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The Sports Daily > Red's Army
Your Morning Dump… Where second halves have been saving the Celtics

Every morning, we compile the links of the day and dump them here… highlighting the big story line. Because there’s nothing quite as satisfying as a good morning dump.

According to NBA.com, the Celtics have been outscored by 2.6 points per 100 possessions during first halves. That means they’re playing like a lottery team over the first and second quarters. But after halftime, they have morphed into a historically powerful juggernaut, outscoring opponents by 16.6 points per 100 possessions.

How remarkable is that? It would be the best second-half net rating since at least the 2000-’01 season, according to NBA.com, though the Warriors are actually on pace to finish with a better mark this season. The difference between Boston’s first- and second-half net rating – 19.2 points per 100 possessions – is about the same as the gap between the Warriors’ overall net rating and the Dallas Mavericks’ overall net rating. In other words, it’s the gulf between a title favorite and a contender for the NBA’s worst record.

MassLive: Boston Celtics analysis: Kyrie Irving’s magic, Marcus Smart’s shooting, remarkable second-half splits, and more

This is where I’d normally explain whatever weird thing that I’ve highlighted…

… but…

It’s hard to say what exactly is going on here. I can think of two things possibly at play here…

1: Kyrie Irving and Al Horford are making concerted efforts to get other guys involved early and they, especially Kyrie, take over in the second halves of games.

2: Brad Stevens and his staff are amazing at making adjustments. They not only came out and scored 37 points in the third quarter last night, they held Indiana to 16.

The Celtics big adjustment last night was Aron Baynes starting the third instead of Daniel Theis. The Baynes, Horford, Irving, Smart, Tatum lineup held Indy to 42.1% shooting in 12 minutes on the floor. Theis with the same four teammates allowed 70% shooting in their seven minutes of playing time.

Stevens has pushed the right buttons after the half and is often very willing to take quick time outs to remind the guys of the plan. It’s not a new wrinkle to the Stevens game, but it feels like something he’s doing more often this year. And he’s shown multiples times that he’s not afraid to tell anyone they’re making a mistake on the floor.

There’s also a matter of figuring out the bench unit. Stevens has been starting second quarters with Tatum as his best scorer on the floor. However, Tatum doesn’t seem mentally ready to demand the ball in those situation and be the high-usage guy Stevens seems to want him to be.

Meanwhile 4th quarters are beginning with Kyrie Irving on the floor. Some of the first half vs. second half numbers are being skewed by some awful 2nd quarters in which the Celtics seem to be experimenting with different lineups. When the 4th quarter rolls around, it’s time to let Kyrie cook and only give him a few minutes to get a breather around the TV time out.

The difference is stark, though. I’d expect for it to even out over the course of the season as Stevens figures out the 2nd quarter rotations and the guys finally get some practice time. Over the course of Stevens’ time here, November and December have largely been times of experimentation. The post-Christmas rotations tend to be more consistent.

We’ll see if that balances out these differences. I’d hope it does because the team can’t really survive constantly having to make big second half comebacks. Eventually, this pattern will bite them in the ass.

Related links: Globe: Celtics make second half statement

Page 2: Marcus Smart’s shot returns for a night

Smart said after last night’s game that his teammates and coaches are encouraging him to keep shooting. Al Horford chief among them:

“It was great,” Horford said after Smart’s outburst. “We talked actually last night and I told him, I’m like, ‘Hey, you’re doing things the right way. You’re working. You’re preparing every day. Everybody goes through this. It’s hard.’ And he stuck with it. And I was just happy to see him make those shots and take his time and get it done.”

Smart’s shooting form still isn’t good.

The right side of his body over-rotates on his 3’s. It’s not uncommon for guys to jump forward on their 3-point shots, but Smart ends up with his body at an angle.

Some guys have weird form but their bodies stay square. Keeping your shoulders square to the basket just keeps everything in line. Perhaps the best evidence that this is Smart’s problem is his free throw percentage, which is generally good.

Smart had some struggles early in last season but he still shot over 80% from the line. He’s a career 76% free throw shooter, just about the league average. Why can Smart hit most of his free throws but miss SOOO many 3’s? He’s not jumping from the line, therefore he’s staying square to the basket.

Like I said, some people can have funky stuff going on with their shots but the ball goes in and no one will mess with it. Smart’s isn’t, generally, so maybe he should start exploring this fix. Until he does something, he’ll probably just always be the bad shooter with occasional hot streaks.

Related links: BSJ: Marcus Smart was due and four other thoughts from Saturday’s win over Pacers

And Finally…

I’m a huge fan of coordinated flopping…

Just a couple of large dudes flailing around in embarrassing fashion at the slightest bump.

Cousins is so big and strong that Zaza can drive a pickup truck into him and barely do any damage to Boogie… but here he is flying into the front row on a screen.

Zaza flops.. we all know he’s embarrassingly bad. That Cousins flop, though… that one is gonna be on highlight shows for a long time.

The rest of the links

Globe: Brown misses game to attend friend’s funeral  |  Doc Rivers and the tenuous state of the Clippers

NBCSBoston: Stars, studs and duds: Celtics surge in third quarter  |  Irving, Horford lead Celtics to 108-98 win vs. Pacers

ESPN Boston: Kyrie drops 25 in win over Pacers  |  Irving, Horford lead Celtics to 108-98 win at Indiana

MassLive: Kyrie Irving, Al Horford help Boston Celtics past Indiana Pacers, 108-98

Herald: Celtics notebook: Grieving Jaylen Brown decides to not return to club for Indiana game  |  Bulpett: As Kobe Bryant case highlights, number retirement a sticky issue  |  Celtics coach Brad Stevens makes quick trip back home  |  Celtics top Pacers without Jaylen Brown, Marcus Morris