1. This was a good win for the Boston Celtics. Anytime you win on a back-to-back after having to travel, it’s a good win. For Boston, who has been a bit uneven to begin the season, it feels like a momentum win.
Of course, this sort of three-point shooting probably won’t ever happen again. The Celtics hit a franchise record 27 triples. But, while the volume of makes may not continue, the percentage should remain fairly stable. Yes, there will be a cold-shooting night or two mixed in. But Boston is continually generating good looks. Both off set plays and off read-and-react principles within the offensive system.
2. Speaking of set plays, Joe Mazzulla clearly has a pretty good mix of them in his coaching bag. Mazzulla’s lengthy college basketball experience has shown up with the Celtics diagramming the game’s first play in each game so far.
In this one, Mazzulla started the game by calling a straight post-up for Marcus Smart. Smart has done a lot of damage out of the post this year, and he gets things going by finding Jaylen Brown to open the scoring:
It’s good to see the first play run to get Brown and Smart going together too. It’s easy to fall into the trap of letting Jayson Tatum do everything, so it’s important to get the other guys involved early. And Brown certainly got it going, as he was hitting everything right from the jump.
This is off an ATO (Mazzulla again called a few timeouts to quell Knicks runs!). Once again, Mazzulla calls upon Marcus Smart, this time in the high post area. Jaylen Brown makes a delayed cut off a false screen. The defenders follow him, which allows Sam Hauser to pop free:
That was one of Hauser’s five three-pointers on the night and one of Smart’s 11 assists. Mazzulla is trusting his guys beyond just Brown and Tatum to get things done when called upon.
3. Not everything can come off a set play though. That’s when you rely on your system principles. One of those principles for the Celtics is the drive-and-kick game. The idea is a simple one: hit the paint and kick it out, If nothing is there, repeat the action.
This play features a couple of nice initial on- and off-ball actions, followed by Marcus Smart hitting the paint before kicking it out to Jaylen Brown for the wide-open three:
Malcolm Brogdon’s primary role with Boston thus far has to been to score off the bench. But Brogdon is an outstanding playmaker too. Here’s a drive-and-kick off a broken set that results in a Sam Hauser triple:
Love the patience from Brown here. He let’s everything develop, including allowing Blake Griffin’s roll to draw the defense just enough to open up Smart:
All nine Celtics who played hit at least one three-pointer, including Noah Vonleh (more coming on Vonleh!) joining the party late off this pitch out from Jayson Tatum:
4. With Al Horford out due to “low back stiffness” (but really load management), and Luke Kornet out due to personal reasons, Joe Mazzulla had to go deeper into his big rotation. Blake Griffin got the start and turned in a perfectly serviceable 15 minutes. Noah Vonleh got the call for the backup minutes at the five and he was excellent in 16 minutes. The other 17 minutes or so went to Grant Williams in small-ball lineups.
Right now, it’s about staying afloat at the five until Rob Williams gets back. Timelord said pregame that he’s doing a lot of on-court work, and the fact that he traveled for the game shows he’s getting closer. But that’s still probably at least a month, if not two, away. If Griffin and Vonleh can play like this, there’s enough to get by with until Rob is back holding down the paint.
5. As stated above, Noah Vonleh was a big part of the rotation in this one. He was terrific in this one. A couple of times he got out of place defensively, but he hustled his way back into the right spots.
Vonleh also gives Boston a presence on the offensive glass while Rob Williams is out. This is good positioning and hard work for the putback:
Timing and positioning are key for tip-ins. Vonleh demonstrated both here:
6. The Celtics have a lot of guys who can attack mismatches off the bounce. Because he’s a knockdown shooter now, Jaylen Brown draws Isaiah Hartenstein way up the floor. Hartenstein is a great rim protector, but he’s not staying with Brown from 30 feet away:
Malcolm Brogdon is both sneaky quick and deceptively strong. If he gets the angle, he’s off to the rim:
7. Jayson Tatum has embraced the passing game now. He’s had some high-level finds this season, including a couple against the Knicks. Sam Hauser knows his job is to flare to the corner. Tatum holds it for one extra beat to really open up Hauser for the triple:
This play shows just how well Tatum is seeing the floor now. This is a very difficult pass, but it’s on-time for another Hauser three:
8. Grant Williams is doing more work off the dribble in this season’s first few weeks than he did in the first few years of his career. When have we ever seen Williams hit a contested off-the-dribble pullup like this?
A few plays later, Williams did a nice job to hit this baseline runner through contact:
That cash register sound you hear is the sound of Williams’ contract this summer getting larger by the day.
9. Boston’s ball movement in this game was outstanding. 30 assists on 47 baskets is a terrific rate. Obviously, the hot shooting helped. But what’s really great is seeing players trust the principles and each other enough to continually make the extra pass.
Marcus Smart could have taken this shot, but he knows Jaylen Brown has it going. Unselfish extra pass here:
Malcolm Brogdon could have gone all the way to the rim here, but he knows Sam Hauser is shooting flames out of his body at this point. Another nice pass here:
Once again, Smart could have stepped right into a jumper here. Instead, he swings it to Blake Griffin for the corner three:
And when your stars are making the extra pass, everyone wants to make the extra pass. Great unselfishness by Jaylen Brown, who was on fire in this game, to give it up to Jayson Tatum for the even better look:
10. Speaking of Jayson Tatum, he put the game away. The Knicks were sort of hanging around and Tatum ended that late in the fourth quarter.
Here, Tatum draws the mismatch and rocks Julius Randle into a sidestep triple:
A few plays later, Tatum doesn’t settle for taking another step-back. He knows he can drive by Randle and Tatum gets right to the rim to essentially finish off New York:
11. The Celtics now head west for a mid-week matchup in Memphis. It’s another good test for Boston. The Grizzlies can attack on offense, behind Ja Morant and Desmond Bane. But the Memphis defense has been bad to open the season. If the Celtics can keep playing the right way, they’ll have a chance to put together a little winning streak here in early-November.