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The Read & React: deer in headlights

After losing Opening Night at TD Garden to the Bucks, the Celtics have convincingly taken two games from Milwaukee.

Milwaukee Bucks v Boston Celtics Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

Simon Pollock: “49.3%” never sounded so sweet. The Boston Celtics top recruit, Jayson Tatum, is leading the NBA in 3PT% after tonight's win, in which he nailed four of his five treys.

Celtics coach Brad Stevens might've seen it coming:

Tatum's adding his deadly accuracy (which isn't limited to the corners like some other 3-and-D types) to he ability to get to the rim. The rookie's dependability from downtown makes Kyrie Irving, Marcus Smart, and Al Horford all the more dangerous on their way to the rim.

Tatum won't be 20 years-old until the spring.

Milwaukee Bucks v Boston Celtics Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

Bill Sy: Marcus Smart to Al Horford. It’s not Stockton to Malone or Nash to Stoudemire, but the Celtics duo has quickly become a reliable source of offense for Boston. It’s a marriage of contradiction. Horford isn’t exactly the prototypical rim runner with out-of-the-gym athleticism; Smart isn’t really a threat to drive or a reliable shooter in the mid-range. And yet, it works.

First, here’s Smart working with Daniel Theis (who himself along with Aron Baynes are becoming effective roll men for the Celtics, too).

It’s classic pick-and-roll. Smart and Theis force the switch with the screen, Theis cuts hard to the rim while Smart engages Giannis Antetokounmpo with the dribble, and Smart finds Theis for the dunk.

If you told me three years ago that Smart would turn into an effective pick-and-roll point guard, I would have laughed. Traditionally, what makes a good PnR PG is blazing speed to turn the corner on a big and/or an ability to hit a pull up jumper. Smart is really neither, but he’s turned his bruising defensive style into close combat warfare in the trenches of the paint.

On two consecutive plays in the 4th quarter, Smart and Horford worked their two-man game to perfection. The Bucks had regained some momentum, but two loud dunks later and the Celtics were back in control of the Garden and the game. On the first, you can see Horford re-screen Jason Terry with shooters spread around the three point line.

Speed isn’t Smart’s strong suit, so he has to use his strength. After the first pick, Terry recovers enough to keep Smart in front of him but after the re-screen, Smart can get Terry on his hip and keep him at bay. He keeps his dribble alive and all Horford needs to do is get behind Antetokounmpo for the lob.

The second is little more textbook with a couple of notable wrinkles. Horford doesn’t set a hard pick. He reads that Smart already has a step on Malcolm Brogdon and instead quickly slips the screen. Also, keep in mind Jaylen Brown’s back cut on the baseline. That engages the third defender, Tony Snell, from helping on the Smart-Horford action. Again, Smart keeps his dribble alive engaging Kris Middleton and throws a perfect pocket pass lob to the front of the rim for Horford to throw down.

Smart deserves a lot of credit for his improvement as a playmaker and it also goes to show you how Stevens puts his players in the best position to accentuate their strengths.