Celtics: The secret behind their hot start

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Celtics: The secret behind their hot start

By Maxwell Pardis

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The Celtics are 8-1 and have the best record in the NBA thanks to rehabilitated chemistry. 

They overcame a gruesome five-point, 1-18 night from Jayson Tatum to beat a 6-3 Dallas team without Gordon Hayward, who has been their best all-around player thus far.

They have the lowest turnover rate in NBA history so far, according to Basketball Reference. The Celtics look like a Brad Stevens–coached team again, with four players capable of notching 20 points on any given night and three players averaging over four assists per game in Kemba Walker, Hayward, and Marcus Smart.

The Celtics boast the league’s second best offense according to Basketball Reference, a mark reached by committee. Stevens’ signature system of off-ball movement and screening allows for his multiple ball handlers to attack you from positions of advantage, despite the loss of basketball brainiac Al Horford. 

It can’t just be chance that Boston has been markedly better with Walker in Kyrie Irving’s place, despite also losing Horford. Not to discredit Irving’s talent, as he is probably a better individual player in a vacuum than Kemba, but basketball teams are not made in a vacuum. 

Meanwhile, 200 miles south, the Brooklyn Nets are below .500, on pace to fall short of their preseason-predicted win total by 12 wins. Star point guard Kyrie Irving is averaging almost 30 points and 7 assists, but the team as a whole is underperforming. 

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Last week, head coach Kenny Atkinson told the New York Daily News that his team is not running many plays, the offense is stagnating, and the team lost their way on offense from last year. During their game against the Utah Jazz, the commentators in the broadcast booth said the Nets play like a “streetball team.”   

Though Irving’s play may be dazzling and mesmerizing, inspiring you to pick up a basketball and try to imitate his moves the second you see them, it seems to be no coincidence that another top, movement-heavy offense lost its way with him on the roster. Some of this can be attributed to the loss of Jared Dudley, a savvy veteran who would frequently call out plays during games, but the probability of it all being a coincidence seems smaller by the day. 

In an interview with MassLive, Jaylen Brown said he attributes his performance so far to not necessarily an improvement of his skills or feel for the game, but an increase in scoring opportunities and touches. Although they have not said it, I think the same thing could be applied to Tatum and Hayward as well. 

They are young players, so year-to-year improvement is to some degree natural, but players like Brown, Tatum, and Hayward need freedom and opportunity to succeed. Look at Victor Oladipo’s leap to all-stardom after he was traded away from Oklahoma City and the one-man show known as Russell Westbrook. The Celtics perhaps underestimated the value of this when they traded for Irving, but after the last two seasons, everybody in Boston should have learned their lesson.