The Boston Celtics move on to their second home-and-home series of the preseason when host the Cleveland Cavaliers tonight.
The new opponent presents not only the new challenge of facing different personnel with different strengths and weaknesses, it represents an opportunity to progress and correct some of the mistakes of the first couple of games.
Here are a few of the things the Celtics need to focus on now.
Run a more fluid offense
The Celtics have put up a lot of points. They are taking a ton of threes, they’re running a lot, and they’re getting decent shots early in the shot clock.
They’re also in very much of a “taking turns” mode right now. There isn’t much actual offense being run. And while it worked against Charlotte in the preseason, there’s a good chance it’s not something that will work every night.
The Celtics have to start getting into some sets and run actual plays where picks are set, cuts are made, passes are passed, and guys get the timing of it all down. Eventually, the Celtics will have to play a lot of half court offense, and while they’ve got plenty of time right now to figure it out, it’d be nice to see them start to do that.
We know they can grab and go… now let’s see if their offense is good enough to pick a half court defense apart.
Keep Hayward moving forward
We saw some nice progress from Hayward in getting a little more aggressive and a little more explosive just over the course of two games.
Personally, I’d combine this point with the previous one, especially with Kyrie Irving taking a break tonight.
The Celtics should come out specifically running plays for Hayward, maybe even having Hayward bring the ball up and trigger some of the offense, just to push his involvement even more.
The plan was always to have Hayward handle some of the offense-initiating duties when Kyrie sat, so this is a nice opportunity for him to do more of that.
Jayson Tatum’s shot selection
We’ve all had our fun getting our Kobe jokes off after two games. Now it’s time for Tatum to work on turning long-twos into threes or shots in the restricted area.
I’m a proponent of mid-range shots. I think letting a defense know you’re willing to take a few 15 footers naturally softens them up and pulls them out of the lane. However taking shots a step or two inside the three-point line is a cardinal sin.
Tatum got away from that in the second half of the second game, and it certainly isn’t a long-term concern, but cleaning up the shot selection is definitely a focus.
Let’s play some D
Another point of emphasis will be cleaning up the miscommunications and overreactions on defense. The Celtics have done a fine job of running off misses, it’d be great to see them force more turnovers to get even more break opportunities.
At the very least, they need to work on more disciplined rotations and close-outs. The Celtics have been too wild in that respect so far.
Special note to Robert Williams the Time Lord: stay down on the upfakes kid. Williams has done a nice job switching and he had a game-sealing block Sunday night. Now it’s time to really work on that discipline. He’s too long and athletic to be biting on fakes. He can wait for guys to actually jump and still challenge or block the shot.
The condensed preseason puts added emphasis on some of these things. It also means that some of this stuff is going to bleed into the regular season. They won’t get all of this right for a little while, but they do need to focus on these steps forward to get themselves ready for the regular season.
Jay King and I discussed a lot of these points in the latest Locked On Celtics podcast. Have a listen, and if you like it, please subscribe. We’re available on Apple podcasts, Google podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts. Just search for “Locked On Celtics.”