The Boston Celtics are off to a very slow start for a variety of reasons, one of which involves taking too many threes, and not making enough of them.
It’s crazy to think about how just a year ago, the Boston Celtics were 14-2, and in the midst of a stellar winning streak.
Fast forward to November of 2018, and that same Celtics team (with the addition of Gordon Hayward) can’t seem to gain any type of momentum.
The reason for this stems from their surprisingly inadequate offense. Usually, Brad Stevens’ teams benefit from spectacular ball movement and spacing, thus leading to a lot of open looks.
So far however, the Boston Celtics are 27th in the NBA when it comes to how many passes they make per-game (right now they’re at 271.6 per-game). In 2017-2018, they were above 300 passes made per-game, which put them in the middle of the pack.
Since the Celtics aren’t moving the ball as much, they’re relying a lot more on Kyrie Irving isolation possessions. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as Irving has really carried a majority of these games in the fourth quarter (see Toronto Raptors game). Oddly enough, the rest of the starting lineup has really struggled with putting the ball in the basket, at least in a consistent manner.
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The biggest problem so far has been the amount of unnecessary threes they’ve had to take. Boston is one of the slowest teams in the league, as they rank 20th in amount of possessions per-game. Because of that, they’ve gotten into a bad habit of taking desperation threes at the end of the shot clock.
Not only that, but the Boston Celtics also take the third most threes in the NBA, while garnering a three-pint percentage of 34 percent. At face value, that average doesn’t look bad, but according to Team Rankings, it’s good for only 19th in the league.
With their struggles, Stevens and company have essentially turned into the Eastern Conference version of the grit n’ grind Memphis Grizzlies. They still have a top three defense, as their currently third in points allowed. However, their focus on that side of the ball has been at the detriment of their offense.
As a result, Al Horford’s touches have basically declined ever since 2016. According to Basketball-Reference, the starting center only has 6 two-point attempts per-game in 2018, compared to 7.3 from just a year ago. He’s still been able to shoot 57 percent from the field, making it harder for me to understand why the offense hasn’t run through him more often. He’s become a facilitator more than a post scorer.
Oddly enough, Horford has taken the most three-point attempts per-game than he ever has in his career, at 4.1. He’s settling for the same low-quality shots that everyone else is on the team, and as a result, Hoford is only at 30 percent in that department. Get him in the paint, and he’s one of the best in the NBA at finishing though. Stevens should focus more on finding him mismatches down low, where the veteran can then go to work.
Obviously, the Boston Celtics are just trying to adapt to the three-point evolution that the NBA is currently to go through. However, Marcus Smart is no Steph Curry. Better quality looks will go a long way in improving the offense.
As my editor Tarringo Basile-Vaughan reported, some Celtics players may have to take a pay cut to sign an offensive juggernaut like Kevin Durant. So building within will be necessary in creating a more consistent, free-flowing offense; something they prided themselves on in the playoffs back in May when they didn’t have Irving or Hayward.
All in all, it’s a long season, and certain guys definitely need to gel.
Trusting Brad Stevens’ full capabilities will really help in the long run.