Celtics

Celtics can attribute recent success to contested 3-pointers

Celtics can attribute recent success to contested 3-pointers

In their last three games, the Celtics have looked a lot more like the 2018-19 team we expected to see before the season, with the C’s picking up solid wins on the road vs star-studded Western Conference teams (Pelicans & Timberwolves), and smashing the dregs of the East at home (Cleveland). 

So what’s different between the team of the last three games and the .500 squad from the first 20? Their scorching hot offense is certainly a factor, but another statistical indicator that deserves monitoring is the percentage of opponents' three-point field goals the Celtics are contesting. During the first 20 games of the season, the C’s contested 80% of opponents' threes, but in the last three games that number has jumped to 89%. For context, the Denver Nuggets lead the NBA with an 86% three-point contest rate. 

One of the main reasons for the higher contest rate is the additional minutes Marcus Smart has received since entering the starting lineup. The Celtics' cyborg ninja is averaging 7.0 contested threes per game as a starter (Draymond Green leads the NBA with an average of 5.6), helping prove he is, in fact, a defensive alpha. 

It’s hard to say what the actual impact of the higher three-point contest rate is, as the Celtics' last three opponents have actually shot better from beyond the arc than their first 20 had, although they’ve taken fewer three-pointers. I believe a higher three-point contest rate is indicative of a more locked-in defense. The Celtics always try on defense, but their focus on that end was inconsistent during the first 20 games. Hopefully, the last three games are a sign of what the rest of the 2018-19 season will look like for the Celtics.

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Celtics again big favorites versus Suns on Wednesday NBA odds

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File photo

Celtics again big favorites versus Suns on Wednesday NBA odds

For the fourth time in five meetings, the Boston Celtics (18-11) find themselves as double-digit betting favorites on the NBA odds over the Phoenix Suns (7-24) for Wednesday's matchup at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.

The exception during that stretch came in the most recent game between the teams on November 8 when the Celtics closed as 9.5-point road favorites and failed to cover the spread in a 116-109 overtime win after rallying back from a 22-point deficit.

Boston point guard Kyrie Irving led the charge at Phoenix by scoring 18 of his game-high 39 points in the fourth quarter and OT to prevent an embarrassing loss. The Suns jumped out to a 32-13 lead at the end of the first quarter and got a team-high 38 points from Devin Booker, who finally returned to action on Saturday after missing six games with a hamstring injury.

It is no surprise that Phoenix has put together a season-high three-game winning streak with Booker back on the court since he is the team's best player. Following a 99-89 home victory against the Dallas Mavericks last Thursday, Booker has averaged 33 points in a pair of wins over the Minnesota Timberwolves and New York Knicks, proving his value as an elite scorer.

On Monday, the Suns were actually favored by 1.5 points at sports betting sites at Madison Square Garden versus the Knicks, the first time they have closed in that role since November 21 against the Chicago Bulls, according to the OddsShark NBA Database.

In fact, that was the only other time they were favored this season, but they lost 124-116 to the Bulls as 1.5-point road chalk.

Meanwhile, the Celtics have been playing much better lately, winning eight of their last nine games, with the loss coming last Saturday against the Detroit Pistons. Boston fell 113-104 at Detroit as a two-point road favorite to end the team's eight-game winning streak despite a combined 47 points from the starting backcourt of Irving and Marcus Smart. More impressively though, the Celtics covered the spread in each game of their winning streak.

As far as series trends go, Boston has won seven of the past eight meetings with Phoenix straight up. But the Suns have gone 6-0 against the spread in the last six, taking advantage of large point spreads that closed at nine points or higher in favor of the Celtics five times.

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DeAndre Hopkins made perfect Paul Pierce comparison after injuring ankle

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USA TODAY Sports

DeAndre Hopkins made perfect Paul Pierce comparison after injuring ankle

DeAndre Hopkins was the truth Saturday night. Apparently he still feels that way.

The Houston Texans wide receiver went off for 170 receiving yards and two touchdowns on 10 catches in a win over the New York Jets. He injured his ankle after one of those TD grabs, though, and his teammates actually carried him off the field.

That prompted Hopkins to make a perfect Paul Pierce comparison Tuesday night on Twitter.

You remember the "wheelchair game," right?

That's where the photo on the right is from: Pierce had to be carried off the court by his Boston Celtics teammates in Game 1 of the 2008 NBA Finals and later was wheeled to the locker room after injuring his knee.

But "The Truth," like Hopkins, returned to the game, finishing with 22 points in a 10-point Celtics win over the Los Angeles Lakers that paved the way for Boston's 17th championship.

The stakes were a little lower for Hopkins on Saturday, but his Texans did earn their 10th win to vault ahead of the New England Patriots for the AFC's No. 2 seed.

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