LOS ANGELES – The carefully chosen words spoken by Brad Stevens on most nights provide insight into what he’s seeing on the floor.
That was certainly the case following the Celtics' 108-107 loss to the Lakers on Tuesday night when he was asked about the huge free-throw disparity between the teams.
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The Lakers went to the line 36 times compared to Boston’s 10 free-throw attempts, which is fertile fodder for a Tommy Heinsohn-esque rant about officiating. Particularly after the Celtics' losing streak reached a season-high four in a row.
Stevens wasn’t going to go there.
“You know how that goes,” Stevens said. “I’m not going to say anything about that. We need to get to the line better by our own doing. We need to do a better job of finishing at the rim and we need to do a better job of drawing contact there.”
Shooting a low number of free throws has become the new normal for the Celtics this season.
Boston averages 20.3 free throws per game, which ranks 20th in the NBA.
However, the Celtics have made less than 20 free throws in a franchise-record 30 consecutive games. The last time Boston made 20 or more in a game was against the Dallas Mavericks on Nov. 20, which was an overtime win for Boston. Only three NBA teams in the past 50 years have had longer free throw droughts of less than 20 made than the current Celtics.
Making matters worse, Boston takes on a Los Angeles Clippers team tonight that’s playing some of its best basketball of the season in large part because of their ability to get to the free-throw line a lot.
In fact, the Clippers average 25.3 free-throw attempts per game, which ranks second in the NBA only to Dwight Howard and the Charlotte Hornets and their 27.3 attempts per game.
But the good news for the Celtics - potentially - is that the Clippers’ opponents typically spend a good deal of time at the free-throw line as well.
They allow 24.0 free throw attempts per game, which ranks 25th in the league.
Prior to the game, Stevens talked about the need for the Celtics to do a better job of breaking the defense down and attack closeouts, rather than attack defenders before the closeout comes.
But after yet another sub-par game at getting to the free throw line, Stevens will go back to the drawing board to see what can be done scheme-wise, to better position Boston to get more free throw attempts.
“I have to go back and watch and determine if there’s something different we can do,” Stevens said after the loss. Obviously, it was a huge key to the game, just shooting 10 [free throws]. We need to...it’s a part of our offense we need to improve.”