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Malcolm Brogdon drives Celtics to victory

Brogdon willed the Celtics to victory against a stubborn Wizards team.

Washington Wizards v Boston Celtics Photo by Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images

When the Boston Celtics acquired Malcolm Brogdon during the off-season, this was how we all saw things playing out. On the nights when the team’s rotation players are struggling to put a game on ice, Brogdon could step up and will the team to victory. We knew the veteran guard was capable of nights like that, and we knew his presence was precisely what the Celtics were missing in their NBA Finals loss to the Golden State Warriors.

Yet knowing something to be true, or at least potentially true, and seeing it unfold before your eyes, are two very different things. However, against the Washington Wizards on Sunday night, we got our first true glimpse of Brogdon doing Brogdon things, taking over the game for stretches, and putting the Celtics beyond reach after the Wizards refused to be put away.

Before we look at the Georgia native’s performance from that game, let’s take a look at some of his statistics from the young season so far. Averaging 22.8 minutes per night, Brogdon is driving 11.4 times per game, and kicking the rock out of those drives 5.4 times per night, meaning he’s redirecting the rock 47.4% of the time. Couple that with his 56.5% shooting on the drive, and it’s clear that Brogdon has improved the Celtics' potency when penetrating the defense.

Interestingly, the ball sticks in Brogdon’s hands more than any other Celtics player, with his average seconds per touch currently sitting at 4.47 and 4.42 dribbles per touch.

That’s what Brogdon does, though. He patiently sets you up, using screens and re-screens to find his spot, before either driving at the defense to cause a rotation or pulling up for a lightly contested bucket. Furthermore, the fact that 4.47 seconds per touch is leading the Celtics, only goes to show how unselfish the team is playing on the offensive end.

It was that patience and poise that saw Brogdon make a significant impact as the Celtics looked to pull away from the Wizards in the third quarter on Sunday. Not only can the veteran guard hurt you when attacking the lanes, but he’s also a capable shooter, both off the catch and off the dribble, meaning defenses have some tough decisions to make when guarding him.

Take this possession for instance. The Wizards implement a high pick-up point on defense to limit the chances of Brogdon pulling up from deep. A quick rip back screen from Luke Kornet gets Brogdon going downhill, so the Wizards look to take away the rim, Brogdon decides that’s fine and just nails one from mid-range instead. Of course, Boston’s spacing, and other offensive threats all play a part here, as defenders are unwilling to help off their man, but the fact is, no matter what you're giving Brogdon, he’s going to punish you for it.

According to Cleaning The Glass, Brogdon is shooting 40% on his mid-range attempts this season (which is a small sample size of just 20 shots) and is a career 40.2% shooter from that area of the court on his career thus far. So, while giving up the most analytically unfavored shot is the smartest option, there’s still a good chance the 29-year-old is going to drain the look in your face.

Beyond simply scoring, Brogdon’s quick decision-making (processing speed) has allowed the Celtics to continue playing at pace this season. In the above possession, we can see how the veteran instantly enters attack mode after receiving the pass, forcing the defense to foul him. Sometimes, simply applying pressure to the defense is more than enough, because over time, that pressure will begin to form cracks, and that’s when you ramp up your attacks and look to take control of the matchup.

It’s that type of decisiveness that was missing from the Celtics' second unit last season, as the offense often stagnated without Jayson Tatum or Jaylen Brown on the floor. Brogdon brings an air of authority with him, having been a high-level starter in the league for his entire career, and it’s clear that his presence with that second unit is starting to pay dividends.

“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,” Brogdon said after his 23-point night against the Wizards.

Don’t get me wrong. This isn’t the first game where we’ve seen the benefits of having Brogdon coming off the bench, but it’s certainly the first game where his impact has felt like the difference between winning and dropping a game. However, something tells me this will be far from the last time Brogdon puts the second unit on his back, and when the playoffs eventually roll around, his impact is going to be invaluable to a Celtics team that has entered the season with a point to prove.

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