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No Margin For Error: Boston Must Improve At Free Throw Line

 

It’s been well documented on CelticsHub (and many other places) just how much Boston’s offense has regressed this season. The freefall from a top-10 offensive team in first year of The Big Three era, to bottom-5 group in the NBA this season has been a rather painful deterioration to watch. Yet, the Boston Celtics have leaned on their defense extremely well and have done just enough offensively when it counts to arrive in the Eastern Conference Finals, where they now trail 1-0 in the best-of-seven series.

With that said, there are very few things Boston has done well offensively to make it this far during this postseason, and one of those positives has been their performance at the free throw line, as well as getting there in the first place.

In the regular season, the C’s were an average team at getting to the line (17th in FT/FGA) but ranked 5th in FT percentage, hitting 77.2 percent of their shots from the charity stripe.

Fast forward to this postseason however and Boston has shined quite brightly at the free throw line, both by getting there and making the most of their opportunities upon arriving.

In their two series against Atlanta and Philadelphia, the Celts’ improved their rate at getting to the line from the regular season, with a .221 FT/FGA ratio, a number that would have placed them in the top-10 of the NBA in the regular season and places them amongst the top half of the playoff teams this postseason.

Not only have they been getting to the line more, but Boston had hit a tremendous percentage of their free throws before Game 1 last night. Through 13 games Boston had sunk 226-of-274 attempts, good enough for a sparkling 82.5 percent, which would have topped the league in the regular season. Against just Philly they were even better, hitting 84.3 percent of their attempts.

Brandon Bass (95.3 percent), Paul Pierce (91.3 percent), and even Rajon Rondo (69.2 percent, which is great for him) had been the leaders in this department, carrying the weight even as Ray Allen (65.2 percent) had struggled all postseason.

The entire team however came crashing down to earth last night, going just 11-of-21 at the line to finish at a 52.4 percent number. Their FT/FGA rate also dropped down to .132 for the game, a tremendous drop from their postseason average. This came largely due to Pierce lacking any visits to the free throw line, something that hadn’t happened in a postseason game since back in Game 6 of the 2010 NBA Finals, a span of 23 contests. Rondo also didn’t draw a shooting foul despite taking 20 field goal attempts.

Tough nights by Bass (0-of-2), Mickael Pietrus (1-of-4), and of course Allen (3-of-7) compounded matters as well.

Now, I’m not here to gripe about the officiating last night. A case could be made the C’s had earned a couple more trips to the line after taking 30 attempts at the rim, but that certainly wasn’t the reason they lost the game.

Instead, my main worry is that the C’s can’t afford to regress this series in either getting to the free throw line or hitting shots from the line itself. For a team that is struggling mightily with its 3-point shot (28.6 percent this postseason) for obvious reasons, getting easy points at the free throw line is one of the only ways they will be able to tread water against Miami offensively and have a chance in these games.

My sense is Doc Rivers knows this. During the regular season, Boston was able to rely on their 3-point shot in their wins against Miami. That won’t be the case in this series. Now the focus has to be getting back to basics against the athletic Miami defense. Create contact and get to the line. This has to happen in Game 2, or else it may be a short stay for Boston in the Eastern Conference Finals.

  • High Rollers

    You have to love the effort the C’s gave at trying to get to the rim last night. And you have to think that if they keep it up and don’t get discouraged, the calls will comeThAng make no mistake, the calls make a huge difference. When the whistles are swallowed an otherwise tough and capable team is made to look out-matched and over-powered. Here’s hoping for karma to come full circle in Game 2, or at the very least, back in Boston. But hopefully Game 2. On another note, I’m really hoping to see either Bass or Stiemsma take a charge from LJ.

    • T.J.

      For once it would be nice to have grandpa Jermaine O'Neal back to take charges. I cant remember the last time someone on our team took a charge. (Cept maybe Pierce in the Atlanta series) Even though Jermaine was pretty bad, you could always count on him taking a charge or two and we could use some fouls on the attacking Wade and Lebron.

  • srb

    How about Mike Breen (i think it was him last night right?) doing the ultimate jinx on Bass. Talked about how great Bass had been shooting FTs all postseason right as he steps up, then bricked them both.

  • IBleedGreen

    Forget about free throws, it is just one game. They are not beating any of the remaining teams in the Playoffs with that horrific offense, carried over from the Philly series.

  • maguire

    boston were tired and awful! there defense was completely out of synch from the sixers series! a few times kg was trying running down three point shots? too many easy lay ups! only game 1 do! lbj will score thirty the difference is will be mike miller battier knock down threes like they were last nit?

  • CTVTceltics

    This comment is entirely off topic. @Brian Robb. Do you think the Celtics will trade their two consecutive picks in the draft for maybe the second New Orleans pick in the first round, which is projected as #10 for Rivers, Sullinger, or Perry Jones? Maybe a star player (Howard)? Or just hold onto the spot they are in?

  • CelticsBIG3

    This comment is also entirely off topic. I am watching the Spurs… Good God they are playing incredibly well. Definitely not the old "boring", fundamentally based Spurs teams we all remember either, they run a very exciting offense.

    • janos

      hi three, is janos
      i seen score high game final, think is OT game but not game, OT. how team score this much point?

      tonight i am take off nba, clear head. watch movie on penguin, march. is more movie family styled, but ok watch for tv , home

      • CelticsBIG3

        They move the ball several times before taking a shot, therefore maximizing their ability to get great shots on every possession.

        • janos

          ok thank you

  • The Cardinal

    I think the horrid free throw shooting and the missed layups were do to nerves. I know that's not a popular thing to say, and certainly no one will say it out loud about an "experienced" ball club, but remember these C's are not healthy and deep down they've got to know it's going to take a super-incredible effort to beat the Heat. The swagger is missing and that's understandable – it's not like they dominated there previous two playoff opponents and the Heat are in a class that only S.A. and OKC can touch, theoretically.

    So how does Boston give themselves a chance for a miracle upset? 5 things:
    1) KG would have to overcome his tendency of wandering to the top of the key and commit to living deep in the post. If he would/could do this, I guarantee he would be on the free throw line 15 times a game, and would open things up for Pierce's outside shot because LeBron would be cheating to provide help in the paint.
    2) Doc would have to sit Ray earlier in the first and third, and sub with Dooling or Pietrus, who should stay attached to Wade no matter what.
    3) Rondo would have to overcome his tendency to fart around in the back court and consistently push the ball up court even after Heat makes. It's amazing the difference this makes in the C's ability to get into their offense and get good shots, and it's frustrating as heck that he won't (or maybe can't because he's tired, injured, or just plain trifling?) consistently do this.
    4) Rondo would have to trust himself to take the open jumper with 9 or 10 seconds on the clock as opposed to launching desperation twos threes as the clock runs out.
    5) Bass, Rondo, Pietrus, and KG would have to stop passing up open shots even if it's early in the clock. They do this so much that guess what? They end of taking forced and contested shots as the clock winds down, or throwing the ball away trying to create something out of nothing.

  • Josh

    To piggy back/summarize what Cardinal said, I believe these things need to happen tonight:

    1) Rondo HAS TO be offensively aggressive FROM THE OPENING TIP and stay that way the entire game
    2) KG MUST take more shots. Hes shooting 50% in the playoffs and he needs to be more selfish offensively.
    3) Bass needs to grow a pair and start rebounding
    4) Pierce needs to get to the free-throw line.

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