Celtics

Celtics

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].”