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Boston’s balance beats ‘Bron and 9 other takeaways from Celtics/Lakers

Six players in double-digits and points and all five starters had at least five assists for the Cs.

NBA: Boston Celtics at Los Angeles Lakers Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

1. The Celtics win over the Lakers showed just how good Boston can be when they play together. The team racked up 32 assists on 48 baskets. The really impressive part is that all five Boston starters had at least four assists. Six Celtics also scored in double-figures. During the competitive portion of the game, all nine players who played scored between six and 30 points. That’s balance.

2. It was a struggle for Jayson Tatum to get much going as a scorer, and his normally good defense was off as well. The good thing is that Tatum contributed in other ways. He had five assists, one off his career-high, and grabbed five rebounds. Finding ways to impact the game without scoring is a sign of growth for the newly turned 21-year old.

3. Boston played through Al Horford early the game, and got great results. He had his typically good all-around night with 10 points, eight rebounds and four assists in just under 28 minutes. The Lakers had no answer for him. If he got a smaller or weaker defender on him, Horford went inside. When matched up with a longer defender, Horford worked the pick and pop game. Just another quietly efficient night.

4. The strong road trip continued for Gordon Hayward. He scored 15 points on 6-of-8 shooting. Hayward’s confidence is as high as it has been all season. You can tell how good he’s feeling on plays like this. He gets a rookie big man, Johnathan Williams, on a switch. Hayward backs it out to attack Williams with a head of steam. Then he stops on a dime and knocks down a fallaway in the paint. These are the kinds of plays Hayward was making right before the All-Star break and has made throughout this west coast swing.

5. The Celtics were sloppy with the ball in the first half, as they coughed it up eight times. Most of the turnovers were unforced as well. When they cleaned up the ballhandling in the second half, Boston was able to stretch the lead to as large as 18 points.

6. When Kyrie Irving gets the ball on the move in the open floor, there is little the opponent can do to stop him. This year, Irving is looking to pass the ball more in these situations as well. On this play, Marcus Morris sprints the floor and Irving, after some nifty dribbling, whips Morris a lefty pass for the finish.

7. Marcus Smart is now shooting a career-best 37.1 percent from behind the arc. That’s not just a good number for Smart, but a good number period. It’s gotten to the point where Boston is now looking for Smart when he’s hot. He knocked down three triples in the first two minutes of the second half, as Boston basically put the game away. We’ve long said about Smart “If only he could shoot it better…” and now we’re seeing the results.

8. It was a good win for the Celtics, as they had a business-like approach in taking care of a weaker opponent. Yet, one troubling sign for the team’s otherwise rock-solid defense keeps creeping up: transition defense. Boston again allowed a large number of leak-out baskets. In addition, they twice allowed the Lakers to get run-outs after the Celtics scored. The second one drew an immediate timeout from Brad Stevens. Look for a subtle adjustment to the defense to account for this, probably after the team has a couple of days off when they return home to Boston.

9. It’s Kyrie Irving time! Here Smart finds Irving for a really fun finish on the break. Traditionalists (like my dad!) will say it’s too much mustard on the hot dog, but this was just fun. It’s been a while since Boston has had a player who can finish like this.

10. Then, Irving did this in transition as the Celtics put the game away. He was full-on in his Uncle Drew bag of tricks. Sometimes you get the feeling he makes moves like this just to see if he can. And he did against the Lakers.

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