BOSTON — Coming into Monday night’s Celtics game, the focus was on the one — Kyrie Irving –, who was making his return to action after missing the previous two games with an eye injury.
But the key to the C’s 116-95 win over the surging Brooklyn Nets night turned out to be the many.
Boston featured eight scorers in double figures, the first time the franchise has done so since 2015, as it remained perfect three games into its current four-game homestand.
Irving led the Celtics with 17 points, but the number the star point guard was more impressed with was the 37 assists the team put up.
“It’s good, it means we’re moving the ball,” Irving said. “Moving the bodies just trying to create opportunities for one another, make the game easier. So it’s good; doing the little things.
“Making shots, that contributes a lot to it, you know just making the easy plays, but also making shots.”
It was Boston’s fourth consecutive game with at least 30 assists. Head coach Brad Stevens also referred to ball movement as the key to Boston having so many players prominently featured in the scorebook.
“I think it was also a function of we didn’t play anybody above 27 minutes,” said Stevens. “But we’re trying to get better at executing, playing together, reading things that are options in transition, playing faster while that. … We continue to prioritize playing together. We should get better.”
For Irving, it was an ease back into action, posting 27:50 of playing time after some much-needed time off.
“My first shot went to the other side of the glass, so that should tell you where I was in terms of playing live basketball,” he joked. “It was just good to get my wind back out there and just play with my teammates again and test it out there.”
Irving added: “It was good to get six days of kinda just staying off my feet as much as possible. “I was in the gym, but being very smart about it. It was just good timing coming into the new year off the long road trip, I know other guys are battling and grinding. It was just good to get a little relief in terms of that.”
Here are some other notes from Monday’s Celtics-Nets game:
— Marcus Smart continued to show that he is improving as a three-point shooter, sinking 4-of-8 shots from beyond the arc just days after impressively winning a team 3-point contest at practice.
Smart hit five 3-points in Friday’s win over the Dallas Mavericks.
“He’s not looking for it; he’s looking for other people, he’s looking to make plays for other people,” Stevens said. “But when the ball finds him in those spots, we need him to take those and make those. And he has all year.
“He has worked hard. And he deserves to make them. And you know, I think that he’s always — we’ve always thought, and you know this, he’s got guts. He’s going to make them when it all matters, and so it’s good to see him having success from beyond there.”
— Irving leads the team in drawing offensive fouls with a career-high 17. He credits a lot of that to watching the footwork of teammates like Smart.
“Defensively, I mean I literally just sit at home and just watch him slide his feet and be able to beat guys to spots and be able to take charges,” Irving said.
— In holding the Nets to 95 points, the C’s notched their second straight game holding an opponent under 100. It’s the first time the team has done so in back-to-back games since a streak of three games between Oct. 22-27.
Thumbnail photo via David Butler II/USA TODAY Sports Images