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The Read & React: inside out

Marcus Smart and Daniel Theis highlight Celtics’ inside-out attack vs. Pistons

NBA: Boston Celtics at Detroit Pistons Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Bill Sy: The splashy stat that pops off the box score from last night’s win in Detroit was Boston’s 17 threes (43.6 3FG%). They’re now 6-2 in games in which they’ve hit 16 or more 3-pointers. For what it’s worth, they hit 17 against the Pistons earlier in the season but lost that game in the Garden back in late November. The Celtics launched more shots from behind the arc (39) than in the paint (36).

In addition to Boston’s lights-out shooting, including 9 for 21 from the trio of Terry Rozier, Marcus Smart, and Kyrie Irving, the Celtics’ rotation of back up big men came up big after starter Aron Baynes left the game early with an elbow injury. Greg Monroe had his best game as a Celtic with 8 points and 5 rebounds in just under 20 minutes, but it was Daniel Theis’ efficient 19 points to lead all scorers on 8-for-10 shooting that was the biggest difference. Theis was great rolling toward the basket off picks, cutting off penetration, and cleaning the offensive glass.

Here’s the shot chart:

That’s hopefully indicative of their team-wide refocusing on getting good shots. I’ll admit that I’ve thought the team would really miss Kelly Olynyk and other spacing bigs like Jonas Jerebko, but for one night, we saw how successful their inside-out game could be. Traditionally, you’ll see teams run pick-and-rolls to get paint touches with their bigs and their bigs kicking out to shooters like this:

Theis hits the key first as a roll man and finds a cutting Monroe. Monroe kicks it out to Jaylen Brown, and Brown rotates it to the open Smart in the short corner. Old(er)-school teams will just throw it down and post up their big on the block. These are rare actions for the Celtics, but that doesn’t mean the bigs don’t play a huge role in the offense.

A lot of times, you’ll see a Boston big—usually Al Horford, but Monroe in this play—set up above the break and act as a light tower/screener looking for open wings to either penetrate or shoot a three.

It’s not your traditional inside-out game, but it does generate similar looks.

Here, Horford doesn’t even get the ball, but he and Morris (at the 4) are the playmakers despite the ball being in Smart’s hands. Morris reads the defense and quickly reacts and pops behind the arc; Horford sets a screen so that Morris’ defender, Anthony Tolliver, can’t contest the shot.

Andrew Doxy: Marcus Smart establishes discipline. That is all.

NBA: Boston Celtics at Detroit Pistons Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Keith Smith: Brad Stevens hinted at some lineup changes coming out of the break. The standard starting lineup opened the game, but Aron Baynes got hurt relatively early. Whether it was by design or necessity, the tweaks came in terms of the rotation.

Stevens went to the bench early and often. No Celtic played more than 30 minutes, with 10 players checking in between 19 and 29 minutes. And every lineup was considerably more balanced.

This was aided in part by the return of Marcus Smart, who did all the little things he usually does, but also by some terrific play from Daniel Theis, who scored a career-high 19 points on 8-of-10 shooting.

Led by those two and some solid scoring from Greg Monroe, Marcus Morris and Terry Rozier, the Celtics bench outscored their Detroit counterparts by a 65-to-21 margin.

For Boston to be the team they hope to be, the bench needs to be a big part of things. With everyone healthy (minus Gordon Hayward, but fingers crossed on that one!), Stevens has options galore. The Celtics can go big or small and match just about any style. And if the reserves play well, he can steal some valuable in-game rest for the starters, which should pay dividends down the stretch and into the playoffs.

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