The Boston Celtics improved to 11-2 on Sunday night time with their 102-100 win over the Memphis Grizzlies. It was a bodily affair that noticed each rosters giving every part they’ve obtained. However, the Celtics discovered a strategy to win, regardless of the Grizzlies doing to their finest to pull the sport into the trenches.
These are the kind of video games the Celtics would have misplaced in recent times. There was no easy move. Fouls had been being dished out like sweet at a kindergarten celebration, and no person would have left with out some scratch marks and bruises. Typically, it’s not about enjoying fairly; it’s about digging deep and grinding out a win, which is strictly what the Celtics did.
The Celtics went to a high-tempo offense for the second straight sport and caught to a read-and-react system with only a few designed performs. As a substitute, their execution was extra principal-based: empty corners, double drags, and so on. At instances, that type of offense works properly, however we’ve seen during the last 13 video games that Boston is at their finest when it finds a steadiness between principal-based offense and a few standard-designed actions.
#1 Take a bow, Kristaps Porzingis
From the opening tip, it was clear Joe Mazzulla was trying to function Kristaps Porzingis on the offensive finish. Boston seemed for a number of methods to contain the large man and create mismatches and scoring alternatives at any time when doable.
Porzingis performed each second of the primary quarter, racking up 12 factors, 5 rebounds, and three blocks. All 5 of his baskets got here contained in the paint, forcing the Grizzlies into making errors, giving freely fouls, and collapsing across the bucket.
This was my favourite motion involving Porzingis within the first quarter. The Celtics caught with their “slice” playbook for a baseline out-of-bounds play, utilizing Payton Pritchard as an inverted screener was designed to power a mismatch. Nevertheless, Jaren Jackson Jr. does a great job of navigating the motion and forces Porzingis into a troublesome basket. Both means, it led to 2 factors.
#2 A brand new degree of rim safety
Porzingis ended the sport with 6 blocks. SIX. The Celtics have a brand new degree of rim safety this season, persistently paying dividends. What’s thrilling is that Porzingis blocks don’t simply come as a drop defender. He will get to pictures on the perimeter, rotates over as a helper, and might shut down second-chance performs if he comes up brief on rebound makes an attempt.
Right here’s Porzingis getting a block when rotating over as a assist defender.
And right here he’s, blocking a shot within the nook to ice the sport.
Porzingis at present sits joint-eighth within the NBA for complete blocks, tied with Myles Turner of the Indiana Pacers. Judging by his performances up to now, he’ll doubtless stay a top-10 shot blocker all through the season, which is a defensive dimension the Celtics have lacked all through the Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown period.
#3 Shedding the three-point battle
Since Mazzulla took cost of the roster, what number of instances have you ever checked the field rating and noticed the opposing group obtained extra three-point pictures up than the Celtics did? In accordance with Taylor Snow, the final time the Celtics had a destructive 3-point disparity and received a sport was means again in March 2021 in a win over the Houston Rockets.
The Celtics nonetheless received tonight regardless of 13 fewer 3-point makes an attempt than Memphis.
First time they’ve received with such a destructive 3PA differential since 3/14/21 at Houston.
— Taylor Snow (@taylorcsnow) November 20, 2023
The Celtics are redefining their offensive id. They’re not the roster that jacks up threes and hopes the basketball Gods are on their aspect. They’re creating scoring alternatives throughout the ground and embracing the physicality that comes with extra mid-range and rim-attempts.
Their capability to generate inside offense is a big a part of why Boston was in a position to grind out a win regardless of some tough taking pictures from Brown, Porzingis, and Jrue Vacation — the identical means they survived a 1-for-11 night time from Tatum in opposition to the Philadelphia 76ers.
#4 Mazzulla pulling the Jays and Vacation
We regularly speak about a participant’s progress. We give attention to their enhancements, be it offensively, defensively, or cognitively. But, we hardly ever focus on the elements wherein a coach has improved. Certain, we are saying they’re higher than earlier years, however seldom discover why they’re higher.
For Mazzulla, it could seem he’s simply extra snug in his function. Perhaps it’s having a yr underneath his belt. Perhaps it’s having his personal employees on the bench subsequent to him. Or perhaps it’s his Brazilian JiuJitsu coaching paying off. No matter it’s, we noticed one other evolution in his method on Sunday night time.
With the Celtics struggling for power and affect, Mazzulla boldly determined to tug Tatum, Brown, and Jrue Vacation out of the sport with roughly 7 minutes remaining within the third.
“I didn’t assume we had been enjoying very properly, so I wished to discover a lineup that would sort of go on a run for us,” Mazzulla stated. “First night time of a back-to-back, so I didn’t need the minutes to be too excessive. …I assumed it was a chance to discover a higher rhythm, discover a higher lineup, and look to go on somewhat little bit of a run there.”
With the intention to lead a group to a championship, you’ve obtained to be keen to make powerful calls. It’s important to lead by instance. This additional proves that Mazzulla is evolving as a coach, and I’m right here for it.
#5 Gettin’ nerdy with it: Lower creation
I’ll be trustworthy, it is a time period I take advantage of, not one thing I’ve seen mentioned when watching teaching clinics on YouTube or studying X’s and O’s breakdowns on the interweb. But, I believe it’s an necessary side of an offense, particularly when it’s getting slowed down within the halfcourt.
Put merely, if a reduce results in an alteration within the protection and a scoring alternative is generated due to that, I outline it as reduce creation. I sort of lump reduce and roll creation collectively, too. Listed below are two examples from the Grizzlies sport.
Right here, Al Horford creates a scoring alternative for Payton Pritchard. The nook spacing is somewhat janky, to start with. Horford cuts and drags Bismack Biyombo with him, which creates an open driving lane for Pritchard to assault off the dribble. It helps that Pritchard’s defender is enjoying the driving lane for Tatum and is a step away from Pritchard as he takes his first step, which supplies him the benefit of getting his hips forward of his defender.
On this play, Neemias Queta creates offense through a slip display screen. His roll to the rim attracts three defenders’ consideration, together with Desmond Bane, who was guarding Sam Hauser on the weakside nook. Instantly, a scoring alternative arises, and Hauser drains one other three for the Celtics.
#6 Missed communication
With how a lot success this Celtics group has loved to start the season, it’s simple to neglect that they’re nonetheless gelling as a unit. There are a number of new gamers, and even those who’ve been collectively for a few years are getting accustomed to a brand new system and new roles inside that system.
In opposition to the Grizzlies, there have been just a few performs the place it was clear communication had been misplaced in translation. But, the under clip is the one which stood out to me essentially the most.
Within the above clip, you may see Brown level to the place he desires Hauser to set a display screen on the left aspect of his defender. Hauser flows right into a ghost display screen as a substitute, main each gamers to sort of run into one another as Brown seems to create separation off what ought to have been a Hauser-initiated pick-and-roll.
Hauser might have seen Brown’s gesture and browse it as “ghost display screen to get right here” or 1,000,000 completely different different interpretations. Nothing to fret about in any respect, but it surely’s an commentary I’ve been making lately on the occasional play, and wished to focus on it as one thing to observe.
These items will undoubtedly determine themselves out over the course of the season.
#7 Must tighten up the passing
17. That’s what number of turnovers the Celtics had on the night time. Among the turnovers had been courtesy of Memphis’ stress protection. Some had been making an attempt to get too intelligent with a go. And others had been simply dangerous reads.
Tatum will in all probability get cooked for the under go — and whereas I agree there have been higher methods to execute it, I’m an enormous proponent of basketball and, particularly, the NBA being an leisure business. So, I’m personally comfortable with it.
For me, it’s the turnovers that come from charging into site visitors that grinds my gears. You realize the protection goes to break down. You realize you’re in all probability going to select the ball up. If the offense isn’t set, use an escape dribble and move into an motion.
There are 19 seconds on the shot clock when White drives. Hauser is sinking into the weakside nook however isn’t set. And the remainder of the Celtics are trailing the play. I perceive the upside of early offense however present some persistence and belief within the group’s offensive rules when it is not there.
#8 Eight Turnovers for Tatum
Speaking of turnovers, Tatum completed the sport with 8. That’s nearly half of the group’s complete. As a main ball-handler with a good portion of the group’s creation on his shoulders, Tatum will all the time be susceptible to main the turnover charts. It comes with the territory. Nonetheless, he must tighten issues up, particularly when enjoying in opposition to a stress protection.
In equity, 4 of his 8 turnovers got here through offensive fouls.
I’m not mad at an aggressive Tatum. Not within the slightest. However nonetheless, 8 turnovers…
#9 Gettin’ nerdy with it: Slice Pop
Fast little motion from Al Horford right here. Units a slice display screen for Jayson Tatum on the wing after which pops to the perimeter for a catch-and-shoot three.
Tatum’s reduce off the display screen attracts three defenders, permitting Horford sufficient house and time to get into his taking pictures movement and nail the three. Love the design right here and the way it’s constructed round enjoying off of Tatum’s scoring gravity.
#10 Shedding a battle they normally win
Not solely did the Celtics take fewer threes than the Grizzlies, they misplaced the second-chance level battle. Boston got here into the sport in opposition to Memphis ranked third within the NBA for limiting opponents scoring on second-chance buckets. They had been behind the New York Knicks and Orlando Magic.
The Celtics gave up 21 second-chance factors in opposition to Memphis, inflicting them to fall to fifth within the NBA. Boston’s capability to restrict second-chance scoring alternatives has been an enormous a part of their defensive id to start the season. Hopefully, we don’t start to see a slippage of their second efforts, and this was simply a type of video games the place they obtained out-hustled by a younger group with out a number of members of their beginning rotation.
There’s no relaxation for the depraved. The Celtics will play once more tonight once they face the Charlotte Hornets on the second night time of their back-to-back. Personally, I’ve this down as a lure sport. Charlotte has struggled to start the season, however with the journey and physicality of the Grizzlies sport, this one could possibly be powerful. Hoping to get up tomorrow (being within the UK, I watch video games the next morning) to a blow-out!