Things aren’t great in Boston right now. The shine of earlier success has worn off and the team seems to be approaching a bit of a crossroads. More conversations about how to fix the roster are being had… especially with the trade deadline just FIVE weeks away.
None of the roster issues will be fixed with a win tonight, but man it would feel good to get back into the W column. Here’s my four-point plan for making that happen.
1: Bring back the old Melo
I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but Carmelo Anthony is having fun in New York right now. I’m calling it the Porzingis effect, because I really think Melo is enjoying what this rookie is bringing to the team. The result is a Melo who’s more willing to pass and let other guys do some of the heavy lifting. His usage rate is below 30 for the first time since his second season in the league, his assist percentage is over 20 for only the second time in his career, and his defensive rebounding rate is at its second highest point of his career.
So let’s bring back the old, ball stopping Carmelo Anthony by putting Jae Crowder on him and having everyone else stick tight to their guys. Don’t give Melo many options to move the ball and he’ll frustratingly revert back to his ball hogging ways. Crowder hounded him their first time around last month, forcing Melo to shoot 11-26 (and a team low -11)… let him do his thing again. But this really is more about the other defenders than Crowder. He’ll be fine so long as the rest of the D does its job,.
2: Keep Porzingis (and Lopez for that matter) off the boards
This has as much to with the fact that the Celtics being the 7th-worst in opponent offensive rebounds allowed as it does with the Porzingis follow dunk parade. The Celtics collapsed against Memphis, in part, because they couldn’t finish off their defensive stops with defensive rebounds.
So this one is simple… the Celtics need to keep the Knicks two best offensive rebounders (Lopez is better, Kristaps is more dynamic) away from misses and get up the floor to push the pace. The Knicks like the same pace as the Grizzlies… and when the Celtics were running against the Grizz, they were effective.
Bottom line: Finish off those defensive stops!
3: Watch out for Lance Thomas
Thomas has gone from journey man to secret weapon for the Knicks. If he gets hot, you’re in trouble. In wins, he sports a massive 65.4 true shooting percentage and 122 offensive rating. In losses, it drops to 53.7% TS and 98 ORtg.
He’s not just a shooter, though. He’s a two-way player that is starting to come into his own and earn praise in the New York’s notoriously nasty sports media market. He’s the prime candidate for one of the “Lance Thomas (who?) leads Knicks past Celts” headlines.
4: Draw up some specific plays for the second unit
The Celtics second unit is really struggling. Here’s a great example.
Look how easily Griz defended Cs bench here by having Allen chase Bradley and going lazily under every other screen: https://t.co/z3LjB1E5c8
— Jay King (@ByJayKing) January 11, 2016
Brad Stevens might want to try bringing some much more specific structure to the non-Isaiah Thomas lineups by having a list of very specific plays for these guys. The Celtics are struggling with their jump shots and the opposition is going under screens… so the Celtics should run some re-screens and spring some guys to get into the lane. Marcus Smart, Jonas Jerebko, Evan Turner… all those guys CAN at least turn a corner and get into the paint if they get a second screen and some room to get a head start.
This will at least force the defense to react. Draw some help… make them rotate.. and then maybe some of the looks will be cleaner. At least the Celtics might draw some fouls and get some points from the line.
The bottom line is the Celtics second unit needs help, and they’re not making great decisions on their own, so Stevens should make the decisions for them. It’s like giving a paint-by-numbers to someone who can’t paint. It won’t make it into any galleries, but in the end they can create something recognizable… which is more than we can say for what’s being passed off as “offense” right now.
The Celtics have an opportunity to get out of their funk tonight in New York. The Knicks aren’t going to just let the Celtics walk out MSG with a win, but they can take one if they follow this plan.