Genius is hard to define, but you know it when you see it, and the NBA is beginning to recognize Brad Stevens as the brightest young coach in the entire league.
Stevens, the 38-year-old mastermind of the Celtics, was at the forefront of Boston's thrilling 117-116 overtime victory over Toronto, due to his unorthodox decision-making and play calling.
Down one point to the Raptors with only four seconds remaining, Stevens designed a play that was executed incorrectly, so he called a timeout almost immediately after the ball was inbounded.
"We knew we had a timeout when we drew up the first play. I didn't really want to inbound it if our first option wasn't open, and it wasn't open," Stevens explained, per ESPN Boston.
"We were trying to go to Evan [Turner] and they smothered it. They actually switched and it made it a worse matchup for us. I knew right when I saw them switch that I was going to call timeout, but then Marcus [Smart] threw it in, so I got [the timeout] as quickly as I could."
Stevens has sound reasoning for his decision, but it's strange since most coaches would've lived or died with the results of the play call, regardless of the execution.
But Stevens has a brain that works differently; when you zig, he zags.
Saturday in Toronto, with a postseason trip possibly on the line, Stevens zagged as hard as he could by crafting a unique sideline out-of-bounds that will even make Gregg Popovich nod his head in appreciation of the creativity.
Isaiah Thomas grabbed the pass and ran full speed towards five defenders, as Marcus Smart seemingly popped out of no where to snatch the ball that magically appeared in his hands for the layup and the win.
Stevens said after the game that this was designed early in the season for players that aren't even on the roster anymore, so he has had it up his sleeve for some time now before unveiling it.
Here's a photo of the after-timeout playcall by Brad Stevens. Unique plays like this are why he is a creative genius. pic.twitter.com/zcNz2MA4Vk— Kevin O'Connor (@KevinOConnorNBA) April 5, 2015
The Celtics have used this set before, but only as a means of putting one player in the backcourt to open up more space in the frontcourt. But this time was different, because the ball was going to the player spacing the entire floor.
Kelly Olynyk sprinted to center court to a set a screen on Lou Williams, as Isaiah Thomas did his best Julian Edelman impression by running a nifty slant route. He planted his right foot in the ground and quickly shifted directions to his left, which spun his defender around and gave him extra space on the eventual drive to the basket.
Meanwhile, Avery Bradley and Marcus Smart hurried to the corners to spread the floor and to detract attention from the primary action.
With only 2.6 seconds on the clock it didn't seem like there would be enough time remaining for anything besides a layup by Thomas, but he had outlets incase the plan went astray; Bradley's defender helped hard, which left him relatively open in the corner for a three-pointer, Olynyk had space inside, and Smart crashed the paint for a dump off pass or an offensive rebound.
Thomas looked like he was trying to lay the ball up or draw the foul, but there was no whistle. Interestingly, Thomas claimed that he was actually making a pass to Smart, though the current official ruling is an offensive rebound and tip-in.
"[The play] was for Isaiah," Stevens said. "We told everybody to crash [the offensive boards]."
Whatever Thomas was actually trying to do doesn't matter, because the play worked and their instructions to crash the boards were heard loud and clear by Smart.
As Thomas drove, James Johnson rotated all the way over to help protect the rim, but that gave Smart the entire weak-side to cut to the basket. As Thomas sped towards the rim, Smart tiptoed into the empty space, which put him in position to receive the ball.
Once Smart caught the pass, he displayed his supreme instincts and put the ball in for the huge victory.
Great coaches will always give credit to the players -- because "players play and coaches coach" -- but this Celtics roster is winning games in extraordinary fashion, and much of the credit should be given to Brad Stevens for getting his team to maximize its ability.
The Boston Celtics may or may not make the playoffs this season, but either way, it's becoming increasingly obvious that they have one of the best coaches in the NBA.