Bill Sy: After beating the Pistons, I wrote about how the Celtics seemed more focused on getting good shots. They’ve got a 144.8 OffRtg on this mini three-game winning streak and many of them have attributed their sharpness since the break to having a more aggressive mindset. Jaylen Brown’s shot selection has been a microcosm of the team’s focus.
Brown hasn’t exactly been lighting it up on offense. He’s averaging a neat 15 points per game on 44.4% shooting, but the key has been where his shots have been coming from. Here’s his shot chart over the winning streak:
It doesn’t scream efficiency, but it’s selective. After Brown’s first shot tonight, you could almost hear Brad Stevens groan:
You can see Mad Brad visibly upset on the sideline. It got better:
Brown’s handle has improved dramatically since last year and that’s given him the ability to attack close outs and probe the paint more often. Brown is instinctively an aggressive player and now he has the tools to complement his mindset. It’s little tweaks like that that will help the Celtics go from good to great heading into the playoffs.
It’s only three shots out of a single game and a shot chart from three games against teams that most likely will be in the lottery, but this is progress.
Keith Smith: It’s not so much about this game, as there isn’t really anything to be said about a wire-to-wire blowout, but something important happened again for the Celtics against the Grizzlies. For the second time in three games, Boston was able to steal valuable in-game rest for their key players. Kyrie Irving, Al Horford and Aron Baynes sat for the fourth quarter. Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum only slid back in for a handful minutes of garbage time in the final frame.
Only Marcus Morris played more than 30 minutes. Against the Pistons last week, no Celtic topped the 30 minute mark. With the team chasing the Raptors for the top spot in the Eastern Conference, they can’t afford to sit player for entire games. But engineering blowouts like this does allow Brad Stevens to get his guys some valuable rest. That could pay off big down the stretch.
Matt Chin: Given where New York and Memphis’ motivation levels are right now, I don’t want to sound too hyperbolic about the Celtics seemingly turning a page after the All-Star break. However, Boston’s offense is clicking at the current moment, and it’s refreshing to watch them fill it up after some dreadful performances over the past few weeks.
Rozier and Smart are getting wherever they want with dribble penetration, and subsequently making solid facilitating decisions once the defense is collapsed. As has been the trend lately, Daniel Theis’ rim runs in pick-and-roll sets were impressive tonight. His passing lane awareness and catching ability continues to improve, and the consistent conversion rate around the basket should start to open up shots for others. Greg Monroe’s services haven’t been needed over the past three games.
Memphis, who is tied with five other teams for the worst record in the league, unsurprisingly played with little enthusiasm tonight. I’ll be more convinced that the Celtics’ scoring problems are behind them if Boston is able to replicate it against Charlotte, Houston, and Minnesota over the next few games.
Simon Pollock: Greg Monroe was supposed to be a spark for Boston—an offensive-minded seven-footer who could play big minutes off the bench and help clean the glass.
Tonight seemed like a perfect opportunity for Monroe to log a big chunk of minutes against a weak Memphis team. Instead, he rode the bench, even though he wasn’t a DNP-CD.
Stevens on Monroe: "I went into the game with 2 iterations of a gameplan. When we went with Theis in that 1st stint, we were playing so well that I just decided not to put him in. By the end I had planned on playing him late, but I didn't want to throw him in w/ a minute to go."— Jared Weiss (@JaredWeissNBA) February 27, 2018
It’s not like the Celtics needed Monroe against the Grizzlies—see Keith and Matt above. But, while Memphis left center Marc Gasol for 32 minutes, it seemed like there were prime opportunities for the big man to keep working on finding a rhythm with the Celtics bench.
Monroe’s minutes, which were closer to the high 20s and low 30s per game, went off a cliff after late January, while Phoenix prepared to buy him out ahead of the trade deadline. He hasn’t played more than 20 minutes since his Boston debut on February 8.
Celtics coach Brad Stevens still has more lineup tinkering to do—he was still futzing with his groups late into the regular season last year. But no matter how you slice it, Monroe needs time if he’s going to be a contributor in the playoffs. Maybe he’ll get a shot at Dwight Howard, Frank Kaminsky, and Willy Hernangomez on Wednesday.