Celtics

Where are the Celtics' points going to come from?

Where are the Celtics' points going to come from?

BOSTON – It was a short, two-game road trip for the Celtics and the results – one win, one loss – were akin to how things have been for them lately - seemingly every success has been balanced with some sort of struggle.

And because of that, it’s hard to get a read on how they will bounce back following a 108-89 loss at New Orleans in a game that reinforced one of Boston’s biggest struggles most of this season – scoring points.

Boston averages 104.3 points per game, which ranks 20th in the NBA.

Since the All-Star break, Boston has averaged 110.7 points per game, which ranks 12th in the NBA.

But the team Boston fielded right after the break isn’t the same one we see on the floor now as the Celtics try to make the most of a roster that has been decimated by injuries in recent weeks.

And while there’s plenty of areas in need of improvement, Celtics coach Brad Stevens knows he has to figure something out for an anemic offense that has been a major factor in Boston losing three of its past four.

“We’re going to have moments where we’ll struggle to score with this group right now,” Stevens said. “And we just have to play a more concerted game, a more intentional game.

Stevens added, “this is a hard team for us to match up with, in full. You knew there were going to be some issues otherwise. There were some times where were probably let go of the rope in the second half and it cascaded on us.”

Here are five other takeaways from the loss to New Orleans:

HORFORD NEEDS TO BE BETTER
There’s no getting around the fact that Al Horford has to play better than we saw on Sunday, even with an Anthony Davis on the opposite bench. With a pair of starters (Kyrie Irving and Jaylen Brown) out as well as a key reserve (Daniel Theis), he’s the lone member of Boston’s current Big Three whose health is not an issue. And while we praise Horford for all the intangibles he brings to the game, Boston needs him to keep doing that and then some, as they try to navigate their way through the end of this regular season and hopefully have a close-to-full complement of players when the postseason arrives.

TATUM IN ATTACK MODE
Sunday was one of Jayson Tatum’s more aggressive performances of late, as he attacked the rim off the dribble, hit the open jumper and maybe most significant, consistently kept an opponent on their heels. He led the Celtics with 23 points, but you had the feeling he could have gone off and had an even more impressive game. With so many core guys out with injuries, Tatum has to look for his shot more often. There are few players so young in the NBA with such a varied skill set that appears to be expanding before our very eyes.

NADER'S FREE THROWS
There were many things that jumped out from the loss, but few stand out like the string of free throws missed by Abdel Nader. With Boston trailing by six points early in the fourth quarter, Nader was fouled while attempting a 3-pointer. And on the same play, the Pelicans were whistled for a technical foul. Nader, a 72 percent free throw shooter going into the game, missed all four free-throw throw and followed that up by missing the first of two free-throw attempts afterward. Fans may be down on Nader, but he still has the confidence of his head coach. “I believe in all these guys,” Stevens said. “At the end of the day, Abs has been a very good free throw shooter his whole career. He was going to step up and have three right after (the technical foul free throw), and I thought he could step up and make the first one. So, I told him the next time we’re on the court I’m going to tell him to (shoot the technical free throw) again because I believe in him.”

BAYNES-MONROE BATTLE FOR PLAYING TIME
There’s no question Greg Monroe is becoming a lot more comfortable with the Celtics’ system and the role they need him to play in it. But Aron Baynes’ status as the team’s starting center remains on strong footing. The Celtics have been the top team defensively in the NBA most of this season, and the play of Baynes has been a key to that success. Monroe matching up with backups off the bench, more nights than not, is a favorable advantage for the Celtics.

?And when he has it going a bit which was the case against the Pelicans, those are the nights when he’ll see more time than Baynes which happened on Sunday as Monroe played 25-plus minutes compared to just 14 for Baynes.

TERRY ROZIER
We love the “Next Man Up” approach that the Celtics have been about all season. No Celtic has benefited more from this, than Terry Rozier. There is a level of confidence that he plays with that would not be present if it weren’t for the additional opportunities he has been given to become more of a leader with Kyrie Irving missing games from time to time, as well as the extended absences of Marcus Smart. Against the Pelicans, he had 13 points on 6-for-16 shooting. He grabbed seven rebounds while dishing out five assists with just one turnover. He’s had better games, obviously. But those numbers are becoming the kind of numbers he puts up with more consistency which bodes well for Rozier and the Celtics with the playoffs less than a month away.

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Austin Ainge on confidence of Celtics heading into the season

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Austin Ainge on confidence of Celtics heading into the season

Austin Ainge talks with A. Sherrod Blakely about the confidence the Celtics have heading into the 2018 season, and we discuss what team we think Jimmy Butler will end up on. 

(2:00) Does Jimmy Butler wanting out of Minnesota make him look bad? (6:00) What team does Jimmy Butler end up with?

(11:00) Breaking down ESPN top 100 NBA players list, did they rank the Celtics correctly? (15:00) Would you rather have Jimmy Butler or Gordon Hayward?

(17:00) A. Sherrod Blakely talks with Celtics Director of Player Personnel Austin Ainge.

(17:30) How does Austin think Kyrie irving and Gordon Hayward will fit back in on the Celtics?

(25:00) How important was getting Marcus Smart back with the Celtics? 

(28:00) What are the Celtics thoughts on the 2019 draft?

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What are some key intangibles to the Celtics having a great season?

What are some key intangibles to the Celtics having a great season?

BOSTON – Winning in the NBA is about more than just having better players or an awesome coach. There are factors that come into play, like scheduling, unexpected injuries by an opponent, or even a leaky roof.

All those factors fall under the category of intangibles, which for most of the top teams, aids them in their quest towards success.

The Celtics have a roster that on paper ranks among the NBA’s best. Still, for them to sustain the kind of success they're pursuing all season, they’ll need some other things to work out. 

So, what are some of those intangibles?

COACHING CONTINUITY

Former Celtics player, assistant coach and fan favorite Walter McCarty left the team last season to become head coach of his hometown’s college team, the University of Evansville. The rest of the coaching crew remains intact this season. Having that familiarity on the sidelines is a bigger deal than most people might think. Head coach Brad Stevens doesn’t have to worry about egos or how folks will mesh together among his staff. They’ve been around each other long enough to know how to work well, and effectively, with one another. Team harmony among coaching staff can only help foster a similar culture inside the locker room.

STABLE FRONT OFFICE

This too is one of the more overlooked aspects of the Celtics success, a franchise that on the basketball side of things has been run by Danny Ainge since 2003. His right-hand man, Mike Zarren, has done an exceptional job of maintaining the team’s salary cap flexibility and remains one of the more highly regarded NBA execs out there. The stability of those positions takes away some of the uncertainty that agents and players might have about the franchise and, more specifically, how they will be treated if they become Celtics.

NEW PRACTICE FACILITY

The team’s new facility in Brighton, The Auerbach Center, won’t win them a single game. But there’s something about having a building that’s yours and yours alone, which is different than what they had in Waltham, Mass, in where their practice court was inside the Boston Sports Club. It breeds a greater sense of pride and ownership, two character traits you can’t have enough of in the NBA.  

NO LEBRON JAMES

They will still see him twice a year, but that’s so much better than four times a year plus the playoffs. Of course, Boston will still have to show up and handle their business against the teams in the East, and the NBA for that matter. But to know that their journey towards competing for an NBA title won’t have to involve dealing with James – his Cleveland team have eliminated Boston in the postseason three of the past four years – is a good thing for Green Teamers.

FAN BASE

Win or lose, blowout win or beatdown loss, Celtics fans support this team in a way that has no end in sight. Crowds don’t take shots (on the court ones, at least). They don’t grab rebounds, either. But they can motivate and inspire players in ways that no amount of X’s and O’s can top. We have seen this team tap into that energy from time to time. And while it appears on paper they won’t need to as much this year, knowing that their fans have that to offer is reassuring to a team that so many fans – not just their own, either – expect to make a deep postseason journey that takes them back to the NBA Finals for the first time since 2012.

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