O.T.T.T.: The Celtics Problem? They're Playing Too Nice
The season has barely started but we at OTG are ready to overreact wildly to the early action. These are our Over The Top Takes...
The Boston Celtics have thus far in the 2018-19 season have been quite inept on offense. The club is 29th in scoring, despite a wealth of talent on the roster.
The C’s are working to establish a new rhythm after welcoming back All-Stars Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward. Growing pains and a bit of turbulence is to be expected. With time, head coach Brad Stevens should be able to iron out come of the team’s biggest wrinkles.
The problem is that Boston succeeded on a 3 and D model last season. What we’re seeing now is what happens when the shots aren’t connecting. The Celtics need a new gear, a new trick to win basketball games.
The Celtics need to get mean.
Before the season began, the Celtics were pegged as a pass-happy team that can unleash a relentless wave of scoring. And thus far, that’s mostly held true. About 60 percent of Boston’s baskets have come off of assists. The shooting hasn’t been as good this season, which is why the C’s have struggled early on.
As Zach Lowe and Chris Herring pointed out, there’s a critical element missing for the Celtics. The team simply doesn’t get to the rim. Instead, the C’s have settled for long twos and kick-outs.
Unsurprisingly, Boston is 29th in points in the paint and 30th in free throw attempts. Analytics be damned, basketball is still a physical game. The Celtics need to get tough.
Check out this shot chart provided by Austin Clemens. Early on in the season, the Celtics offense is neither focused nor effective. It’s instead a lukewarm cocktail of poor shooting and equally poor shot selection.
For reference, here’s Golden State’s shot chart. The paint is more densely packed, and there’s a bit more variability beyond the arc. Certainly the Warriors are just scoring at a higher clip than the Celtics, but there’s also a method to the madness.
That stacked paint forces defenses to pony up on rim protection. Things get tighter down low, to the benefit of shooting. Steph Curry can devastate lax perimeter D just as quickly as Durant can cut backdoor and catch someone sleeping.
Creating new habits
For the Celtics, success this season means unlocking new offensive options. This is last year’s shot chart for Boston. It’s a “live by the three, die by the three” masterpiece, and one that is far too one-dimensional to earn an NBA Title.
Boston isn’t too far off from righting this ship. By relying more heavily on off-ball actions, Tatum, Hayward, and Brown should be able to get better flashes to the basket or more equitable mismatches. This way, when the threes do start to connect, it will coincide with a new bevy of scoring options.
As a team, the C’s need to get a little meaner and force the issue. They need to find ways to get to the rim. Find ways to draw fouls. Find ways to set the terms of engagement on offense. Beat defenses by fully unleashing a roster that is strong, fast, and athletic.
Boston is as tough as nails on defense. It has the rigor and the discipline to do the same on the opposite side of the ball. Not fully in place of the passing and the shooting, but as a compliment to what is an approach lacking in a plan B.