The Boston Celtics faced a Los Angeles Lakers team on Saturday that was depleted at just about every position.
When the dust finally settled, the Celtics left the Staples Center with a 120-107 win which extended their road-winning streak to a season-best three straight.
But considering how weak the Lakers roster was coupled with LeBron James being on a minutes restriction (he still finished with a triple-double of 30 points, 10 rebounds and 12 assists), how impressive was this victory for Boston?
Well, upon further review …
The Celtics had 32 assists on 48 made baskets, a really good ratio regardless of the opponent or location. And as you look closer at Boston's passing game, it's clear that the success was primarily driven by two players: Kyrie Irving and Al Horford.
Courtesy of Second Spectrum statistics, Irving had 87 touches for the game while Horford was next with 55.
Irving did what he normally does with the ball … get buckets.
But Horford, who had 10 points on 4-for-6 shooting, reminded us all how he can impact the game in ways that the stat sheet doesn't necessarily recognize for its impact on winning.
Although he did not score a ton and didn't rack up a bunch of assists (he had four), it was evident how getting the ball to Horford was a good move for the Celtics offense all game.
Many of the injuries impacting the Lakers involved their perimeter players. And to the Celtics' credit, Boston's perimeter defenders did not allow the Lakers fill-ins on the perimeter to ever get on track.
Gordon Hayward, who has had his issues this season defensively, had the best defensive rating (97.4) of any Celtic against the Lakers while logging just under 30 minutes of court time.
Los Angeles players guarded by Jaylen Brown took a total of four contested shots, and missed them all.
Marcus Smart had a team-high five deflections, with Lakers missing seven of the 11 shots taken with him as a primary defender.
But one of the biggest mysteries of the game involved the lack of shot attempts taken by Lakers being guarded by Kyrie Irving.
CELTICS 120, LAKERS 107
Irving has often been a target of offenses which try to get him switched defensively on bigger, stronger players. Against Los Angeles, Irving matched up with 10 different Lakers for a total of 69 possessions. Those players shot a combined 1-for-3 against Irving with the lone made basket against the 6-3 Irving, coming from 6-11 Lakers center Moritz Wagner.
Even though the Celtics had a significant advantage in available talent against the Lakers, that didn't stop them from making a number of multiple effort plays. Kyrie Irving had a team-high 30 points for Boston, but he also led the Celtics in loose balls recovered (3) along with taking a spill for one of the two charges drawn (Aron Baynes had the other) by Boston.
The goal for every team is to generate as many open looks as possible. But that may not necessarily be a good thing for Marcus Morris who seemed to be at his best against Los Angeles when he had a hand in his face.
The 6-foot-9 Morris was just 4-for-11 when he took open shots against the Lakers. But when they tried to contest his shot, Morris was an impressive 3-for-5 shooting.
And one of the keys to the shots that did go down for Boston, was the ability of their bigs to create space for the Celtics shooters.
Of Boston's 120 points scored, 31 of them came via screen assists led by Aron Baynes (11) and Al Horford (10).
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