Heading into Friday’s matchup with the Washington Wizards, Brad Stevens hadn’t been shy about experimenting with lineup combinations up and down the roster in hopes of finding some offensive consistency. Glimpses of progress would pop up in stretches of games, but slow starts, sloppy play and subpar shooting had led to an ugly three-game losing streak.
Facing a dynamic Washington backcourt of Bradley Beal and John Wall, Stevens knew it would be a challenge to contain both, especially without the services of Marcus Smart (toe). Thus, he made a crucial decision that set the tone for Boston’s dominating 118-98 win over the Wizards.
“We haven’t played with incredible pace,’’ Stevens said after the win. “We haven’t played slow by any means, versus the league standards – I think we’re ranked pretty highly in [pace] rate. But, but just not moving the ball and getting it side to side enough, we made a decision to play pretty skilled. We’ll keep doing that probably.’’
Under the adjusted philosophy, Stevens opted to go with more playing time for skilled bigs like Kelly Olynyk (season-high 19 points) and Jonas Jerebko (seven rebounds in 20 minutes) ahead of more traditional bigs such as David Lee and Tyler Zeller.
The versatile Evan Turner thrived in a game-high 30 minutes with the lineup change and spoke about what the benefit is of Stevens prioritizing skill over size on the floor.
“It’s a basketball game,’’ Turner said, “So the more people you can have out there that can shoot, dribble or pass, the easier it may be, the harder it is to guard. As opposed to you might have people out there that might not be able to do so many different things. So it definitely helped us.’’
The numbers speak for themselves in Boston’s performance. The 72 first-half points were the most the team scored in a half since January 2010 and was the second highest total in a half for a team this season.
Of course, having outside shots go down for the first time this year helped the cause as well.
“I’d say we were due,’’ Stevens said of the team’s hot shooting. “It was nice to see the ball go in the net. Multiple guys played well and shot well. And a couple of those guys we need to score, for us to be a good team.’’
It was only one night, but the stellar performance may have helped Stevens get a little bit closer to finding the rotation that is the best fit for this crowded roster. Now, it will be up to the skilled bigs like Olynyk, Jerebko, and Jared Sullinger to show the consistency Stevens wants.
Photos: When they tore down the old Boston Garden