Beyond the numbers: Celtics offense hits historical lows


Beyond the numbers: Celtics offense hits historical lows

BOSTON – Even the most casual observer of this Boston-Atlanta series knows the Celtics have been at their worst to start games.
But how bad have they been?
Well, there’s the seven-point first quarter they put up in Game 2, which was actually the worst display of scoring ineptitude in the first quarter of an NBA playoff game in the shot-clock era.
As you examine the numbers more closely, the striking contrast between what’s happening now compared to how Boston fared in the regular season is pretty shocking.
In the regular season, Boston’s offensive rating (points scored per 100 possessions) in the first quarter was 103.8. In the playoffs, it has plummeted to 49.4.
Boston’s defense has clearly not been the problem to start games, evident by their defensive rating in the first quarter in the regular season being a respectable 98.0, which has taken a slight hit to where it has been 99.9 in Games 1 and 2 thus far.
Not surprisingly, the team’s effective field goal percentage has taken a major fall as well. It was .506 in the regular season, but has been .214 in the playoffs.
One of the factors in Boston’s struggles has been ball movement, which has featured players not finding teammates often enough for assists opportunities, or players simply missing shots after dribble penetration.
Boston had a solid assists-to-turnover ratio in the first quarter this season of 1.90. In Games 1 and 2, that number dipped to 0.88.
Celtics coach Brad Stevens knows his team has to find a way to turn things around for 48 minutes.
But as we have seen in Games 1 and 2, the first six minutes or so have proven to be the difference in each game.
In the 102-101 Game 1 loss, the Celtics trailed 18-10 after the first six minutes. And in Game 2, the Celtics were looking up at a 21-3 deficit at the halfway point of the first.
So, while the goal is to be as balanced as possible, the Celtics know that their offense – particularly their first quarter offense – has to be significantly better if they are to get back into this series with a win tonight.
“At the end of the day, we’ve defended how we wanted to more often than not,” Stevens said. “And offensively we have to be better. You can’t dig yourself that big of a hole early. That puts pressure on you to make the next one and the next one and the next one. We’ve had our down moments, we’ve had our down quarters in games. We’re looking forward to [tonight].”

Ainge: 'Setback' wrong word to use about Hayward

Ainge: 'Setback' wrong word to use about Hayward

When is a setback not a setback?

When Danny Ainge says, "You know what? Sometimes I talk too much," Ainge told the Boston Herald over the weekend. "'Setback' wasn't the right word, so let me rephrase that because it's not exactly true to say it - or say it that way.

The Celtics president of basketball operations, in his weekly radio interview with Toucher and Rich on 98.5 The Sports Hub and simulcast on NBC Sports Boston, used that word when he was describing how Gordon Hayward is coming along in his recovery. 

"He had like one setback for a couple of weeks, maybe a month and a half ago," Ainge said on the radio last week. "We were progressing a little bit too fast, we thought."

Ainge clarified that to the Herald's Steve Bulpett. 

"What happened is he went on the AlterG [anti-gravity treadmill] the first day and he felt some soreness," he said. "It was the first day he tried the AlterG, a long time ago. He just wasn't ready for it at that point. That's all it was."

Celtics coach Brad Stevens has been adamant that Hayward, recovering from his gruesome leg and ankle injury in the season opener, will not play for the Celtics this season. On Sunday, Stevens, via MassLive.com's Jay King, characterized Stevens' soreness as a "small" issue. 



Chest pains and lack of sleep lead to medical leave for Cavs coach Lue

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Chest pains and lack of sleep lead to medical leave for Cavs coach Lue

CLEVELAND - Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue is taking a leave of absence from the team to address health issues that have included chest pains and loss of sleep.

Lue said Monday in a statement that tests have offered no conclusion about what the issue is and offered no timetable for his return. The coach said he feels he needs to step away "and focus on trying to establish a stronger and healthier foundation" from which to coach the rest of the season.

Here's a portion of Lue's statement:

I have had chest pains and other troubling symptoms, compounded by a loss of sleep, throughout the year. Despite a battery of tests, there have been no conclusions as to what the exact issue is.

"While I have tried to work through it, the last thing I want is for it to affect the team. I am going to use this time to focus on a prescribed routine and medication, which has previously been difficult to start in the midst of a season," Lue said. "My goal is to come out of it a stronger and healthier version of myself so I can continue to lead this team to the championship we are all working towards."

A stress-filled season for the Cavs has taken a toll on the Lue, 40, a former Celtics assistant under Doc Rivers who led them to the 2016 NBA championship after taking over for David Blatt midway through that season. They are j40-29, third in the Eastern Conference, behind the second-place Celtics and East-leading Toronto Raptors, and have endured roster shake-ups, injuries and other distractions as they try to return to the NBA Finals.

David Aldridge of TNT reports that the plan is for Lue to return in a week. The NBA playoffs begin April 14. 

"We all want great players, we all want the best teams, but with that comes a lot of pressure as well. And what Ty Lue has had to go through this year with that team, with the trades and the injuries and the pressure, it's unrelenting," Denver coach Michael Malone said. "So I hope that he gets healthy and is able to get back in time for the playoffs and help that team win as many games as possible."

Lue spent the second half of Cleveland's victory in Chicago on Saturday in the locker room because of an illness, the second time this season he left a game because he wasn't feeling well. The former NBA guard also sat one out against Chicago at home in December.

Associate head coach Larry Drew coached the second half of Saturday's game, the finale of a six-game, 11-day road trip. Cleveland is back home to host Milwaukee on Monday.

"We know how difficult these circumstances are for Coach Lue and we support him totally in this focused approach to addressing his health issues," general manager Koby Altman said.

Charlotte coach Steve Clifford also left his team to address his health this season. He took six weeks off. Medical tests revealed that the 56-year-old Clifford did not have any internal problems, but the doctor's diagnosis was the coach was suffering from severe sleep deprivation.

AP Basketball Writer Tim Reynolds contributed to this report.

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