Celtics

Celtics fans will love this Kemba Walker stat on his clutch NBA scoring

Celtics fans will love this Kemba Walker stat on his clutch NBA scoring

When winning time arrives, Kemba Walker wants the ball.

The Boston Celtics reportedly agreed to sign the Charlotte Hornets point guard to a four-year, $141 million max contract on Sunday night, giving the team a fantastic replacement for the departing Kyrie Irving.

Walker scored a career-high 25.6 points per game last season, but the most impressive part of his offensive performance might have been his play in the clutch.

According to NBA.com, Walker's 175 points in the clutch were the second-most in the league last season behind Houston Rockets guard James Harden's 192. The league's stats page defines a clutch situation as the last five minutes of the game with the score being tied or one team has a lead of five points or less.

Celtics fans got a front row seat to Walker's late-game heroics in March:

Walker likely will replace Irving as the Celtics' go-to scorer in close games, but unlike in Charlotte, he'll have several quality teammates to find if he doesn't have a great look at the basket. Celtics wings Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Gordon Hayward are better than the Hornets' best options behind Walker, a group that included Jeremy Lamb, Frank Kaminsky and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.

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Here's what the Celtics have to do to start a new win streak

Here's what the Celtics have to do to start a new win streak

The Boston Celtics, player by player, weren’t trying to fool anyone Sunday afternoon following their one-point loss to Sacramento. 

Marcus Smart’s last-second runner that hung on the rim for what seemed like an eternity before rolling out of the cylinder as time expired, would have salvaged a game that they had given away time and time again earlier.

They didn’t deserve to win that game; Sacramento did.

The Kings played harder, smarter and they were the more efficient and effective team for longer stretches than the Celtics.

With the season still relatively young, it’s a good reminder of what happens when you ease into games like the Celtics have seemingly done for a good chunk of this season.

And for Boston, there just isn’t much time for reflection or to take a deeper dive into what specifically led to Sunday’s loss, which snapped a 10-game Celtics winning streak.

Up next they play the Phoenix Suns (7-4), one of the hottest teams in the NBA. 

And while there’s plenty of room for improvement, here are three must-fix areas that require immediate attention if the Celtics are to begin a new winning streak tonight against the Suns.

FIRST-HALF OFFENSE

By the time the final stats are tallied, the Celtics come out looking pretty good offensively. But that’s in large part because of how ridiculously well they play after halftime. The Celtics have become too reliant on a strong finish propelling them to victory. Simply put, they need to begin games better than what we’ve seen this season. While players point to the not-so-great start in the last couple of games as being an issue, the truth is their early game woes run much deeper.

This season, nba.com/stats shows that Boston’s offensive rating in the first half of games is 103.4, which ranks 22nd in the NBA. And yet for the season, the Celtics have the second-best offensive rating (112.0) in the league. The Phoenix Suns have a similar first-half issue with their offensive rating in the first half of games (105.9) being ranked 16th in the league. But overall, their offensive rating (111.6) ranks fifth.

Celtics players are well aware of the need to have better starts in order to have better finishes.

“We’ve started off bad the last few games,” Boston’s Jaylen Brown told reporters following Sunday’s loss. “It’s a long season. We lost the game; it happens. We just have to continue to keep moving forward. It’s not the end of the world.  We lost a game; try and win (tonight).”

REBOUND PERCENTAGE

While some pay close attention to the total number of rebounds snatched per game, a more telling indicator as to how good or bad a team is on the boards, is their rebounding percentage. And while the Celtics are middle-of-the-pack in total rebounds, they get too small a chunk of available boards, that — as we saw on Sunday — will catch up to you eventually.

Against the Kings, the Celtics finished with a respectable rebounding percentage of .518, which is actually better than their season average (.484), which ranks 26th in the league.

However, Boston’s board work was underwhelming to say the least in the fourth quarter.

That's when the Celtics were out-rebounded 14-9 and were outscored 13-4 on second-chance points.

And their rebounding percentage in the fourth quarter Sunday was just .393.

Their opponent tonight has had their share of rebounding struggles as well, with the Suns’ rebounding percentage (.492) ranked 20th in the league.

PULL-UP JUMPERS

We give the Celtics props for looking to attack more going to the rim, than we’ve seen in past years. But with the kind of offensive firepower this team possesses, pull-up jumpers have to be a part of a successful offensive attack. 

It has been that way most of this season, with the Celtics averaging 26.8 points per game on pull-up jumpers, which ranks second in the NBA. But on Sunday, Second Spectrum Data shows that the Celtics generated just 13 points from pull-up jumpers.

Tonight they face a Phoenix team that, while ranking among the league’s highest-scoring clubs, doesn’t generate a ton of offense from pull-up jumpers. For the season, they average 16.1 points from pull-up jumpers, which ranks just 26th in the NBA. 

Don’t miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Suns, which tips off Monday at 8 p.m. ET with Celtics Pregame Live, and then Mike & Scal have the call of the game at 9 p.m. You can also stream the game through the MyTeams App.

Celtics Report Card: Sobering marks as 10-game winning streak ends

Celtics Report Card: Sobering marks as 10-game winning streak ends

The Celtics were inches away from becoming the first team in NBA history to rattle off an 11-game win streak after an opening night loss.

But Marcus Smart's floater at the buzzer didn't fall, and now the C's sit at 10-2. 

Call it an overreaction and maybe this week's grades would be a bit cheerier if Smart’s layup dropped for another undefeated week, but it wasn’t a particularly inspiring seven days for the Celtics. 

Despite their 3-1 record, Boston let the lowly Wizards put up 133 points on the parquet and fell behind by 15 points to a Warriors club with the worst record in the NBA.

Now the C's have to bounce back from their second loss of the season as their road trip continues against the Suns, Clippers, and Nuggets, who own a combined record of 24-12.

But before we look ahead, let's take a look back.

Click here for the Celtics Report Card from Week 4.>>>>>

Don’t miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Suns, which tips off Monday at 8 p.m. ET with Celtics Pregame Live, and then Mike & Scal have the call of the game at 9 p.m. You can also stream the game through the MyTeams App.