Celtics

Celtics' 3-point shooters in Brad Stevens' scheme should be dangerous

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Celtics' 3-point shooters in Brad Stevens' scheme should be dangerous

BOSTON – For years, Boston Celtics fans have been wanting to trust the process when it comes to the 3-point shot.

Ever since Brad Stevens arrived as Boston’s head coach in 2013, it has been clear that he wants the 3-point shot to be woven into the fabric of this franchise under his watch. And as fans for years cringed as one 3-point brick after another was launched, having that 3-point mindset has laid the foundation for what looks to be one of the better 3-point shooting teams this season. Because unlike past seasons when they fielded a roster full of guys willing to take them, this season’s squad has more players who can actually make them at a fairly high clip.

Boston’s ability to make 3’s is among the many takeaways for a Celtics team that won all four of their preseason games.

In Boston’s four preseason games – all wins – they took 30.5 attempts from 3-point range per game which ranked 12th in the NBA. More telling is that they made 40.2 percent of those 3’s which ranked fourth in the league. Under Stevens, the Celtics finished 14th (35.9 percent) in the league in three-point percentage. In the three seasons prior to that, Boston finished no better than 27th in the league in three-point percentage (.327, 2015). 

Now you don’t want to put too much stock into how a team or player fares from 3-point line in the preseason, obviously. And the percentages that team’s shoot in the preseason are not necessarily a precursor to how teams will fare in the regular season.

Last season, the only NBA team ranked among the top 10 in both 3-pointers taken and 3-point percentage, was defending NBA champion Golden State.

But it wasn’t the numbers that really stood out for the Celtics from 3-point range.

More impressive was the amount of space that they seemed to have most of the night on those shots, the kind of spacing that’s likely to stick around for most of this upcoming season.

“We really do have a team where it’s like pick-your-poison on offense,” Celtics guard Terry Rozier told NBC Sports Boston recently. “We have some really good shooters who can make it hard, really hard on teams defensively.”

Streak reveals depth even Celtics didn't know they had

Streak reveals depth even Celtics didn't know they had

Coaches in all sports will tell you that winning is not easy.
 
Making the Celtics’ 16-game winning streak even more impressive is that a number of the victories have involved Boston turning to some unlikely sources of production.

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And that has provided a glimpse into a franchise that’s getting the best of both worlds: quality play from its core group while developing reserves who have contributed to the team reeling off 16 straight wins in a variety of ways.
 
Because coach Brad Stevens has gone deeper into his bench this season than past years, it has created a roster with minutes more evenly distributed and with that, less wear and tear on the bodies of key players.
 
And while this team is led by Kyrie Irving and Al Horford, there has been at least one other Celtic to emerge as a top-three performer every night...and often it’s not the same player.
 
“Much more unpredictable now,” a league executive texted to NBC Sports Boston. “That number three guy, is it [Jaylen] Brown? [Jayson] Tatum? Sometimes it’s Marcus [Smart]. You don’t know who it’s going to be because a lot of times, I don’t think they [Celtics] know who it will be. It’s why they’re so good, man.”
 
Here are five under-the-radar storylines heading into tonight’s game in Miami with the Celtics trying to push their winning streak to 17:

KYRIE FOR MVP
It’s one thing for the home crowd to get into the ‘M-V-P’ chants when you’re at the free-throw line. But it’s a completely different matter when those same cheers are being heard on the road. That’s where Irving was following the 110-102 overtime win at Dallas, a game in which Irving dropped 47 points, 10 in overtime. It’ll be interesting to see if another strong game by Irving will lead to another serenading of ‘M-V-P’ chants for the most dominant player on the team with the league’s best record.


 
TURNING DOWN THE HEAT
The streak is the talk of the NBA right now, but streaking was going to be part of the conversation leading up to tonight’s game regardless. The Celtics come into tonight’s game having won eight in a row over the Heat, their longest current winning streak over any team. Boston has dominated this matchup for years, posting a 70-44 record all-time against Miami in the regular season.
 

DUKE CONNECTION
College basketball just kicked off and Duke is once again among the game’s top teams, a school that consistently produces NBA talent at a relatively high level. That’ll be very apparent tonight when you consider this Boston-Miami matchup features three players (Kyrie Irving and Jayson Tatum for Boston, Justise Winslow for Miami) from Duke who will all be in the starting lineup and a fourth (Boston’s Semi Ojeleye) who attended Duke but later transferred to SMU.


 
JUSTISE WINSLOW
Every front-office executive has that one player they tried – and failed – to acquire that, in hindsight, not getting him was a really good thing. Winslow is that guy for the Celtics. While he hasn’t been necessarily a bust, his impact at this level hasn’t been enough to have warranted all the assets Boston was willing to part with on draft night in order to move up and select him. Still, he’s healthy now and starting to play better which is evident by his numbers in most offensive categories on the rise, while his defense has been relatively solid.
 

THREE-POINTERS
The Heat have made the 3-point shot a much bigger part of their offense this season, evident by Miami ranking seventh in the league in 3-point makes (11.2) this season. In Boston, one of the keys to their top-ranked defense has been their length, which has come in real handy defending the 3-pointer. In fact, Boston has limited opponents to just 32.1 percent shooting on 3’s this season, which ranks third in the league.

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WATCH: Celtics vs. Heat

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WATCH: Celtics vs. Heat

Tune into NBC Sports Boston to watch the Celtics play the Heat in Miami. You can also click here to watch the Celtics livestream presented by Nissan on the NBC Sports App. Coverage begins at 7 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live Presented by ACE Ticket.

- Game preview: Will Celtics be drained by emotional comeback win Monday in Dallas?

- Channel Finder: Make sure you know where to watch

[SHOP: Gear up, Celtics fans!]

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