Addressing these areas could help stop mini-slump
Stopping the slide
BOSTON – Barring a last-minute audible, the Celtics will spend this afternoon at the team’s practice facility trying to figure out how to reverse their losing ways of late.
Boston (40-18) has lost three of its past four and have fallen a half-game behind Toronto (39-16) for the best record in the East. but remain ahead of Cleveland (33-22).
And those losses haven’t been your garden variety setbacks, not with two being by at least 20 points.
Just to put that in perspective, the Celtics only had one loss (108-85 at Chicago on Dec. 11) by 20 or more points among their first 15 losses.
Getting down big and not being able to rally in recent games, while disappointing, it has not had any effect on how Brad Stevens views this team.
“At the end of the day, I don’t question the fight of this group, at all,” Stevens said. “I have no doubt that this group will respond when hit in the mouth, generally.”
More than anything, the Celtics will try to use this stretch as a teaching moment, one that they hope will better prepare them for the challenges awaiting them.
“As we go forward, I think we can constantly learn from not only a game like [Sunday’s 121-99 loss to Cleveland] but the last few games with playing the high intense teams of the Eastern Conference, where we’ve been tested. I have a lot to learn. I think that we as a team do as well. It’s just great when you’ve got a chance to go through this as a young group and including before the All-Star break where it’s going to test a lot of us, and I’m looking forward to how we respond.”
Here are five areas the Celtics need to clean up to get back to doing what they’ve done a ton of this season, which is winning games:
The Celtics have been a feast-or-famine team when it comes to rebounding this season. So, it’s not all that surprising that their rebounding percentage this season is .500, which ranks 14th in the NBA. In the past four games, it’s clear based on the eye test as well as the data that rebounding has indeed become problematic for Boston in this current rough stretch of games. In fact, Boston’s rebounding percentage, according to nba.com/stats, in the past four games is .469, which ranks 27th in the NBA in that span. Improving here will create more scoring opportunities, something Boston’s offense desperately needs.
The Celtics have not been a high-assists team this season, with the team’s ball movement being somewhat suspect. For the season, Boston averages 22.0 assists per game, which ranks 21st in the NBA. That part of Boston’s overall game has taken a noticeable dip of late. In the past four games, the Celtics have averaged just 18.8 assists per game, which ranks 27th in the NBA. Getting the ball moving better will do wonders for Boston’s offense, which needs a legit boost to get back on track.
We beat up on the offense because in many phases of play, the Celtics just haven’t been very good. Still, when it comes to scoring via the catch-and-shoot, they are one of the NBA’s best. This season, the Celtics have averaged 30.8 points on the catch-and-shoot, which ranks sixth in the NBA. Boston’s inability of late to do what they have done well at most of this season – scoring off the catch-and-shoot – has been a factor in their struggles. In the past four games, Boston has averaged 23.5 points off the catch-and-shoot which ranks 24th in the league.
Boston has been among the better above-the-break 3-point shooting teams, connecting on 36.2 percent, which ranks eighth in the NBA. A big part of Boston’s success in this area has to do with Kyrie Irving. He’s shooting 38.9 percent on above-the-break 3’s which ranks 12th in the NBA with at least 5.0 above-the-break 3’s taken per game (he averages 5.8 above-the-break 3-point attempts). In the past four games, they have shot just 33.3 percent on above-the-break 3’s, which ranks 20th in the league. And Irving? According to nba.com/stats, he has shot just 18.2 percent on above-the-break 3’s in the past four games.
FIELD-GOAL PERCENTAGE ON DRIVES
Boston doesn’t drive the ball a ton, but when they have it frequently works out in their favor. This season, the Celtics have shot 47.3 percent from the field on drives, which ranks 11th in the NBA. In the team’s recent mini-slump, the Celtics' shooting on drives has dipped to 42.7 percent, which ranks 22nd in the NBA in that span. Among those who have struggled to score off of drives for Boston, has been Terry Rozier. He averages 5.4 drive attempts per game, which ranks third among reserves in the NBA. However, he’s shooting just 32.1 percent on drives, which ranks dead-last among players with at least two field-goal attempts via drive per game. His improvement, as well as that of the rest of the Celtics on finishing at the rim, will go far in helping Boston re-establish itself as the best team in the East.