Boston Celtics guard R.J. Hunter was dribbling along the baseline, seemingly headed for the corner to do what he loves to do and that’s launch 3s.
And then at the last minute while under the rim, he delivered a perfect, no-look bounce pass to Evan Turner for a lay-up.
The Brooklyn Nets never saw it coming.
And the Celtics?
They’re also playing a bit of catch-up when it comes to figuring out Hunter who continues to exceed expectations following another solid performance in Boston’s 109-105 win at Brooklyn on Wednesday.
Hunter had 11 points while playing a team-high 29 minutes.
The minutes were well deserved as Hunter made a trio of 3s in the game, which included back-to-back 3s in the second quarter that gave Boston a 35-25 lead and led to the Nets calling a time out to (temporarily) slow down Boston’s momentum.
In addition to his 11 points, Hunter also had four rebounds, four steals and four assists.
“It’s pretty obvious just watching him, he really just has a feel,” Stevens told reporters after the game. “It comes pretty natural, little passes, simple plays, being able to put the ball on the money to people, understanding spacing, understanding where his opportunities are going to come. He has a pretty good feel for the game.”
Hunter credits his teammates as well as the Celtics coaching staff for helping make his transition to the NBA relatively seamless so far.
“I have a lot of coaches helping me out on the side (from the bench),” Hunter told reporters after the game. “A lot of extra help. You have to have that or you’ll get burned on a lot of plays.”
The Celtics led the NBA in pace last season (98.40), which meant they were getting up and down the floor well enough to score in bunches.
But for all the areas Boston wanted to improve on heading into this season, perimeter shooting had to be near the top of the list.
And that’s where Hunter’s role this season might wind up being a lot bigger than anticipated.
Hunter’s 3-point shooting is something the Celtics are certainly encouraged by thus far, but he’s continuing to show that he has more to offer.
“As he continues to make those shots and feels more comfortable, he’s going to be better,” Stevens said.
In addition to displaying a more all-around game offensively, Hunter hasn’t been as big a liability defensively as many feared. After three preseason games, Hunter’s defensive rating is 91.1 which is fourth among Celtics players averaging 20 or more minutes per game.
“Defensively, he’s way ahead of where I thought he would be,” Stevens admitted. “He’s just long and active.”
And impactful, although he’ll be the first to tell you that he’s a long way from being where he wants to be as a player.
But Wednesday’s performance?
“Definitely a step in the right direction,” Hunter said.