Despite the recently ended 16-game winning streak, the Celtics have not been a good offensive team. Their defense is the talk of the town, while their offense has been just good enough to get by. But last night, the Celtics fixed some of the problems that had been ailing them over the past few games. Boston got off to a fast start, got back to moving the ball, and were able to get open shots that actually dropped. It also didn’t hurt that they played the Magic, a team they have dominated at home in recent times.
The Celtics have won their 14th consecutive home game against the Magic dating back to Jan. 17, 2011
— Celtics Stats (@celtics_stats) November 25, 2017
Celtics Explode out of the Gates
Toward the end of the winning streak, the Celtics were getting off to horrible offensive starts. They had to dig themselves out of giant deficits, mainly because they weren’t playing efficient offense and weren’t knocking down shots. Back on the TD Garden floor against Orlando, the Celtics had no trouble getting the offense going. The C’s shot 68.2 percent from the field in the first quarter and hit 7-of-12 threes. The shooting barely cooled off in the second quarter and the Celtics hung 73 points on Orlando, a season-high for any half. The game was over at halftime, and this time it was because of a high powered offense, not a stifling defense.
Brad Stevens has always preached ball movement on the offensive end. The Celtics have always been near the top of the league in assists and passes per game. In the past, Boston needed that ball movement to be put the ball in the hoop. Even then, their lack of top-tier talent lead to some ugly offensive basketball. With offensive experts like Kyrie Irving and Jayson Tatum, the Celtics can sometimes get away with less ball movement and just rely on the isolation games of such advanced scorers. But that doesn’t lead to an efficient offense. We got a glimpse against Orlando of what the Celtics can be when they move the ball and get back to the style of play in which a Brad Stevens’ coached team excels.
Al Horford, a Key to the Offense
Stevens may have found something in the way they played in the first quarter against the Magic. The offense ran through Al Horford to start the game, and that generated open looks and ball movement. Horford had seven (SEVEN!!!) assists in the first quarter and really got everyone in a groove early on. Horford finished with just five points, but his 10 assists were a team-high by a mile. Horford is a smart, capable passer. He makes the correct reads more often than not and finds the scorer. It may behoove Stevens to make more of an effort to allow the offense to run through Horford early in games to increase ball movement and avoid offensive droughts.
Terry Rozier Leads an Energized Celtics Bench
As the old NBA idiom goes, role players and rookies always play better at home. Tatum has proved that he plays well anywhere, but the Celtics bench had been a problem on the recent road trip. The Celtics’ bench ranks 22nd in scoring (29.7pts/game) on some pretty horrendous shooting. They got just 22.3 points per game over the last three away games. Boston needs production from their bench, and Rozier stepped up against Orlando. A career-high 23 points on 8-11 shooting led the Celtics bench. You can’t expect 20+ points off the bench from players like Rozier and Marcus Smart, but they will need to be able to bridge the gap and give the starters a break without giving away leads or losing ground.
Jaylen Brown Is Playing like a Man Possessed
The night after losing his best friend, Jaylen Brown had a career night against the Golden State Warriors. Since that game, Brown has been the second best player on the Celtics and has taken his offensive game to another level. Since the passing of his friend, Brown is averaging 19.6 points on 53 percent shooting from the field and 52 percent shooting from beyond the arc. The shooting numbers aren’t sustainable, but Brown is playing with a different level of focus and a high level of confidence. This Celtics team needs a confident Jaylen Brown, and they have been getting it.
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