Sunday, the Boston Celtics managed to hold off the recently clinched Orlando Magic 122-119 in a thrilling overtime fashion.
The Boston Celtics came into Sunday’s matchup against the Orlando Magic with a 3-2 bubble record after playing one of their best games on both sides of the floor versus the
It was a far less impressive victory against a very short-staffed Orlando Magic,
a team that’s lost four straight in NBA bubble play.
For those of you who may have missed the action, however, we’re here to fill you in on some of the key takeaways from Sunday night’s loss
1. Marcus Smart at point guard is the winning formula
Care to guess how many points Marcus Smart scored during Friday’s 122-100 win against the
Raptors? If you guessed precisely two points, then you would be right!
Despite his improved shooting this season, as he even leads the entire league in pull up
three-point percentage, Smart has never cared about the points column. Upon entering the
game, in just three minutes of play, Smart gave the Boston Celtics three quick assists and finished the game with nine.
Us basketball fans have been conditioned to think that the shortest guy on the floor always
plays point guard. Enter the era of positionless basketball, where we stop adhering to the status
Smart and Kemba Walker can play together. They are symbiotic, as the Cs can
feature Walker as an off-ball, jitter-bug guard, and Smart as the playmaker.
With his first play in, Smart connected on an alley-oop to Robert Williams. Smart is a very capable threat in this area as he ranks in the 89th percentile as the ball handler in the pick and roll. While Walker struggled against the Magic, seeing Smart lead the offensive ship may give the Celtics an added edge.
2. “Mustache” Gordon Hayward in full attack mode
Right out of the gate, Gordon Hayward was firing on all cylinders. At halftime, he had a very
efficient 18 points on 70 percent shooting coupled with three assists and four rebounds finishing the game with 31 points on 67 percent shooting.
This was Hayward’s second-best scoring performance this season as he also added nine rebounds and five assists to his nightly total.
Watching Hayward come off screens and shoot without hesitation must have been music to Brad
Tonight was one of the few games where all three wings for Boston had a pretty efficient
shooting night. Hayward especially seemed fully engaged but also, in typical Hayward fashion:
calm and collected.
3. The Kemba Walker on defense dilemma
Brad Stevens and the Boston Celtics coaching staff are very skilled at solving the matchup puzzle.
Early on, the Magic were laser-focused on trying to exploit Walker’s height deficiency in the
post, especially with Nikola Vucevic.
At times the shamrocks ran some zone action and also had Walker attempted to double Vucevic.
Vucevic had an impressive game, especially from the post, as he seemed able to get to his spots at will.
While the Celtics are extraordinarily switchable and have always prioritized communication, they
will occasionally slip up, and Walker will be forced to guard in the post.
Going forward, Boston will be facing some unique challenges when trying to scheme around potential future height deficiencies. Kemba Walker surely tries on defense, but the Celtics will need to be laser-focused on making sure his height isn’t as exploitable as it was against the Magic.
4. Ball movement flowing
After coming off one of their best wins against the Toronto Raptors, where their ball movement
looked exquisite, the Celtics picked up on the same note with flashes of 2013 San Antonio
It’s not just passing but passing with a purpose. The shots weren’t falling at the same rate against the Magic, but the team got the shots they wanted throughout the game.
Working the ball around the perimeter has always been a strong suit of this team. However, something about these past two games feels as if the passing seems even crisper.
5. The Traditional Big Issue
While the Cs let Nikola Vucevic get to the line only once during Sunday’s matchup, they struggled with his nimble footwork and strength in the post.
Guarding in the post, especially if the Boston Celtics face off against the 76ers in the first round, will be challenging. Against the Heat, they even struggled to guard a smaller Bam Adebayo as this was a concerning sign.
One would expect the Celtics, similar to how they guarded a few possessions against the Magic on
Sunday, to force a double team with Smart or Walker.
Enes Kanter only saw around eight minutes of action. He was the only player on this Celtic
roster with enough size to match up against the traditional seven-footers physically.
Let’s hope the team can figure out a way around their height issue.