1. Six straight wins. Six straight wins by an average of 20.5 points per game. If you prefer to widen the sample a touch, it’s eight wins in the last nine games by an average of 25.6 points per game.
Yes, the Boston Celtics are beating bad teams. But if you dismiss their wins as unremarkable because of the opponent, you are missing two key factors.
First, the Celtics were regularly losing to bad teams earlier in this season. Sometimes in embarrassing fashion, lest we forget the Minnesota loss.
They’ve reversed that now.
Second, but no less important, Boston isn’t just beating these bad teams. They are destroying them. These games haven’t been close after halftime for the most part, minus a misstep here or there from the deep reserves.
Lastly, wins are wins. When you are trying to make up ground after a poor start, you take them when you get them, how you get them and over whoever you get them over.
2. A big part of the Celtics offensive resurgence is a return to health. But the Celtics are also moving the ball and allowing Al Horford to be a regular part of the flow.
Playing two bigs often means Horford or Robert Williams will have an advantage inside. In this game, Horford did some early work in the paint. This is a good find by Jaylen Brown to go over the top to Horford at the basket:
This post-up came after a five-pass possession which resulted in Horford pinning the smaller defender on his back for the jump-hook:
3. Beyond the scoring, Al Horford has been heavily involved as a facilitator. This is a fun play. Dennis Schroder holds his screen until the defender goes over the top, then Schroder is off on the backdoor cut. Having three bigs (Horford and both Williamses) who can make this pass really opens up the Boston offense:
You want to beat a zone? Get a playmaker in the middle of it. Boston is blessed to have Horford and Jayson Tatum who have the size to see over the top of the defense to work as zone-breakers. Horford does that here to find Rob Williams for the easy dunk:
4. Jaylen Brown didn’t bother with his jumper in this one. He was focused at getting the ball inside from the tip. And Brown wasn’t forcing shots either. This is a nice dish to Rob Williams for the layup:
If Brown gets a defender on his back or hip, he’s gone. This is a good cut for a simple floater in the lane:
Brown could have shot this over Patty Mills. He’s got the size. But why force a shot when you can drive and dish instead?
5. The Celtics got out to a 28-2 lead. The Nets made a run to cut the lead down to 12, but they never really threatened. And Boston never trailed. This was a beating from the start against an undermanned team. So much so, that none of the Boston starters saw the floor in the fourth quarter.
6. So much focus has been on his three-point shooting, which has been excellent, that we forget Grant Williams can score inside. This is really patient bully-ball from Williams to get to his spot for an easy bucket:
7. The Celtics had 32 assists on 50 baskets. That ratio was even tighter before things got loose in extended garbage time. Move the ball like this for wide-open shots from your best players and you’re not going to lose very often:
8. The Celtics had some fun at the Nets expense late in the game. We don’t talk about Bruno though:
9. We aren’t calling a later-in-career three-point shooting emergence for Enes Freedom, a la Aron Baynes (get well soon All of Australia!), but if it happens…
10. Boston now has two days off before they play Denver Nuggets on Friday night. That home contest will offer a stiffer challenge than a lot of the recent competition.
But really, all eyes the next two days are on the trade deadline. Have the Celtics done enough to convince ownership to invest in this group? The standings in the Eastern Conference are really tight and the Celtics very much have a “Why not us?” vibe right now.
Stay tuned to CelticsBlog for all the coverage and fallout from Brad Stevens’ first trade deadline!