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Must Cs: Celtics rack up playoff-high 32 assists in Game 5 clincher

Must Cs: Celtics rack up playoff-high 32 assists in Game 5 clincher

In the NBA Playoffs, there are going to be games that you have to win ugly. Game 4 against the Cavaliers hit every branch of the ugly tree, but a win is a win. In fact, in the two road wins in Cleve-we’re-not-here-for-the-weather-land, the Celtics collected just 37 assists combined. Both were ugly affairs of maybe too much mismatch-hunting and isolations.

Two nights later in Boston, it was back to the beautiful game. In Game 5, the Celtics dished a postseason-best 32 dimes in the series clincher. Seemingly playing off the energy of a raucous TD Garden, the ball movement in turn had more energy, too.

Sure, the passing numbers can be a little deceiving. You have to make shots for passes to register as assists and it didn’t hurt that they hit more threes, including Al Horford snapping an 0-for-11 stretch with six from behind the arc. Jayson Tatum nearly had a triple double, proving yet again that he’s leveled up in these playoffs as a reliable scorer and playmaker depending on what the game demands of him.

“Just trying to manipulate the game, understanding that I do have a lot of the attention when I’m on the court and I have the ball,” Tatum said, finishing with 25 points, 10 rebounds, and nine assists. “How can I dominate the game? Me and Joe talk about during spurts of the game if I want to screen, do I want to handle the ball, and it’s just simple, making the right reads.”

In the regular season, Cleveland boasted the 7th most efficient defense in the league in large part to the twin towers of Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen. With Allen missing the series with a rib contusion, much of Boston’s strategy was to take advantage of weaker perimeter defenders and spreading the floor.

Here are two Tatum post ups from Games 4 and 5 respectively.

Tatum and Jaylen Brown can get this kind of shot against Max Strus any time. For the series, their former teammate gave up 26-of-49 against them (and regrettably wore a Florida Panthers jersey).

With Mobley shading over to soft double, Tatum has some passing options: Jrue Holiday at the top of the arc or Horford or Sam Hauser cross court. Instead, he opts for the higher degree of difficulty and shoots a mid-range fadeaway.

Here’s a near identical post-up on the opposite side of the court from Game 5. There are similar outlets after drawing the attention of nearly all the defenders. This time, it’s Payton Pritchard getting the feed for an open 3. It’s a simple pass, but one the Jays seemed…

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