Have Celtics solved their second-quarter problem?

Have Celtics solved their second-quarter problem?

Let’s face it.

The second quarter has been a major problem for the Celtics this season.

And then there’s Friday night in a 110-98 victory in Detroit, where the Celtics outscored the Pistons 38-21 in the second to take control of the game.

The 38 points tied a season-high for second-quarter scoring and the +17 scoring margin in the quarter was their best in a second quarter this season.

Boston’s point differential for the season speaks to how, while the Celtics don’t score a ton of points, their defense allows them to have a bit of a scoring cushion most nights.

For the season, Boston’s point differential of +3.7 ranks fourth in the league behind Houston (+8.9), Toronto (+8.3) and Golden State (+8.1).

Still, if you hone in on what the Celtics do in the second quarter...it’s not pretty.

Their scoring differential this season in the second quarter is -1.1, which ranks in the bottom 10 in the NBA (24th specifically).

Here are five under-the-radar storylines you might not be thinking about heading into tonight’s game between the Celtics and Knicks as they close out their regular-season series (Boston leads, 2-1):

EXCLUSIVE CLUB


With the victory in Detroit, the Celtics won their 20th road game of the season. The victory puts them in select company in the NBA. Only Golden State (22-7) and Houston (21-7) have more road wins or a better road record than the Celtics (20-8).

ARON BAYNES


Seeing Aron Baynes head to the bench and soon after towards the locker room with an elbow injury was not a good look. Following the win at Detroit, Celtics coach Brad Stevens said Baynes had not been ruled out from playing tonight. Boston has been atop the NBA most of this season defensively and the play of Baynes has been critical to that success. Prior to the Pistons game, Boston’s defensive rating when Baynes was on the floor was 96.4. When he was not playing, it ballooned to 103.5.

MICHAEL BEASLEY


You always have to be on guard when Beasley’s in the building. While his season numbers may suggest he’s a role player coming off the bench who can maybe score a little, don’t be fooled. Beasley is a cold-blooded scoring assassin who can kill a defense with his wide array of scoring techniques. The Celtics saw this up close earlier this season when Beasley dropped a season-high 32 points the Knicks' 102-93 victory over Boston on Dec. 21.

FEBRUARY STRUGGLES


Boston can’t wait to flip the calendar and get on to March, because February has been brutal for the defense. In the four previous months this season, Boston’s defensive rating always ranked among the top-10 each month. But in February, Boston’s defensive rating of 108.6 currently ranks 16th in the NBA. There’s still time to improve upon that before the month is over, but February is likely to go down as Boston’s worst month defensively this season.

CELTICS-KNICKS HISTORY


When it comes to history, Boston and New York share more than just being among the original teams when the NBA formed in 1946 (In 1946, the NBA had a different name, the Basketball Association of America. Following its third season, the BAA would merge with the National Basketball League to form what is now known as the NBA). They are also the only teams from the league’s inception that did not disband for a period of time, or move to another city.  

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE


 

Celtics-Knicks preview: Theis looks for back-to-back big games

Celtics-Knicks preview: Theis looks for back-to-back big games

For Daniel Theis, the plan for All-Star break was to spend some time with his family at Disneyland.

“Can’t wait, get out of the cold a little,” a grinning Theis told NBC Sports Boston shortly before the break. “It’ll be fun.”

Well, it looked like he was enjoying himself in his first game back from the break, scoring a career-high 19 points in Boston’s 110-98 win in Detroit.

It was a strong performance, the kind that both Theis and the Celtics wouldn’t mind an encore of tonight when Boston takes on the New York Knicks.

New York (24-36) and Boston (41-19) split the first two meetings, with the home team emerging with the victory. But tonight’s game has lost a little bit of its luster for several reasons. First and foremost, Kristaps Porzingis being lost for the season with an ACL injury weakens a Knicks team that wasn’t all that good to begin with. 

Since his injury, the Knicks are 1-4, which includes a 120-113 win over the Orlando Magic on Thursday night.

That victory raised New York’s record without Porzingis this season to 2-11. The other victory without Porzingis came on Dec. 16 when they knocked off the Oklahoma City Thunder and ex-Knicks star Carmelo Anthony, 111-96.

In that game, New York’s Michael Beasley went off for 30 points, which isn’t all that surprising.

Most people know Beasley is a feast-or-famine scorer who can dominate some nights, disappear others.

And there’s Theis, who all season has played at a steady pace, both in his impact and just his overall demeanor.

When he has struggled to get time on the floor, there have been no complaints publicly. The times that he has played exceptionally well, like last night, his reaction has been of humility in the form of thanking his teammates and what they did that helped him be successful.

Even if he didn’t score a career-high in points and doesn’t grab rebounds at an insane DeAndre Jordan-like rate, Theis’ contributions to the Celtics this season have not gone unnoticed.

“He’s been a big part of our team all year,” said Celtics coach Brad Stevens. “He’s a really reliable guy.”

And quick to adapt to change, even when it may not necessarily be to his benefit.

“Obviously with adding Greg [Monroe], you get a few less reps,” Stevens said. “But a guy like Theis is always ready, and always does what he does.”

While Theis’ play on Friday may have been par for the course in Stevens’ eyes, that didn’t stop the larger-than-usual crowds of media from gathering to talk with the 25-year-old German after the game.

“I’m just happy, it was a good day for me,” Theis said. “Germany beat Canada in hockey; we won here, so I’m happy.”

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

 
 

Smart helps Celtics end three-game losing skid

Smart helps Celtics end three-game losing skid

There were Boston Celtics who had more points, rebounds and assists than Marcus Smart. 

But make no mistake about it. 

The Boston Celtics are a better team with Smart’s return, evident by them cruising to a 110-98 win over Detroit. 

MORE CELTICS

Smart was part of a strong second unit, tallying 12 points in his first game back after missing the previous 11 due to a laceration on his right hand that required 20 stitches to close after he punched a picture frame last month. 

“I felt great,” Smart told NBC Sports Boston following the game. “This training staff did a good job of making sure I was still in shape and ready come back when I did come back.”

Within minutes of entering the game, Smart drained a 3-pointer which was part of a Celtics’ 3-point barrage in which they were collectively 17-for-39 on 3’s.

Said Boston’s Daniel Theis: “He (Smart) was great for us today.”

Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from Boston’s 110-98 win over Detroit. 

 

STARS

Daniel Theis: The 25-year-old rookie came up with one big hustle play after another. And when all was said and done, he had a career-high 19 points on 8-for-10 shooting to go with seven rebounds.

Ish Smith: For most of the night, he was the best player on the floor for the Detroit Pistons. He would lead Detroit with 20 points on 9-for-11 shooting along with six assists. 

Celtics bench: This was one of the best games we’ve seen from Boston’s backups. Along with doing a solid job defensively, the Celtics’ bench absolutely dominated the game scoring the ball. For the night, they had a season-high 65 points scored.

 

STUDS

Kyrie Irving: Irving did not have the monster game offensively, and the reason was clear: they didn’t need it. He had 18 points on 7-for-14 shooting which included four made 3’s, not to mention six assists.

Andre Drummond: He got off to a slow start, but Drummond’s play around the rim really picked up after the first quarter as he finished with a double-double of 15 points and 17 rebounds.

 

DUDS

Blake Griffin: He had 17 points, but he was non-factor most of the game courtesy of some really strong play defensively by Al Horford. Griffin shot just 5-for-19 from the field and turned the ball over six times. 

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