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The Read & React: Celtics bigs flexing, Brown OK after fall

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NBA: Boston Celtics at Minnesota Timberwolves Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Bill Sy: One of the tenets of the Celtics’ versatile defense is that they rarely double team. It doesn’t matter if it’s a smaller player guarding a big in the post or a big going one-on-one with a quick ballhandler on the perimeter. They’ll switch on almost any action and invite players to beat them individually.

However, sometimes they do. It almost seems like Brad Stevens decides to do it at random to keep opposing offenses guessing. I remember last season in a game against the Magic, the Celtics double teamed Nikola Vucevic on the catch. Not Anthony Davis or Joel Embiid. Nikola. Vucevic. In last night’s first quarter, it was Andrew Wiggins.

Both times, it was Kyrie Irving on Wiggins in the post with quick hard doubles from Aron Baynes and both times, Wiggins found the weak side shooter for open threes. It’s possible that Stevens and his staff found a weakness in Wiggins’ game or that they identified Minnesota’s lack of perimeter shooting as a point of emphasis, but they switched gears immediately.

With the bigger Terry Rozier on him, the Celtics played him straight up and forced him to take contested mid-range jumpers or turnarounds in the paint. He cooked them a few times on the low block, but those are the bend-don’t-break looks that Boston is willing to give up. Even if an offensive player has a size or speed advantage on his defender, it’s easier to defend one person vs. five.

Keith Smith: The Celtics offense is regularly lauded as one of the NBA’s most versatile. It isn’t necessarily complex, as it generally revolves around relatively simple actions. Where the offense derives its versatility is by regularly having five players on the floor that can shoot the ball, handle the ball and, most importantly, pass the ball.

To be able to pull off that versatility, your bigs need to be good playmakers. Everyone knows how good Al Horford is as a passer. He’s arguably the best passing big man in the NBA. But the rest of the Boston bigs aren’t too shabby either. Aron Baynes is solid, Greg Monroe is nearly at Horford’s level and Daniel Theis has come a long way since his NBA debut earlier this season. The latter three excel at executing dribble hand-offs that turn into screens, as they use their bodies well. Boston has also built some some secondary actions off those DHO plays, where the big keeps the ball and then finds a cutter working into the paint.

With young athletes working the cutting lanes and along the baseline, Boston regularly steals some hoops other teams don’t get. This happens simply by virtue of having the bigs facilitate the offense from up top. It also allows the Celtics to bring Kyrie Irving off the ball, which opens up the offense for everyone.

This versatility isn’t just a happy circumstance. Rather, it was carefully crafted by Danny Ainge finding players who fit the mold of what Brad Stevens wants and needs to make his offense hum. That is when team building works at its best and we’re seeing it play out nightly with the Celtics.

NBA: Los Angeles Clippers at Boston Celtics David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

Simon Pollock: A responsibility that once belonged to Avery Bradley has now transferred to Jaylen Brown: starting the scoring for the Celtics early in games.

Before Avery Bradley was a Detroit Piston, he was a Celtic worth remembering. For all of his defensive strengths, the undersized two-guard slowly developed into an offensive threat during his 7-year stint with Boston.

By the 2016-2017 season—his last with the team—he was a go-to first look. Scouts and fans will nod with nostalgia when they think about Bradley and his patented jump shot bucket off a curl route.

Bradley really started to make this play count as he extended his range beyond the arc. In his early years in was often an elbow or foul line-extended jumper.

This year Brown has started to step into that role, even with a scorching scorer like Kyrie Irving starting. And while Brown isn’t quite red hot from beyond the arc, his size and athleticism have allowed him to make this play going harder to the rim than Bradley can, for a higher percentage shot.

Brown, like Bradley before him. can also run a version of this play with a dribble hand-off.

It’s encouraging to see the young wing get first looks like this from his teammates. Brown can establish himself as a scoring threat early, spreading thin the defensive awareness of opponents who want to load up on double teams on Irving drives.

One could envision Gordon Hayward getting these looks next year, but for now, Brown has developed into a great first option for the Celtics. He is angling to stay that way in the long term.

In the short-term, the league and its fans will look to Brown’s recovery. He took a nasty fall on his shoulders and neck after a thunderous dunk.

Brown was taken to the hospital for a full evaluation. In the first two hours after the game, the team was not sure if their sophomore wing would make the trip to Boston tonight or tomorrow.

Brown gathered his wits and walked off the court under his own power to a standing ovation from the crowd at the Target Center.