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Stat Man: Brad Stevens’ post-timeout brilliance

It was quite a week for Brad Stevens [1]. Seven days ago, his Celtics [2] dropped to 0-4 and rose to the top of ESPN’s Tank Rank [3]. Now, his C’s are riding a three-game win streak punctuated by a pair of plays in the span of 3.6 seconds against the two-time defending NBA champions that emphatically announced the coach’s arrival.

In the final moments of Saturday’s Heat upset, Stevens concocted a pair of post-timeout plays that offered the first NBA glimpse of the brilliance that everyone who knew him at Butler has raved about for the past four months.

The first: Since Shane Battier [4] had previously fronted Gerald Wallace [5] in the post, Stevens called for Jeff Green [6] to lob an entry pass to Wallace under the basket for a layup that cut a four-point deficit in half with one second left.

And second: Weighing the risk of throwing crosscourt against the reward of potentially freeing up a shooter where LeBron James [7] might sag defensively, Stevens called for Wallace to return the favor, lobbing an entry pass to Green in the far corner for a 3-pointer that beat the buzzer. Both seemingly made more brilliant by the fact Dwyane Wade [8] made the youth basketball mistake of missing the rim entirely on a free throw attempt between them.

During his tenure in Boston, Doc Rivers [9] was rightfully praised for his post-timeout play calls, but he also had Paul Pierce [10] to help him look good despite so often calling the same isolation elbow jumper. Stevens doesn’t have that luxury and requires a bit more creativity in engineering scoring opportunities for a team without a playmaker.

In the aftermath of the two most remarkable play calls during Stevens’ brief NBA coaching career, now seems as good a time as any to examine the Celtics coach’s success in post-timeout situations.

On 45 occasions through seven games, the Celtics have owned possession following a timeout. Nineteen of those opportunities have resulted in points (14 field goals, 5 drawn fouls) for a success rate of 42.2 percent. Seventeen ended in missed shots, another eight on turnovers and one with the clock running out on the first quarter.

In total, the Celtics have scored 39 points on 45 post-timeout possessions — an offensive rating (points per 100 possessions) of 86.7 that pales in comparison to their overall rating of 99.7 that ranks 25th in the league this season. Those eight turnovers have to drive Stevens bananas, because the Celtics have generated a 108.3 offensive rating on the 36 post-timeout possessions when they’ve actually gotten a shot off — efficiency that would elevate their offense among the league’s top five if averaged over the course of this season.

The balance with which Stevens has called plays out of timeouts makes him absolutely unpredictable. Nine different Celtics have had their number called following a huddle: Kelly Olynyk (3-8 FG, 0-1 3P), Green (3-6 FG, 1-3 3P, 4-4 FT), Brandon Bass [11] (3-4 FG, 2-2 FT), Wallace (1-3 FG, 0-1 3P, 2-2 FT), Courtney Lee [12] (1-4 FG, 0-3 3P), Avery Bradley [13] (1-3 FG), Vitor Faverani (0-1 FG, 1-2 FT), Jared Sullinger (0-1 3P) and Phil Pressey (0-1 3P).

[Note: Faverani put back a pair of C’s misses on post-timeout possessions.]

The C’s shot locations in such situations have been all over the map, too. Of the C’s 31 post-timeout field goal attempts, 12 have been long jumpers, 10 3-pointers and nine tries around the basket. Remarkably, Green’s 3-pointer against the Heat was the only successful beyond-the-arc attempt in 10 post-timeout tries this season.