The ol’ one-two punch (Lachlan Marr): This was a pretty good game all-around for the Celtics with lots of contributions from up and down the bench. Horford was fantastic defensively, Rozier was a solid spark plug off the bench and Brown made some impressive plays despite some rookie mistakes.
But my favourite play of the night and arguably a turning point in the game was when the Celtics converted defense to offense in a particularly unconventional way. In the third quarter with the Celtics up by one and the Timberwolves looking to take the lead Marcus Smart instead took a strong charge from Minnesota’s Brandon Rush giving Boston the ball. Wasting no time on the other end Isaiah Thomas quickly ran the floor and put up two points, extending the lead.
It was a simple enough sequence of events and hardly highlight reel stuff – a charge followed by a layup – but it was an exemplary sequence of this Celtics team’s ability to play both ends of the floor. This team plays strong, hard-nosed defense coupled with up-tempo, fast break offense. No two players on the roster better represent Boston’s ability to work together on defense and offense to give their best on both ends of the floor than Thomas and Smart. The Celtics didn’t lose the lead again after this sequence and extended it from this point in the game onwards. So while it may not have been the turning point in the game it reminded the Celtics and their opponents what this team is all about.
Follow the bouncing ball (Bill Sy): Back in early January, the Celtics came back on the Sixers and beat them 110-106. It was a rough and tumble affair that Boston won on a corner three from Al Horford, but what made that game special was the assist rate for the team. The Celtics only shot 40.2% that night, but they assisted on 28 of their 35 field goals for an 80% AST%. That’s been the highest assist percentage all season through sixty-eight games.
Against the Timberwolves last night, the Celtics had their second most assisted night of the season with 34 assists on 42 FGM’s (79% AST%). That was lead by Al Horford’s near triple double (20/9/8). Avery Bradley called Horford “one of the best passers in the NBA,” but last night was a team effort; eight out of the ten-man rotation recording 3 or more dimes.
For the season, the team is only second to the Golden State Warriors (70.5%) with an average of 64.6% AST% and second again to the Warriors (9.7) in secondary assists at 6.8. They’re the 8th best offense in the league with a 108.7 OffRtg. That speaks to so many things. Individually, it means that Isaiah Thomas and Al Horford, as the stars of the team, are able to draw double teams and kick out to open shooters. As a team, it means that the ball movement is getting guys good looks and their making shots.
But all that beautiful ball movement was marred by this little incident in the fourth quarter:
In the moment, I can see Marcus’ point about letting the play play out, but I thought Brown had a driving lane and I give him credit for being aggressive. In the long run, it’s probably nothing. They’ll get on a plane tomorrow and it’ll be no big deal. In-game disagreements like this happen all the time and real talk: I want my point guard feeling strongly about “wait(ing) on the play” to ensure the spacing and getting the best shot and my rookie phenom taking it hard to the rack if he sees a hole in the defense. And hey, the rookie got his car popcorned last night, so maybe it’s all water under the bridge already: