It marked the first time this season that the Celtics allowed fewer than 100 points in a game, and their offense was still flowing, too. And while Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown led the way with a combined 47 points, Malcolm Brogdon spearheaded Boston’s second unit with a masterful performance.
Marcus Smart praised Brogdon after the game as a stabilizing force and a leader.
“Stability. You know, you’ve got a guy who’s been doing this, who knows how to play the game. Coming in and taking that role and that leadership role in the second unit to really get them going.”
Smart: “We’ve got some young guys experience wise in that second unit, so to have somebody like Malcolm to come in the way he does, it makes it a little easier for them.”— Celtics on CLNS (@CelticsCLNS) October 31, 2022
⚡️@betonline_ag @calm @AthleticGreens pic.twitter.com/RCpDnyUeCo
Brogdon ended the night with 23 points, two rebounds, and four assists on 6-of-12 shooting from the field and 3-of-5 shooting from three-point range. He accomplished all of that in just 23:19 minutes of court time, as he, Grant Williams, and Sam Hauser all played over 20 minutes off the pine.
Smart also credited Brogdon with corralling the younger guys into place. The Celtics’ bench is full of a lot of inexperienced players, and as the lone veteran, Brogdon is left to lead them.
“We’ve got some young guys experience-wise in that second unit, so to have somebody like Malcolm to come in the way he does, it makes it a little easier for them, they feel comfortable, and that’s key. Our bench is something that we’re going to need this year, and they’re going to help us win a lot of games. So, to have a guy like Malcolm doing what he’s doing, and then the rest of those guys tagging along with him, is key.”
Williams (23), Sam Hauser (24), and Luke Kornet (27) received the bulk of the bench minutes against Washington, and none have nearly as much experience as Brogdon does in the league. He’s been in the NBA since the 2016-17 season and played for three different clubs in various roles.
With him manning the ship at the point guard position, the Celtics bench has a calming presence around to guide them - a presence they were sorely missing in the postseason last year.
In a full Batman costume (and the voice to match), Williams commented on Brogdon’s ability to keep the squad locked in.
“He does a phenomenal job making sure that the entire team is locked in. And for us, in order for us to be special, we have to stay locked in at all hours - night in and night out.”
After he joined the team this summer, many speculated whether or not he would replace Smart in the starting group, but it was quickly revealed that he would transition into a sixth-man role - something he hadn’t done since the 2017-18 season.
And the effects have been clear as day.
"I wanted to put an emphasis on getting down and getting us easy shots"— Celtics on NBC Sports Boston (@NBCSCeltics) October 31, 2022
Malcolm Brogdon on coming off the bench
Presented by: New England Ford Dealers pic.twitter.com/ywJ4cw6scX
So far this season, Boston’s bench unit ranks second in field goal percentage (50.4%), first in three-point percentage (51.5%), and first in free-throw percentage (84.2%). He’s running the most efficient bench unit in the NBA, and that’s because he believes that they need to believe that they’re a starting-caliber group.
“Absolutely. Like I said, I’ve been starting my whole career, so to go to the bench, I want to bring that energy to the bench. I want us to believe we’re a starting group as well. And when we’re in there, we play like starters. We play with that energy. We play with that confidence every night as soon as we step on the floor. And that’s what we’ve been doing for the majority of the season.”