Brad Stevens gets props for his X’s and O’s, but what’s often overlooked when it comes to his coaching acumen is how well he leans on his instincts.
We saw that in the third quarter in Monday’s game against Atlanta when he called a time-out just 47 seconds elapsed.
“I just thought it was two possessions that weren’t very good,” Stevens said. “It was time … we got 23 minutes left. Let’s play the right way.”
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Boston still found itself in a back-and-forth tussle with the Hawks, but managed to escape with a 110-107 win to extend the winning streak to nine in a row. Boston (9-2) becomes the first team in NBA history to win nine straight after opening the season with back-to-back losses.
Kyrie Irving had a game-high 35 points which included some late-game heroics. Jayson Tatum continues to play with the kind of consistency you seldom see in a rookie let alone a 19-year-old. He had 21 points which included a 3-pointer with less than a minute to play that gave Boston a two-possession lead.
And don’t forget about Al Horford who was one assist shy of a triple-double as he finished with 15 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists.
But for all the contributions made by the players, that moment early in the third quarter stands out because of what it led to – better focus, better effort and in the end, another victory for Boston.
Horford acknowledged after the win just how important that timeout being called by Stevens proved to be for the Celtics beginning to play more like the team with the league’s top-rated defense.
“We just … had more of a sense of urgency,” Horford said. “For whatever reason, in the third (quarter) we usually come out pretty focused. Right from the beginning, coach (Stevens) didn’t want that to drag out. He stopped it quick and it was the right thing.”
More than anything else, the Celtics weren't playing with the kind of effort required for them to be their best defensively.
“We can’t do stuff halfway,” Horford said. “We have to do things the right way.”
And if they don’t, they can relish in the fact that they have a coach who will recognize it, address it in the moment and more often than not, make the right call that positions them to do what they’re doing better than any team in the league right now and that’s win … win a lot, actually.