Bill Sy: Last night’s 13th win in a row was a sleepy game in Brooklyn, but there was some drama in the outcome relatively late in the game. After some lazy and sloppy play to start the half, the Nets grabbed a four-point lead halfway through the the third quarter. The Celtics would then go on a 19-2 run and never relinquish the lead.
Brad Stevens’ first adjustment was to switch Marcuses, Smart for Morris. For what it’s worth, it was hardly an indictment on Morris’ play; he played probably his best game in green and finished with 21 points on 8-for-12 shooting and grabbed ten boards. He was solid, but Smart’s presence on the floor changes the dynamic of the team.
With Smart on the floor, Kyrie can play off the ball, and frankly it gives Smart something to do that isn’t shooting the ball. Yesterday, I got into a little Twitter spat with CBS Sports’ Matt Moore about Smart. It revolved around his shooting percentages, and I argued that his makes and misses are kinda irrelevant because of his shot attempt totals and the other stuff that he does for the team. He’s made solid improvements as a point guard, and we can all agree that he’s more than just a plus defender—he’s an infectious mindset that populates the rest of the team.
Anyway, during Boston’s run, it was Smart quarterbacking the Celtics to their comeback. He worked a couple of off-ball curl screens for Irving, hit Jayson Tatum on a deft outlet pass for a touchdown, and worked the PnR with Horford.
Oh, I buried the lede with Horford. He really doesn’t get enough credit outside of the Boston media. He’s just been so consistently good to start the season. Last night, he was 8 for 10 for 17 points, 11 rebounds, and 3 assists. In terms of system and fit, is there a better player and team combination than Big Al and the Celtics?
It should also be noted that Boston's biggest strength coming off their bench is defensive versatility. Stevens has been careful so far to hold off on playing a lot of hockey-style line changes and opting for more mixing and matching with the starters. The most popular starting lineup of Irving, Brown, Tatum, Horford, and Baynes have played a total of 143 minutes together. Out of the ten most-used five-man lineups after that, seven feature four of the starters, one has three, and two have only one.
To close out the third, in addition to Smart, Stevens went with Terry Rozier to spell Irving and Daniel Theis (over Aron Baynes) to replace Horford. The Nets are young and quick, and it made sense to match up with them step for step. On nights when the bench can only muster 13 points (to Brooklyn’s 38), they'll have to rely on their D to carry them to ugly wins like this.
Jeff Nooney: The incredible start to this season has made it easy to cope with the absences of notable faces from years past. But the loss of our old friend NetsPick still hurts. Last night a win was just a win, instead of also becoming some small part of the vast machinations of Danny Ainge. Now games against the Nets are like games against any other plucky upstart team. Sure it was Boston’s 13th straight victory, priming them for a must-watch showdown with the Warriors on Thursday.
And yes, Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum teamed up for a symbolic alley-oop basket to seal the game. Fine okay, we can also look forward to LakersPick possibly conveying this year too. But it just feels wrong that the Cavs are the new rightful owners and beneficiaries of this Brooklyn loss.
So maybe it’s best not to dwell on who does or does not hold the rights to Brooklyn’s future picks. Because, as it turns out, the real NetsPick was the friends we made along the way.