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 hit 19 3-pointers, but the problem was the they hit just 19 of 42 2-pointers. The Celtics are hitting just 46.9 percent this season on 2-pointers and rank 28th in the NBA in free throw attempts.
Boston is relying too heavily on the 3-pointer. The Celtics are flailing on midrange shots and layups, such as Kyrie Irving’s backdoor layup with 11.7 seconds left that could have extended the lead to 4. So they were asking to be on the wrong side of a dramatic ending and Oladipo obliged with his cold-blooded 3-ball.
The Boston Celtics currently have the fourth-worst offense in the NBA. Luckily, they have the best defense in the league and are the only team right now with a defensive rating under 100 (98.9).
There’s no doubt the offense still needs work. The mantra of NBA offenses is “threes, layups, and free throws.” That’s the holy trinity. And while I’m a believer in a well-timed 15 foot jumper, that’s still only in an attempt to soften a defense so players can ultimately get to the rim.
The Celtics have the three part down. 41.7% of their field goal attempts come from behind the arc, which is third-most behind Houston and Milwaukee. 38.5% of their points come from the three, second only to Houston.
They are third-worst in the league in points off drives (17 ppg) and second-worst in paint-touch points (14.2 ppg). The Celtics only get about 19 paint touches per game, the third fewest in the NBA, and only get about one free throw a game out of those rare paint touches.
To make matters worse, the Celtics fifth in the NBA in field goal attempts from 15-19 feet (11.2 per game) and fifth in attempts from 20-24 feet (15.4). Some of the latter include corner threes, but they also include long-two’s.
So the Celtics are taking about 89 shots per game. About 37 of those are threes, leaving 52 left. If they only get 19 paint touches per game, that leaves a large chunk of the offense languishing in the no-man’s land of long mid-range jumpers.
The entire concept of today’s three-point heavy offense is that taking the three is a higher efficiency shot than a slightly higher percentage two-point shot. Percentage wise, you can make 34 of 100 three’s and score 102 points, a number that can only be matched by making 51 of 100 two’s.
That means teams have to find spots where they’re shooting better than 51% from two. The Celtics are shooting 46.9% from two… well shy of the necessary efficiency.
How does a team bump that up? By getting to the rim, where shots go in at a much higher rate and free throws come more often. Does this mean the Celtics should be shooting fewer threes?
Nope. The drives to the rim absolutely have to come from the mid-range number. The Celtics will never have a good offense if they keep settling for inefficient shots.
They might say “we’re taking what the defense gives us,” which is the old cliché. The Celtics have a bunch of good shooters who feel really comfortable shooting from everywhere on the floor, but there’s a reason defenses give up those shots.
Defenses can live with 20 footers because they are generally a low-enough percentage shot that it will rarely win games. Those almost never draws free throws and they require less defensive energy to defend.
Again, a well-timed wide open mid-range jumper has its value. I always compare it to a body blow in boxing where it can soften a defense to a point where it can be exploited. The Celtics, though, aren’t taking those kinds of shots. They’re settling too often.
There may be a couple of threes from time to time that are forced, but generally I think the Celtics selection from deep is fine. Their overall shot profile, though, is not, and it won’t get any better until they start driving a lot more.
Until then, the Celtics will continue to have a bad offense, and they have too many good offensive players to have this bad of an offense. The paint touch statistic is the most damning number of the lot. Great offense requires the ball to move from one side of the floor to the other while getting into the paint. It’s the only way to get defenses into rotation and making mistakes.
The Celtics don’t do that often enough. It’s that simple. They just have to trust that giving up the ball means it will eventually come back. Ball movement breeds offensive success for everyone.
Page 2: The Time Lord is growing up
Look at the kid catching his flights on time!
That was a bit of a hellish trip for him. Williams played a G-League game, slept for a few hours, then caught two flights to make it to Indiana in time to be ready for the Pacers game.
As for his stint in Portland, he had 11 points on 5-5 shooting and 10 rebounds in 24 minutes of play.
“It was fun getting back out there, getting the opportunity, crafting my game,” Williams said of his stint with the Red Claws. “It was straight. I’m ready to step in if they need me, when they need me for support. It’s definitely a confidence booster. I haven’t had a chance to play a lot since I got out of college. So the runs and the reps definitely boosted my confidence and helped me.”
Once Daniel Theis is back from his foot injury, Williams will probably get some extended run in Maine. He needs the reps to work on the things the Celtics are trying to teach him. They need him to play basketball and make decisions so they can break down the film and teach him what he’s doing wrong and reinforce what he’s doing right.
The Celtics have the luxury of taking it slow with Williams. It not only helps him develop as a player, but him seeing that they care about his long-term development helps him build up trust in the team. If he trusts what they’re trying to do with him, he’ll be much more willing to fully invest himself in the plan… even if it means the occasional hellish travel day.
Here’s a look at that last play from last night and how it almost worked to perfection
Wonderful action to get that open opportunity, but it had to be precise. It’s very similar conceptually to the Horford game-winner against the Sixers in the playoffs…
An isolated post up is a great play to draw up with a few seconds on the clock and three other scorers on the floor. Generally speaking, the defenders have no choice but to clear out. Even if they sniff it out, they’re leaving a good shooter in an attempt to bust the play. The passer always has the option of finding a wide open shooter and with a few seconds left on the clock, there is time to make another pass or a dribble move to an open shot.
Precision is the name of the game, though. Players aren’t always going to be perfect, so that’s just how it goes sometimes. But keep an eye out for plays like this when the Celtics need a two-point basket. They’ll find ways to clear out and have one player sealed off 1-on-1 in space.
The rest of the links
NBCS Boston: Uncharacteristic miscues sink Celtics in Indy | Brad Stevens: They made one more play than we did | Victor Oladipo leads Pacers to win, snaps Celtics’ four game win streak | Gordon Hayward’s first alley-oop dunk since injury | Here’s what happened in the Celtics’ 102-101 loss to the Pacers
MassLive: Kyrie Irving ‘smoked the layup,’ Boston Celtics fall to Indiana Pacers: Breaking down final minute | Boston Celtics, Kyrie Irving get best shot from opponents: ‘It’s like they won a championship game against us’