Celtics Wings Getting More Creative in Feeding Off Each Other

Jaylen Brown on Friday night dished out what may have been the most impressive pass of his young career.

Following a missed shot by Toronto midway through the third quarter of an eventual 122-100 blowout win, the Celtics offense began moving up-court in transition. Brown, who was dribbling the ball up the left sideline, spotted Gordon Hayward streaking up the right side of the court, so he went for the gold. Before reaching the logo at center court, Brown cocked back his right arm and fired a missile of a cross-court bounce-pass, which threaded in between four Raptors defenders and straight into the hands of Hayward, who caught the ball midstride before laying it in for an easy bucket.

“I thought it was a great pass by Jaylen,” Hayward reflected Saturday afternoon following practice. “I was just running the floor trying to get something easy. He made a great pass, I caught it and finished it.”

While it may have been the greatest dish we’ve seen out of Brown, it was not an anomaly. The 23-year-old wing has displayed strong playmaking skills throughout the season, especially during his time inside the bubble. Just two nights prior to his magnificent skip-pass, Brown also dished out a magical no-look pass to Daniel Theis that would’ve made David Blaine do a double-take.

Playmaking wings are a hot commodity in the NBA, and what’s special about the Celtics is that they are loaded with them. Along with Brown, they’ve got an emerging facilitator in Jayson Tatum and they’ve also got one of the league’s elite playmaking wings in Hayward.

Those three are often on the court together, and when they are, the Celtics outscore their opposition by 8.5 points per 100 possessions. That number should only continue to improve as they all continue to learn how to feed off of one another.

“I think we’re all working on that as far as just making the right read, the right pass,” said Hayward. “I think the more we move the ball, the more we make the right read, the right pass, the more open shots we’re going to get, the more open layups, the more open attacks, the more free throws, all that stuff. It’s just hard to defend us when we cut, move and pass.”

As Tatum continues to improve as a scorer, his passing ability also becomes more important. That’s because the more points he puts on the board, the more opposing defense are going to pay attention to him, which means he’ll often have to make a quick decision as soon as the opposition doubles him up.

"I’m drawing a lot of attention on isos and especially on the pick and roll,” Tatum said after Friday night’s win. “[Opposing defenses] are blitzing a lot, or at least showing up to help, up to touch, and the guy in the slot, they’ve got to cut and just make the pass to the guy that’s open. And we did that a lot tonight. Guys got some easy open looks and I think that opened the game up for us.”

Getting rid of the ball in those situations is also a way to avoid offensive stagnancy. Brad Stevens noted how the team is at its best when the ball is moving from player to player without much too much iso-ball.

“It’s just important to us generally,” Stevens said in regard to ball movement. “I think the biggest thing is when the ball doesn’t stick, we’re pretty good. So we really had a large emphasis on that, not only [Friday night], but [Wednesday] night as well (against the Brooklyn Nets). And we’ve got to keep sharing it and keep making plays for others. Our players are really good and they’re going to draw a lot of help. So when they do, it’s just a matter of making the right read and doing that over and over.”

Tatum agreed that he and his teammates need to continue to place an emphasis on consistent ball movement.

“I think that’s who we should be,” he said after his team dished out 27 assists against the Raptors. “We’ve got so many talented guys on this team, especially on the offensive end. When we move the ball like that, I think we’re really, really hard to guard.”

Brown’s pass was a perfect example of that. He saw an opportunity in transition, had confidence in his playmaking ability, and seized the moment.

“I think we can be at our very best when we get stops and we can run like that,” Hayward said in reference to that play. “We have so many people that can bring the ball up the floor, it’s really dangerous when we get in transition. And then it’s fun, too. It’s fun getting layups, getting dunks and getting open 3s.”


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