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Team play and Ime Udoka’s adjustments key a win: 10 Takeaways from Celtics-Magic

Boston used a big second half to coast to a road win in Orlando

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

1. After some up-and-down play to open the year, Jaylen Brown is showing signs of being a consistent scoring weapon again. In his last three games, Brown has scored 34, 28 and 28 points. Against the Magic, Brown was on from the jump. This was the Celtics first basket from the game. Brown does a nice job getting to one of his pet shots with the fallaway in the paint:

This one came when Boston was scuffling a little bit. Orlando had built a nine-point lead and the Celtics were having trouble getting buckets. Brown works on Wendell Carter Jr here. This is good work to use the dribble to set up the big man. Brown gets Carter backpedaling and then hits him with the pullup:

2. Jayson Tatum shot just 4-of-16 from the field. Tatum has always been a slow-starter, but this is an extreme. He’s hit just 38.3% overall and 26.2% from behind the arc. Because his volume of shots remains high, Tatum’s been a fairly damaging offensive player to this point.

Now, his history says that eventually he’ll bust out of this slump. Probably with a string of good games where he’s making everything. Until that comes, we’ll be wondering where shots like this are in Tatum’s arsenal at the moment:

3. While Tatum figures things out, plays like this need to go. Before this clip starts, the Celtics had the ball popping around. Tatum caught it on the wing against Carter and held it for a few seconds, then he started his move. A bunch of dribbles later, Tatum takes a wild fling towards the rim as the shot-clock runs out:

Plays like that are the ones Marcus Smart is talking about when he says that Tatum and Jaylen Brown don’t want to pass. Smart is not criticizing them for shooting. His complaints lie in the Celtic stars making life hard on themselves and not allowing their teammates to set them up for easier looks.

4. This kind of play is what Marcus Smart is looking for. Before the clip started, Boston had run a DHO action between Robert Williams and Jaylen Brown. Brown ended up kicking it to Payton Pritchard.

As the clip starts, Pritchard drives into the paint against the bigger defender. He pitches the ball out to Smart, who quickly swings it to Jayson Tatum. Tatum then is able to attack off the catch against a scrambled defense for a layup:

That’s good basketball. All five players touch the ball and the ball hit the paint twice. If Smart was really about scoring himself, he would have caught the kick-out from Pritchard and gotten off his own shot. Instead, Smart immediately moved it to Tatum for an easier bucket. That’s what it’s all about.

5. Speaking of Marcus Smart…his chemistry with Robert Williams has gotten pretty good. A lot of Celtics like throwing lobs to Williams (Who wouldn’t?!?), but they get a little ambitious with it sometimes. Smart has figured out where to put the ball that only Williams can get it.

This play starts with a nice skip pass from Jayson Tatum. Smart then goes right away against the rotating defense. As he draws the big, that opens up Williams at the rim:

This is a good set to open the scoring in the second half. Smart comes off a double-screen from the two bigs. Al Horford pops, which pulls Wendell Carter Jr. with him. Cole Anthony is trailing after getting picked off, so Mo Bamba has to stay with Smart. Smart does a nice job of keeping the ball for one extra dribble. That allows Williams to roll free and easy to the rim while Bamba is in no-man’s land:

6. Beyond finishing off lobs, we’ve seen Robert Williams start to round out his offensive game by adding a face-up jumper from about 12-15 feet. A one-dribble, late-clock, step-back? That’s a new one!

7. Al Horford has been so good for the Celtics to open this season. He’s making a ton of plays on both ends. His transformation into prime Dikembe Mutombo has been remarkable:

Bonus: Horford doesn’t swat the shot into the seats. He controls it. Then, he leads the break and that helps Marcus Smart get the floater before Orlando can set their defense.

8. Here’s Al Horford doing it again on both ends. First, he blocks Wendell Carter Jr at the rim. Then he’s out leading the break and dimes up Josh Richardson for the layup:

9. Let’s close with another look at some good ball movement. Jayson Tatum gives it up to Dennis Schroder. Schroder attacks the paint and drops it off to Al Horford. Horford immediately hits Romeo Langford in the corner for the open three-pointer:

10. A win over the Orlando Magic isn’t going to fix everything. But the Boston Celtics needed it and they did a lot of good stuff in this game.

On offense, Boston had 24 assists on 33 baskets. That’s really good.

On defense, the Magic destroyed the Celtics in the first quarter with 18 points in the paint. Ime Udoka switched up coverages, and tweaked his rotation some. From that point forward, Orlando scored just 14 points in the paint.

Ball and player movement, defensive adjustments and rotation changes are three things the Celtics have lacked to open the year. It was good to see they can do those things.

Now, it’s off to Miami for a back-to-back. The Heat are off to a terrific start and are one of the best teams in the NBA. Boston got a much-needed victory in Orlando. Can they now get the long-awaited statement victory in Miami?

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