BOSTON – When 13 of your 16 players dish out an assist during your preseason opener, you know you’re doing something right on offense.
The Boston Celtics, who accomplished such a feat Sunday night, are happy with the way their offense performed during a win over the Hornets. They just aren’t content.
“I think it’s coming together nicely,” Gordon Hayward said of the ball movement. But he also made sure to point out, “We had a lot of passes to the other team, too, so we’ve gotta cut those down.”
In fact, Boston committed just as many turnovers, 23, as it dished out assists. That’s not the type of ratio the C’s want to showcase throughout the regular season.
Sunday, however, was also the team’s first real opportunity to play against another team. There’s no doubt that the turnovers will be cut down as the players gain familiarity with one another. (For reference, the team hasn’t averaged more than 14.0 turnovers per game during any of the last five seasons.)
So for now, let’s concentrate on the positive side of these numbers: the assists. As has already been mentioned, 13 of the 16 Celtics who appeared in Sunday’s game tallied at least one assist. Six of those players dished out two or more assists, led by Kemba Walker's four. Hayward, who recorded three himself, said these helpers were the byproduct of making the correct reads.
“When our offense is really flowing, the right passes will be there,” he said. “So it’s just a matter of just kind of reading the defense and making the right plays.”
Brad Stevens has been preaching this concept at a high level since the start of training camp. He wants the ball to move within his offense to create driving opportunities. Then, once those his players begin their downhill drives, it’s on them to read, react and execute.
“We’re not emphasizing anything but making the right play. I can’t say that enough,” Stevens said Tuesday afternoon. “So if there’s an inside-out 3, you can’t pass it up, right? If there is a long close-out and we drive it and they all sink to the paint, we have to kick it out. If they don’t come to the paint, we’ve got to try to get to the rim or get to the foul line. Just make the right play over and over.”
The Celtics regularly did so against the Hornets, admittedly with a few hiccups sprinkled in. A game’s worth of strong reads and passes resulted in nearly every player contributing to the team’s 23 total assists. That’s the definition of team offense.
Hayward believes the early success of the offense, buoyed by ball movement, is a result of the players committing themselves to the system well before training camp arrived.
“I think that a lot of the guys working in the summer had a good head-start on some of the stuff we were doing, and guys really put in the effort this offseason,” he said. “You can tell.”
It surely was evident during the preseason opener.
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