Five areas Celtics need to shore up for Game 7
BOSTON – At this point in the postseason, there are very few adjustments.
The changes you see are changes that have been done before, but now maybe tweaked a bit because of a specific situation or circumstances.
That’s why it’s hard to imagine the Celtics will do anything radically different now that the series is tied up, especially considering how Game 6 was such a tightly contested game that wasn’t decided until the last second had ticked off the game clock.
“Our group doesn’t get too high or too low,” said Boston’s Brad Stevens. “We realize that there are some things certainly that you can do better throughout the course of the game, but I thought we really competed. I thought we really played hard (and) we played with great purpose. I thought we played together. When I think of (Game 6) I don’t think about John Wall’s three going in. We missed some layups, we missed some opportunities that we have to convert in a game like this. But hats off to him and them. That was a heck-of-a basketball game between two teams that were playing really hard.”
While they may not be looking to re-invent themselves, there are areas of which they can improve upon.
Here are five key areas the Celtics need to shore up between now and Monday’s winner-take-all Game 7 against the Washington Wizards.
FEED HORFORD MORE
Boston’s $113 million man has been the team’s most consistent player in this series, and that shouldn’t change in Game 7 either. But good things tend to happen for Boston when he’s getting a steady dose of touches. In Boston’s three wins, Horford is averaging 75.3 touches per game. But in the losses, that number drops down to 65.7. Horford having the ball is vital to Boston’s ball movement, which is why the Celtics getting him the ball to create more inside-outside action will go far in Boston finding success on Monday.
UNLEASH THE WEAPON OF CHOICE: THE 3-BALL
The Celtics spent all season honing their skills as a steady, reliable 3-point shooting team. While the rise has been far from a smooth one, there’s no mistaking how much the 3-point shot has been vital to Boston’s success this season and to an extent, the playoffs. In the team’s three wins against Washington, the Celtics are shooting 46-for-106 (43.4 percent) from 3-point range. Not surprisingly, when the Celtics have struggled it has been in part because of their inability to make the Wizards pay from deep. Boston has made just 37-for-100 (37 percent) of their 3’s in their three losses to Washington.
NOTE TO THOMAS: READ WIZ DEFENSE BETTER
Tom Brady, who has reached out to Isaiah Thomas from time to time, might offer him some tips on how to read blitz coverages. Because the Wizards didn’t go to it often, but they did near the end of Game 6 and it delivered a huge play that jumpstarted the Wizards rallying for the win. Thomas’ turnover, his fifth of the game, was one of the biggest gaffes of the game for him and the Celtics. And throughout this series, Thomas’ ability to avoid turnovers while finding teammates has been huge in determining the outcome of games. In three Celtics wins, Thomas has 22 assists with just eight turnovers. But in the three losses to Washington, Thomas has just 16 assists while turning the ball over 13 times.
BE SMART(ER) ON OPEN SHOTS
Marcus Smart doesn’t play starter-like minutes for his shooting which has been an issue for as long as he has been in the NBA. No one expects him to light it up offensively like Stephen Curry, Kyrie Irving or any other elite-scoring guard in the NBA. But making open shots has to be done at a higher clip than we’ve seen. According to stats.nba.com, Smart has shot just 6-for-19 on uncontested shots in this series, or just 31.6 percent. When the Celtics win, that number inches up to 33.3 percent (4-for-12) but in losses to the Wizards, he’s at just 28.6 percent (2-for-7).
REACH IN THE DECK, FIND A WILD CARD
While there may be no secrets in this series thus far, there are plenty of players for both teams who might prove to be difference-makers in Game 7 whose impact thus far has been limited. If you’re the Celtics, a couple players to keep an eye on might be Gerald Green and Jonas Jerebko. Green, who has just as many starts (2) as DNP-CDS (2) in this series, can be the ultimate flamethrower who can scorch a defense in a matter of minutes. He has 16 points scored in this series, and could easily rattle off as many in Game 7. As for Jerebko who has not played (coaches decision) in each of the last two games and three in this series, he too could have a breakout kind of night depending on the right matchup. A year ago, it was Jerebko being inserted into Boston’s starting lineup in their first-round series with the Atlanta Hawks. He helped them win a couple games before the Hawks ultimately won the series in six games.