Evan Fournier's explosion and Robert Williams' 20-point, 9-rebound, 8-assist masterpiece were the two biggest storylines of the Boston Celtics' win over the Houston Rockets. The Celtics' ball movement, which generated a season-high-tying 35 assists was also a big topic, but 10 of those assists belonged to Marcus Smart, whose passing in this game has largely gone undiscussed.
That's a shame, because Smart put on a passing clinic against the Rockets. It's one worth discussing and breaking down.
The Celtics opened up in this set play. By starting Jaylen Brown and Kemba Walker in the left corner, the Celtics opened up some space for what looked like a regular ol' pick-and-roll with Jayson Tatum and Williams.
Smart coming up takes advantage of Houston's defensive coverage. Smart's defender is supposed to deter the roll man, Williams, from getting to the hoop as two guys blitz Tatum. Tatum's pass to Smart clears that defender out of that space, allowing Williams a clear path to the rim. Smart's touch pass is perfect.
Houston went into a 2-3 zone for a short stretch. The textbook way to break a 2-3 zone is to send someone to the free-throw line, exactly where Smart went, to collapse the defense.
I like Smart in this role because he can hit this shot (which he did later in the game), but the key here is to get someone who can both hit the shot and make the pass.
Smart sort of throws a shot fake and pass at the same time. The key to this pass is the placement, knowing the defenders on that back line are small and won't get to a pass thrown up high, where Williams' reach and quick hops can easily catch, gather, and score.
Bonus points to Williams for the good footwork and quick change of direction. Nice recognition.
This might be my favorite play of the game. It started with Tatum giving the ball up and then the ball swinging around back to him. When a coach says "trust your teammates," this is the play to highlight because Tatum gave it up and was rewarded with a wide open 3.
What's special about this Smart pass?