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.
The Celtics have become a stellar third-quarter team. They are seventh in the league in third-quarter scoring even though they are 20th in the NBA in overall scoring and 27th in shooting percentage. And they are third in overall plus-minus in the third period.
And when the fourth quarter hits, the Celtics ramp up their defense. They are second in the NBA in points allowed in the final period (23.4), second in opponent’s field goal percentage, and fourth in defensive rating.
In other words, the Celtics become a better offensive team in the second half — thanks partly to the play of Kyrie Irving — and then improve their defensive prowess to seal games.
The Celtics are falling behind because their offense has been below average all season and they have shot just 43.2 percent from the field during the streak. That’s a stunning stat when you consider the winning streak but the key has been timely scoring.
Third quarter scoring has been a strength since Brad Stevens arrived. The Celtics have ranked top ten in this category for the past 3 seasons. You might remember this was not the case during most of Doc Rivers tenure.
A lot of the doubters maintain the Celtics are playing with fire by falling behind in many games. And this style of play will eventually catch up to them because they cannot maintain this level of defensive intensity.
Maybe so. But I’m willing to bet that shooting percentage improves. The 3 teams shooting worse than the Celtics this season are Sacramento, Dallas and Chicago.
The core is shooting pretty damn well: Irving – 47%, Brown – 47%, Horford – 55% and Tatum – 50%. Marcus Morris (44%) is a tick above his career average. Daniel Theis (53%) can’t be asked to do much better.
There’s significant room for improvement with Marcus Smart (27%) and Aron Bayes (44%). Both are about 6-8% lower than career averages. And while Smart gets all the notoriety, Rozier (34%) is also pretty damn bad.
And if we don’t see improvement from the bench guys, Brad will have to extend the minutes of his starters. Don’t fret. I heard some ridiculous stat that no Celtics player ranks in the top 45 in minutes per game.
*The author acknowledges “gunning and shunning” is a weak attempt at a rhyming headline and encourages alternate suggestions.
On Page 2, Al Horford is getting extremely early MVP chatter.
Celtics net rating (point differential per 100 possessions):
- Al Horford: Plus-12.6 on-court, Plus-13.3 net on vs. off
- Kyrie Irving: Plus-8.3 on-court, Plus-2.8 net on vs. off
- Jaylen Brown: Plus-11.3, Plus-12.5 net on vs. off
Horford is the straw that stirs the drink, the engine that powers the vehicle, the real secret to what they do.
Only six players have averaged 14-8-4 on 42 percent 3-point shooting, and Horford has the second-best defensive rating among them.
And for anyone suggesting that a player averaging just 14 points per game can’t be on the list, I refer you to 2013-14, when Joakim Noah finished fourth in voting.
Horford lands in the 6th spot on Matt Moore’s list and it’s deserved. He’s catching some heat from (non-Celtics) fans but that criticism is rooted in ignorance.
Horford isn’t as dynamic as Kevin Garnett was in 2007-08 but he’s quarterbacking the defense in similar fashion.
The rest of the links
Herald – Celtics best defense winning plaudits around league | ESPN Boston – 16 nuggets from win streak