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The Read & React: “B” is for ball movement

The Celtics had no answer for The Alphabet.

NBA: Milwaukee Bucks at Boston Celtics David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

Greg Cassoli: Boy, was the Celtics' offense bad down the stretch. Ball movement was limited, spacing was tight, and Kyrie's de facto solution of chuckery failed wholeheartedly. It was a reminder of just how little experience this roster has playing with one another, and more starkly—and sadly—how valuable having a player like Gordon Hayward in the fold would be. Brad Stevens will get things running more smoothly. Boston just needs some time.

Alex Kungu: This almost feels like a schedule loss coming off a back-to-back against Cleveland and the sentiment only grew stronger after the injuries the Celtics went through. It's hard to get upset over things like ball movement and defensive rotations because those things rely on 5 guys playing together and moving on a string and the Celtics are a completely new team with guys who have no experience playing with one another. This isn't what we all envisioned the season starting off like, but injuries have forced this team to rely on the young and unproven. The growing pains are just a part of it.

Andrew Doxy: I implore everyone to have perspective. The Celtics are a new team that just had to completely throw out what they learned about each other in the preseason and in training camp due to losing arguably the best player on the team. It’s going to take some time and Kyrie Irving is not going to shoot 7-25 every night. 0-2 ultimately only counts for two losses. In the grand scheme of things this won’t matter as long as the team figures it out. If they don’t figure it out after a while, then we should panic.

NBA: Milwaukee Bucks at Boston Celtics David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

Mike Deprisco: Secondary scorer was probably the major need for last year's Celtics and tonight was reminiscent of those days. The Bucks keyed in on Irving in pick and roll which could explain the 7-25 shooting.

As a team, I've noticed the Celtics have struggled to get past the first action in their sets. There's a lot of dribbling and waiting for whoever has ball which is uncharacteristic of a Brad Stevens offense. I expect things to get better eventually, but it'll be a frustrating week or two before these guys get it together.

Lachlan Marr: The Celtics looked exposed tonight, reliant on rookies, disjointed on offense, disconnected on defense, and generally not like a cohesive unit.

Kyrie is undoubtedly going to propel this team to new heights in the not-too-distant future but in this game his attempts to play hero ball in the dying minutes seemed to really hurt the team's chemistry while they were trying to claw their way back.

The decision to keep Kyrie off-ball through much of the game also struck me as particularly curious. The Celtics are still stacked with guards so I suppose Stevens figured that he could use Kyrie off-ball as the Celtics best shooter. But Kyrie was clearly off his game tonight for whatever reason (possibly from being played off-ball in the first place) so the whole situation seemed off. Obviously part of this stems from the team adjusting to Hayward being out and Stevens being forced to try new combinations. But after the loss last night of both the game and their All-Star recruit this team could've really used a win.

Bill Sy: Jaylen Brown again finished as the leading scorer with 18 points in just 28 minutes of play. He fouled out of the game as the primary defender on Giannis Antetokounmpo and that aggressiveness showed on the offensive end, too. In any transition opportunity, he attacked the rim. When he got the ball on the wing, he dribbled into the paint or took the quick 3. Here’s his shot chart:

That’s eleven shots with three separate trips to the line. His sole efficiency illustrates what the team is lacking right now: knowing where players like to get their shots. It was painful seeing Al Horford catching the ball in the middle of the key; at this point of his career, he’s much more accustomed picking-and-popping as a stretch big. Smart getting these high posts is not what he does:

Like everybody’s said, the ball movement was atrocious last night, but that won’t matter if they don’t figure out where on the floor they’re going to get their shots. This roster might be more versatile than last year’s, but it lacks variety in specialized skill sets. Is anybody this season good or great at anything?

Keith Smith: We knew Marcus Smart is the Celtics best defender. He's in a class of his own. We've seen Terry Rozier and Jaylen Brown are the most active defenders. Al Horford is the smartest defender. And Aron Baynes is the most rugged defender.

What we thought is that Gordon Hayward would be the most versatile defender (non-Smart category of course), able to defend 2-4 and hold his own vs 1s and 5s on switches. While he recovers (quick aside: How amazing was his message from the hospital? That makes you beloved in Boston!), we learned real fast that Jayson Tatum might be a more versatile defender than we ever could have imagined.

Tatum's scoring was his calling card coming out of Duke. Occasionally his rebounding was mentioned. Against the Bucks we got to see him show defensive versatility I don't know we ever expected. He defended everyone from Malcolm Brogdon to Greg Monroe and everyone in between. And it was more good than bad. If Tatum can do that, it not only unlocks a ton of options for the Celtics, but it puts his potential somewhere even greater than we all hoped it would be.

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