The Celtics offense is a serious threat: 5 takeaways vs. Wizards

"[When] the offense is clicking as well as playing high-level defense, you’re going to get these blowout results."

Celtics Wizards
Boston Celtics guard Jaylen Brown shoots at the basket in the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Washington Wizards. AP Photo/Steven Senne

For the Celtics, Sunday’s win over the Wizards — a 144-102 beatdown the likes of which the Wizards haven’t experienced since 2017 — was a culmination.

The build started early in the year, when the Celtics began buying into and executing Ime Udoka’s defensive principles. It continued as the defensive principles manifested in the league’s top defense, which was once so dominant, the Celtics were allowing fewer than 96 points per 100 possessions — a staggering total.

And now, as the buy-in continues, the Celtics are building another identity: Over the last few weeks, they are one of the best offenses in the NBA.


“The offensive habits were harder to change,” Ime Udoka said after Sunday’s win. “But guys understanding who they are and that their teammates rely on them for those shots, and I think that just takes a little bit of time to continue to understand that you don’t have to make the play over two or three guys, trust your teammates, and that’ll open everything up for you. …

“Now [when] the offense is clicking as well as playing high-level defense, you’re going to get these blowout results.”

The Celtics had the league’s second-best net rating in January due to their stifling, league-best 102.9 defensive rating. In February, their defensive dominance continued at 101.4 and they claimed the best net rating in the NBA.

In March, the defense was still solid, but it placed second to the Grizzlies. Instead, the Celtics maintained the top net rating in the NBA due to their offensive rating — a healthy 120.9, second only to the Hornets.

The Celtics have been helping themselves significantly — over their last 15 games, even with a couple of high-turnover outings, they have an elite assist-to-turnover ratio of 30.7 to 12.3. Both numbers will go in the right direction after Sunday’s game — the Celtics posted a season-high 39 assists and seven turnovers.


Meanwhile, both Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown seem to be figuring out how they can beat opponents into the pavement. Brown scored 32 and dished out five assists, while Tatum posted 22 points and seven assists. Neither player reached the 30-minute plateau.

“It’s not just Jayson that’s doubled,” Udoka said. “[Brown] is going to see crowds every night. When you’re scoring 24, 25 points a game, teams are going to load up on you as well and so he’s improved in that area vastly.”

Other takeaways

2. Grant Williams has been one of the league’s best 3-point shooters this season, particularly from the corners, but he slumped in recent weeks — 32.6 percent from deep in the Celtics’ last 15 games.

He broke out of that slump on Sunday, pouring in 16 points on 4-for-5 shooting from 3-point range.

“One of those things where, as a shooter, as a guy that this is my first time really going through it as much as I have this year,” Williams said. “So it’s just a matter of keep being confident, letting those things fly.”

The Celtics’ stars need floor spacing from the team’s role players. White continued to improve as well, going 3-for-3 from 3-point range and 6-for-7 from the field.


“Payton [Pritchard], Grant, [Derrick White], when they come off and be aggressive, that’s super important for our team and we need those guys to feel like they have the go-ahead to do that, to be aggressive, and I’m proud of all of those guys,” Brown said. “They’ve been coming in and really stepping up late in the season, and it has been really good for us.”

3. Horford helped too — while he wasn’t as hot from 3-point range (2-for-6), he finished with six assists. Three came in transition after he grabbed a rebound and pushed up the floor himself.

For Tatum and Brown, those plays are particularly impactful. When Horford handles the ball, his defender is forced to pick him up in transition. That means he either creates a mismatch because a guard is forced to stop him, or a big is dragged out to the 3-point line. When the bigs are away from the rim, both Tatum and Brown can feast around the basket. Sure enough, all three of Horford’s transition assists were to either Tatum or Brown.

When people around the Celtics talk about Horford having an impact on all of the little things, plays like that are a perfect example.

4. Brown, White, Pritchard, Williams, and Aaron Nesmith all made three or more 3-pointers, which helped boost the Celtics to 23 total. The Wizards finished just 8-for-23. A discrepancy of 15 3-point makes certainly helps explain a 42-point victory.

5. Brown was asked if the Celtics’ recent success can continue into the playoffs.


“Defense travels, so that’s one thing we got to hang our hat on,” he said. “And without Rob, we’ve tried to figure out and been figuring out different ways, and today was an example of that. We had a quarter where we gave up 37 but for the most part against a team that played really well yesterday, I think we limited them to a little bit.

“But as we play the next couple games, I think defense is where we got to hang our hat, and that is what’s going to travel in the playoffs and stuff like that. Hitting shots, being aggressive is important, as well, but getting stops is important.”

Brown added that while others might have been negative about the Celtics early in the season, he was generally positive.

“If you look back on my comments early in the season, I never lost faith,” he said. “I know things seemed to be bad, but I was always optimistic. It’s relieving to be at this point, where everyone sees what I saw from the start.”


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