There was a lot to love and a lot to hate in last night’s tough OT loss to Dallas. The Celtics scored a lot, but gave up a lot of points… they came back from a huge hole, but they got into that hole in the first place. And then, of course, there was a personal battle in the middle of it all.
Here are the four positives and negatives.
1: Kelly Olynyk’s hot shooting
Since sucking against the Knicks, Olynyk has shot 22 of 42 (52.3%) and 12-19 from 3 (63.1%). Maybe the second half benching in the Big Apple ended up working because he’s been aggressive since then, shooting with more confidence, and driving more.
Brad Stevens is paring down his rotations now. David Lee and Tyler Zeller are mostly out, and it’s generally some kind of combination of Olynyk, Jared Sullinger, and Amir Johnson. Last night Johnson was not effective (more on that in a bit)… So how is it Olynyk only saw about 26 minutes of play in an OT game? How is it that Olynyk only saw 7 of those minutes in the 4th quarter and OT?
This kid will still go through ups and downs, but I say we pump up his minutes and let him figure it out.
2: Bradley’s got his shot back
Avery Bradley’s struggles date back to before his injury. His true shooting percentage is at about 40% for the month of January… a putrid number for even the worst of shooters… so it was nice to see him snap out of that slump last night.
How good was his night last night (and how bad was he before that)?
His four 3’s made last night (4-8) was one more than he’d made 8 previous games combined (3-29) dating back to December 27 (he also missed 3 games within that span). Let’s hope this gets him back on track
3: Aggressive Marcus Smart
Marcus Smart showed restraint from 3 last night. Yes, he still took the 4 per game that he’s averaging, but he COULD have taken more. Instead, he passed up some of those looks (even some that were wide open but early in the clock) to drive or work the ball around even more. The result was a better percentage (he made 2 of the 4 3’s) and a few trips to the line (and I think it could have been even more).
The bottom line for Smart here is a lesson that Brad Stevens can impart while watching game film… those 3’s will be there no matter what. They’ll present themselves often, but it’s about the quality of the shot, not the quantity of them.
4: Great Pace
The Celtics big comeback was fueled by running off of EVERYTHING. They were flying up and down the court, getting up 94 shots and scoring 113 points. This is when this Celtics offense is at its best. They forced 14 turnovers and turned it into 16 points and had 31 fast break points overall.
It’s hard to sustain this kind of pace for 82 games plus playoffs… but this is where the depth can come into play. I’d rather they bust it up court like this as much as possible and then maybe scale back Isaiah Thomas’ minutes for a game or two to keep him fresh than slow down the pace of the game. Have the occasional game where RJ Hunter gets some extended run… or Zeller… or something to keep that pace going.
1: Crowder’s over-excited start
Jae was way too anxious to face his former team. The first few minutes of the game seemed frantic and Crowder was at the center of it going 0-6 in the 1st and a -14 in 10 minutes of play. He settled down a bit and got back into the flow, going 3-7 with 7 rebounds, a steal, an assist and a +4 the rest of the way. The problem is, Crowder’s first 10 minutes were a big reason for the big deficit. It’s impossible to say how the game would have flowed had that not been the case, but hopefully Crowder learned a little lesson himself about being overly anxious and playing outside of himself.
Crowder is creeping into the “fringe All Star” discussion. He’ll stay there if he does the things he does well within the flow, rather than try to send messages to his former team.
2: Amir Johnson
The Celtics looked slow with him out there. I know Dirk Nowitzki went off without Johnson in there, but Johnson was a legit -19 in less than 14 minutes in this game.
3: Late defensive breakdowns
Deron Williams going off for 14 points in 12:38 over the 4th quarter and OT is unacceptable. Losing Williams on D and watching him bury dagger 3’s in OT is brutal.
On top of that, I got a little sick of watching Raymond Felton repeatedly get to the basket. Perimeter D is the strength of this team… breakdowns in the clutch are a little worrisome.
4: Sully jumpers
To be fair, I thought Sully spent a fair amount of time in the post and he didn’t get some calls he should have. Beyond that, though, is a more troubling number.
Sully was 2-7 on uncontested field goal attempts (when the closest defender is at least 3.5 feet away). He’s shooting 37.5% on open jumpers this season and 31.7% on wide open jumpers (almost all of these are 3’s). Those shots make up about half of his offense.
This is a problem.
Jared Sullinger needs to stop settling for these shots and get back to basics. I know he CAN play pick-and-pop… but that’s all he seems to do now. At this point, there’s no reason to respect him popping out for a jumper because giving up 37% shooting on mid-range jumpers is cause to celebrate for a defense.
Time to change things up, Jared, and find a more efficient way to play the game.