In the Boston Celtics win over the Orlando Magic, the team in green tied their season-high for team assists with 32. Ball movement was on full display as four players had at least five assists, showing a true team effort and not a one-man show breaking down the defense.
Head coach Brad Stevens mentioned their ball movement in the postgame press conference. With 32 assists on 45 baskets, it was hard to ignore.
“What we’ve been talking to the team [about] is, just make the right play over and over. But that’s been ever since Day One. I think over the last three games, we’ve been better.”
The numbers certainly back up Stevens’ claim. Over those last three (all victories, by the way), the Celtics put up 29, 27 and 32 assists. The last time they hit 27 helpers prior to that: January 30th against the Golden State Warriors. Playmaking numbers like assists are entirely dependent on shots going in and the team making the most of their opportunities. Therefore, offensive analysis from a coaching perspective can’t be entirely based on results; it’s Stevens’ job to analyze the process that leads to those shots.
What I’ve noticed lately is an increase in re-penetration, the concept by which the ball gets driven into the lane multiple times on the same possession. Too often we think of drive-and-kick as being the vehicle that generates an open perimeter shot. But drive-and-kicks can also create easier opportunities to take it to the hoop.
With so many great drivers, passers and scoring threats in the backcourt, the Celtics should thrive in this area. Since all of them shoot the ball well, it’s an added degree of difficulty on the defense to contain them. Lately, it seems like the C’s have struck the right balance.
Remember, everything needs to be in moderation. Kickouts still need to generate 3-point attempts and simple jumpers. If they don’t and every player on the C’s just tries to drive it back down the defense’s throat, they’ll stop closing out entirely. Balance is the name of the game.
The Celtics are playing their best basketball at the right time of the year. With only a few more tune ups before the post season and the 3-seed locked in, we can hope that these final seeding games keep the offense sharp and ready for the first round of the playoffs.