BOSTON – Ball movement has been one of those things that the Celtics are conscious of being vital to their success.
But swinging the ball to get open shots while not turning it over may sound easy enough, but it isn’t.
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But since the All-Star break, Boston’s ability to get great shots while limiting mistakes has been a key component to the team’s three-game, post-break winning streak
And Boston’s success in this particular phase of play can be seen in their high assists-to-turnover ratio since returning from the break.
The Celtics have a 2:53 assist-to-turnover ratio since returning from the break which is second in the NBA only to San Antonio (2:94).
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As we have seen throughout this season, the Celtics have been a team evolving in some form or another and the team’s assists numbers since the break, appear to be the latest part of their growth.
Despite the impressive numbers since the break, Boston has been a middle-of-the-pack team when it comes to assist-to-turnover numbers.
For the season, Boston’s 1:62 assist-to-turnover ratio ranks 15th in the league.
There will be a number of factors that will come into play tonight against the Charlotte Hornets, but Boston’s ability to continue spreading the basketball wealth - while limiting mistakes - will indeed be a factor in the outcome.
Here are five under-the-radar storylines to keep an eye on as the Celtics face the surging Hornets, who come in having won in a row:
ROZIER ON THE RISE
Terry Rozier got a taste of major minutes when he filled in for Kyrie Irving, and the third-year guard continues to play well. Before making his first NBA start on Jan. 31, Rozier averaged 9.1 points, 4.4 rebounds and 2.1 assists while shooting 39 percent from the field and 35.3 percent from 3-point range. In the 11 games since then, Rozier has averaged 15.7 points, 5.1 assists and 4.2 assists while shooting 41.4 percent from the field and 46.8 percent on 3’s.
With Daniel Theis (right hamstring) out tonight, the Celtics will have to do more than replace his 5.4 points and 4.4 rebounds per game. The logical choice to get a lion’s share of Theis’ minutes (more than 19 per game this month), is Greg Monroe. Monroe, the newest member of the Celtics roster after agreeing to a buyout with Phoenix, has appeared in six games thus far while averaging 5.7 points and 4.7 rebounds in 13.7 minutes per game.
Before he punched a picture frame that sidelined him for 11 games, Marcus Smart was playing defense at an elite level. Since his return, he remains just as steady. Smart has a defensive rating of 99.1 which is tops in the NBA among players who have appeared in at least 30 games and averages at least 30 minutes played per contest.
If Boston expects to win tonight, they need to brace themselves for a Hornets team that has played well in the first quarter. Since coming back from the break, Charlotte has averaged 31.5 points in the first which ranks fourth in the NBA. The Celtics come in at No. 19, with a 26.3 points per game average in the first quarter since coming back from the break. But the Hornets have shown that they can also defend at a high level to start games, evident by them having a league-best +6.0 point differential in the first quarter since returning from the break. Boston has a +1.0 point differential in the first which ranks 15th in the NBA.
ON THE REBOUND
Boston’s ability to hold its own on the glass has been among the key contributing factors to the team’s strong play after the break. Since returning to the floor following the break, Boston has a rebounding percentage of .523 which ranks ninth in the NBA. Charlotte will certainly challenge them in this area because they too have been solid in this phase of play. The Hornets come into tonight’s game 12th in the league in rebounding percentage (.517).