Site note: After some re-evaluation of our content, we’ve decided to move away from our “How to beat… ” series of previews and focus more time and attention to post-game analysis. So for that, we’ve resurrected our next-day “4 Up, 4 Down” series.
There was plenty of good and bad to choose from last night against Indiana. The Celtics, thankfully, won the game thanks to a late defensive push and some Isaiah Thomas heroics… but that only served to mask some serious issues.
1: Clutch execution on D
Let’s start at the end, which was a very nice sight to see indeed. Over the course of 1:55, the Celtics whipped off four straight steals and breakaway, all-alone layups. So not only where these steals that led to fast break opportunities… they were the basketball equivalent of untouched pick-6’s in football.
The Celtics were heading down the same road they’d been traveling during their losing steak. Sure, the Pacers helped out with lazy passes… but the Celtics still had to make the plays. And beyond the steals, the Pacers still didn’t score for the last 2:14 of the game and only scored 4 points over the last 5 minutes of the game. We’ll remember the steals because they were awesome, but the Celtics also clamped down and won the game with their defense. Let’s hope that’s a lesson that sinks in with the group: Stop trying to win by bombing away from 3 (more on that later)… you win with the D.
2: Isaiah Thomas
After a brief slump, IT is back in a big way. 28 points on 9-18 shooting, 4-6 from 3, and 6-7 from the line… which all adds up to a sparkling 66.4% true shooting percentage. More than the production itself, it’s WHEN the production happened. Sure, he scored the last 6 points of the game to put things out of reach, but his bucket out of the 5-minute TV timeout helped kick-start the Celtics down the stretch. Whenever the Celtics
3: Jae Crowder
Jaesus sees your 66.5 TS, Isaiah, and raises you 22 points because Crowdah’s offense was on fire last night. His 25 points tied a career high, and it came on 11-15 shooting, including 3-6 from deep. That’s good for an ungodly 83.3 TS%.
Crowder’s offense has grown by leaps and bounds. He’s going beyond the 3-and-D role to become Boston’s second-most dependable scorer. It’s come with no sacrifice of his defense, as evidenced by how well he played Paul George last night. Sure, PG scored 23, but it took him 20 shots to do it, and most of it came on a super-hot stretch to start the 3rd. That’ll happen with a player as good as PG.. but he was pretty well kept in check aside from that stretch.
4: Amir Johnson
His best game as a Celtic. Even if you took away the defensive rebounds from his 18 board total, Amir still would have had a 14-and-10 double-double. Beyond that, he was tied with Avery Bradley for a team-high 6 assists… 2 of them coming in the last 5 minutes of the game. In fact, since checking into the game with 7 minutes to go, Amir pitched in 5 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists, and that 1 steal. He was huge down the stretch.
1: So many jumpers
Look at all those red X’s int he mid-range. Hell look at all those red X’s in general!
The Celtics shot 9-26 from 3. Amazingly, that 34.6% is an IMPROVEMENT from 32% they shoot from the for the year. This is a jump shooting team full of guys who can’t really shoot very well, and it’s really bogging down the offense for long stretches. The Celtics fall in love with the 3 way too often, which takes away from the efficiency of the shot. We live in a pace-and-space world where 3’s and layups are the highest value shots, but the volume at which the Celtics shoot 3’s is destroying the math behind the strategy.
The Celtics are 7th in the league in 3’s attempted. They’re 26th in 3 point percentage.
I’ll just put it this way: The Philadelphia 76’ers have a higher percentage than Boston. It’s only 0.1% higher… but it’s still higher, and it shows the Celtics really need to tweak their offensive mindset.
2: Evan Turner from 3
I’m going to put this as plainly as I can…
There is no scenario where Evan Turner should be shooting a 3 other than an end-of-clock situation. Even then, I’d give serious consideration to a shot clock violation because at least there’s no risk of a rebound starting a fast break opportunity for the opposition.
Maybe that gave you a chuckle, but I’m dead serious. Turner is now shooting 15.5% from 3 on the year after an 0-2 night from deep.
He’s taken 58 3’s this year. He’s made 9. That means each 3-point attempt is netting .2 points. By contrast, Steph Curry is getting 1.33 points per 3-point attempt.
The past couple of games have been aneurysm-inducing with Turner’s 3’s simply because of the timing of them. They are essentially voluntary turnovers, and they need to stop immediately.
3: Marcus Smart ain’t shooting much better
This isn’t as dire as the Turner situation, but Smart’s shooting is way off right now. Last year, Smart hit on 33.5% of his 3 attempts. This year he’s not even at 21%… and he’s taking about 4 of them a game (like he did last night. He hit none). Smart’s also been hurt and in different lineups so I’m willing to cut him some slack on this long-term.
I’d like to see him be more judicious when it comes to the 3. I’m sure he’s working on it, and I’d like to see this become a point of emphasis for him this summer.
4: Where’s RJ?
Going back to my first down point… if the Celtics are so desperate for shooting, why don’t they try working in one of their potentially best shooters on the team? Yeah, Hunter is a rookie and prone to mistakes, but he’s also shown the ability to make good plays on the court. His defense has been acceptable, his passing has been above average, and his rebounding has been a revelation. His shooting is something that will come with more reps, and at this point, he should be getting them.
Chart & statistics via Basketball-Reference