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A flawed dance: inside the trial and error of the Irving and Horford read-and-react game

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Kyrie Irving and Al Horford were brilliant last night, but their costly turnovers in the clutch were a big blow down the stretch.

NBA: Boston Celtics at Orlando Magic Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

In a thrilling 115-111 loss to the Warriors, the Celtics reinforced things they know about themselves while showing themselves that despite the slow start, this roster can compete with anybody. The results didn’t work in their favor, and that was a result of many things such as unfortunate bounces and mental errors that aided the Warriors in beating them. One of the most unexpected drawbacks was the Kyrie Irving and Al Horford “read and react” offense that had some rough results down the stretch.

Turnovers

The Irving-Horford duo creates one of the most deadly two-man games in the league. It pairs the elite offensive guard with the versatile passing big who can stretch the floor. You switch, your big is on island with Irving. You sell out on Irving? Horford punishes you with his ability to shoot or attack the basket.

However, a big part of the duo’s dance is the ability to read each other, and last night their timing was a bit off. Overall, the tandem combined for 9 of the teams 14 turnovers and 5 of them came in the 4th quarter.

To be fair, it wasn’t all their fault. This is a good read here that works on just about anyone outside of Draymond Green:

Unfortunately, most of the plays were a result of iffy miscommunications and bad reads like that. Here, it appears Irving was expecting the Warriors to switch, but Thompson runs at him leaving the kickback to Horford wide open, but he had already got into his bag and lost the ball.

Then there were the simple reads like this off-target pass by Irving that was easily swatted by Cousins.

Horford, who lead the team with 5 turnovers was quick to take ownership, “I had a couple turnovers there with miscommunication and things like that where I have to be more solid with the ball. Against that type of team you can’t make mistakes.”

However, down the stretch the main culprit seemed to be Irving.

For example, the play below will be credited as a turnover for Horford, but in reality this was on Irving. He got Cousins on a switch and rather than stepping out and bringing him to the perimeter (like Horford thought he was going to do), he re-cut right into traffic.

Things like this happen. These are read and react plays that the duo make simply by reading each other and the defense and more times than not, they’re reading the same thing. For the most part, it worked well with the two combining for 54 points, 19 rebounds, and 13 assists. They were by far the Celtics most consistent offensive weapons with their ability to leverage each other’s gravity to create easy looks for each other:

All in all, tonight was encouraging on many fronts. Against a fully healthy and locked in Warriors team, the Celtics went blow-for-blow with them even without any real contribution from Gordon Hayward and multiple droughts throughout the game. One thing that can’t happen for the team is their two best players racking up costly turnovers down the stretch. Their contributions far outweighed their flawed night, but in a game against the best team in the league, anything short of perfection just isn’t going to cut it.