had 3 assists each with David Lee tallying four and bigs Jonas Jerebko and Kelly Olynyk finishing with two.  When the team is sharing the ball like this, it's no wonder that they put up 111 points with a modest 15 turnovers.  Isaiah Thomas finished with 21 and Jared Sullinger had a monster double-double with 18 & 15 in just under 24 minutes, but as a whole, you could tell that the team was reconnected on both ends of the floor.

With Bradley Beal trying to cherry pick on a Celtics' offensive rebound, it's child's play for Thomas.  This isn't the best example of pace-and-space, but it does incorporate a lot of the principles: 1) make deliberate movements, 2) get defenders to commit, 3) take advantage of mismatches, and 4) move the ball quickly.

When the season started, the conventional thinking was to surround Thomas with shooters so that he could drive and kick for threes.  We've seen some of that, but a lineup of other playmakers have proven to be a more dangerous combo.  For what it's worth, three out of the top four three-man lineups that feature Isaiah Thomas include Evan Turner.  That should be no surprise in the context of the offense.

Check out this play from the second quarter.  After Thomas breaks down Ramon Sessions off the dribble, having Avery Bradley or R.J. Hunter in the corner would have been a good option.  Instead, he's kicking it out to Evan Turner.  Turner makes the extra pass to JJ, Jerebko pump fakes and takes the awkward mid-range shot, but because Washington has rotated so many times, Lee has the mismatch on the boards and gets the easy offensive rebound for the put back.  This is read-and-react and pace-and-space working to perfection.  The initial shot is missed, but the team is making right basketball play after right basketball play.

One of the concerns I have moving forward with the rebuild is how Brad Stevens would incorporate a star.  Would that mean overhauling the offense (a reverse Wittman, if you will)?  Schematically, probably not.  Kawhi Leonard developed within the Spurs system and now, he's thriving.  With this clip, I'm not saying that Evan Turner is Kawhi Leonard, but the system does cater to "superstar" types.  The spacing allows for very talented players to be playmakers (re: Ben Simmons!).

Unfortunately, none of this is good for FanDuel players because you just never know who's going to pop off for the Celtics.  Thomas and Sullinger are Boston's most reliable for numbers, but you just never know when you'll get the occasional bang for your buck with guys like Lee, Turner, Bradley, or Johnson.  If you're new to FanDuel, sign up here and make sure to check out FanDuel and SB Nation's free money fantasy basketball league tonight. Half of the league win cash. Join now!