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Celtics show strength in numbers against Nets

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Boston gave the Nets a taste of one of the best passing attacks in the NBA

NBA: Brooklyn Nets at Boston Celtics David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

It took a little while, but the Celtics were able to pull away late from the Nets and capture another Gino Time victory. The team’s 116-95 win over the Nets doesn’t call for any grand declarations nor did any player particularly stick out. What did make an impressive viewing was the sheer strength in numbers that the Celtics possess. Throughout the night, the Celtics sent waves of lineups that had multiple above average NBA players at the Nets that eventually overwhelmed them as their comeback attempt proved fruitless.

Consider this. In the twelve minutes that the starters played together Monday night, they posted a NetRtg of 21.9. The bench was better. The lineup of Gordon Hayward, Terry Rozier, Jaylen Brown, and Daniel Theis played fifteen minutes together with cameos from Kyrie Irving and Jayson Tatum boasted a NetRtg of 45.2 against Brooklyn’s second unit.

The first 20 games of the year were proof that depth without role acceptance wasn’t good enough, but the last 19 games have shown how dangerous it can be when everyone buys in. Since inserting Marcus Smart into the starting lineup, they’re first in the East and third in the NBA in assists per game (27.7), second in true shooting (59.2), and first in net rating (10.5) via NBA Stats.

The biggest jump for the Celtics during this stretch has been their impressive ball movement that have created easy looks for the team. Since the Marcus Smart inclusion with the starters, the Celtics are 2nd in catch-and-shoot points (33.2), 8th in overall passes made (313.3), first in secondary assists (4.4), and first in assist points created (70.1) via NBA Stats. The team has gotten back to making the extra pass and it’s lead to in-rhythm shots for everyone.

Tonight, the Celtics were able to amass 37 assists, making it the fourth straight game the team has gotten 30 or more assists. Eight Celtics finished in double-figures and overall twelve different players were able to score. Stevens believes there’s still another level the team can reach, “if we continue to prioritize playing together, we should get better.”

The Celtics are just about halfway through their season and chances are they’ll still be some hurdles they need to get over, but there’s no denying the team has found their balance and it’s going to come down to consistency in March and April and into the playoffs.