New paint job (Bill Sy): It’s old school, but sometimes, basketball is easy. Against the Hornets, the Celtics seemed to make a concerted effort to go inside out on the offensive end. Whether that came on hard drives, offensive rebounds, or the occasional post-up, good things came out of the ball touching the paint. Boston finished with 35 assists (with only nine turnovers) on 45 made field goals, their most since January 27th, and made 17 threes last night, their most since January 13th. January was Boston’s most prolific month of scoring with a 113.3 OffRtg. It would be nice to get that kind of production in the post-season.
I think Brad Stevens knows that if this team is going to find success in the playoffs, they’re going to have be aggressive. That doesn’t necessarily mean getting looks in the restricted area, but they’re going to need to put pressure on the defense. They’re a ball movement team (2nd in passes per game), but the post-season is a more physical style game. They’ll need to force the issue more and more. If they can get defenses sinking in with Thomas and Smart penetrating the paint, that will free up shooters (and get them to the line).
You can’t hear it in the GIF, but live, you can hear Brad Stevens from the sideline yelling, “GET READY TO FLASH! GET READY TO FLASH!” It’s crazy because he’s telegraphing the offense to Charlotte and yet, Jae Crowder gets the back door dunk. It’s a great seal by Al Horford and an even better drive-and-dish from Avery Bradley.
Here’s a great vantage point from the baseline camera. A pin down screen from Jonas Jerebko frees up Bradley to cut into the lane and Frank Kaminsky to sink into the key. Thomas repeats the action and has an open lane into the teeth of the defense. Even though AB never touches the ball in the paint, his cut forces the D to sink in.
As the season has progressed, Kelly Olynyk has been getting more and more aggressive with working inside of ten feet. He works the pick-and-pop with Isaiah Thomas, but instead of settling for a contested jumper, he backs down Cody Zeller into the paint for the drop step hook.
Here’s Olynyk again. Same pick-and-pop action with Smart this time, but instead, he re-sets a screen and rolls. Smart finds him at the free throw line, KO draws a help defender in Nic Batum, and Olynyk flicks the ball to an open Jaylen Brown for a three.
This may have been my favorite play in the quarter. Marcus Smart has the initial penetration on the baseline, but Brown drives it again on a good close out by Jeremy Lamb. A couple of ball rotations later, Horford banks in another three.
And those were all from the first quarter alone. After Boston’s comeback bid in Atlanta ultimately fell short, Brad Stevens said that he was encouraged by how the bench responded and different combinations played together. It might be a little late to be tinkering with the rotations, but the Celtics have looked more engaged with Smart, Brown, Olynyk, and Jerebko mixing and matching with the starters rather than playing alone as a unit. Check out the shot chart after the Celtics went down by 20.
Boston is still in contention for the #1 seed. They’ll have to win out at home against a surging Nets team and the Bucks who could still be playing for something on Wednesday. They’ve recently looked tired in stretches and could probably use the rest, but Stevens may opt to keep this team dialed in. They’ve scratched tooth and nail at the end of the last two regular seasons to either just get in or improve their seeding, but this year, I could see them playing just as hard just for the sake of playing hard.