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The Read & React: executioners

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Undermanned and on the road, the Celtics (again) found a way to win by trusting their system and getting guys in the right place at the right time.

NBA: Boston Celtics at Portland Trail Blazers Craig Mitchelldyer-USA TODAY Sports

All night, the Celtics were getting the ball in the right spots. Greg Monroe got deep in the paint for his ten points and three offensive rebounds. Shane Larkin came off pick after pick after pick and danced around the free throw line all night to collect seven assists. But in the clutch, Brad Stevens went to his most reliable offensive weapons—Marcus Morris, Al Horford, and Jayson Tatum—to seal an impressive road victory in Portland against a Trail Blazers team that had gone 15-2 over their last seventeen games.

With the Celtics down four with four and a half minutes to go in the 4th, Larkin and Horford ran a simple pick-and-pop that freed Al for a big 3 to cut the lead to one. One possession later after a timeout, they ran the Horford-Larkin pick again, but this time, Horford rolled to the rim. Horford’s gravity sucked in Evan Turner and Larkin tic-tac-toed the ball around the horn to an open Terry Rozier.

In Celtics.com’s TD Bank Film Study this week, Gordon Hayward talked about this exact double screen action for Tatum and how important it is for Tatum to not only read how his defender is negotiating the picks, but playing at the right speed to do it. Fast forward to Friday night.

The plays are identical. Ex-Celtic Evan Turner does a good job jumping Tatum’s route, but Shane Larkin sees that Tatum needs another action to break free. He brushes past Turner and it’s enough misdirection for Tatum to turn the corner for an uncontested layup.

With the score still in the balance of a one-possession game, the Celtics execution on some simple flex action was flawless.

It’s another read for Tatum on what could have been a similar play from the one above. He comes off a down pick from Terry Rozier, but instead of using a second screen from Morris, Tatum instead cuts to the rim for an easy dunk. As Keith pointed out earlier in the game on Twitter, the Blazers were overplaying shooters and getting into the passing lanes. Tatum took advantage of their aggressiveness. There’s no better passer in the high post than Horford and he hits him immediately on the cut.

After the game, Horford called this W “one of his favorite wins of the season.” It not only included yet another monster comeback, but it also showed how even though undermanned and on the road, this team found a way to win because of its faith in their system and ability to get guys in the right place at the right time.