On Wednesday night, the Celtics registered their 10th game with thirty or more assists. Like Boston’s 115-101 drubbing of the Hornets, nine of them resulted them in wins with their only loss coming on Opening Night in a double overtime loss to the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden.
Charlotte isn’t exactly a defensive juggernaut. They’re currently 22nd in defensive efficiency. In fact, Boston had three of those 30+ assist games against the Hornets, but don’t be fooled. As good as the Celtics defense has been during this impressive stretch in 2022, their offense has improved just as much, if not more.
The isolation plays have become less frequent. Assists have gone up consistently from November (21.9 per game) to March (28.8 per game). That’s translated to a nearly 15-point turnaround in offensive efficiency over that same span.
On a night when Marcus Smart and Derrick White combined for seventeen assists and just one turnover, head coach Ime Udoka spoke glowingly of how well the Celtics are moving the ball.
“We’re passing up good shots to get great ones for others. That’s what it’s going to take going forward. You can’t rely on one guy, two guys to score all the points,” Udoka said. “We want to have an unselfish team that plays a good, appealing brand of basketball and I think we are doing that. We’re making the extra pass and getting guys wide open looks. That’s all you can ask for.”
Even in a game when Jayson Tatum went for 44 points on 16-for-24 from the field including 6-for-9 from behind the arc, the fluidity of the offense was on full display at The Spectrum Center.
These aren’t exactly ISO’s for Brown and Tatum, but they’re the playmakers here. It’s such a luxury for Udoka to have two strong penetrators playing off each other and making quick, decisive moves above the break. If any defender cheats off their man, they become available for the kick out or in this case, the dump pass to the dunker spot for Robert Williams.
That ball movement pic.twitter.com/WavZhpc9FA— Celtics on NBC Sports Boston (@NBCSCeltics) March 10, 2022
This is Spursian. The way the ball pings from outside to inside the paint and left to right to left again. By the time Grant Williams shoots the open 3, all five Hornets have a foot in the paint.
Boston didn’t shoot particularly well in this game. A 12-for-37 night from behind the arc might have sunk the Celtics in November and December. They also shot just 14 free throws. But they took care of the ball with just eleven turnovers and made right play after right play.