The Celtics are not a good offensive team this year. That much has been clear from the onset of the season. A roster lacking potent offensive weapons, along with a sidelined All-Star point guard will do that.
What hadn’t been perfectly clear until yesterday, to me anyway, was just how bad the Celtics had been shooting the ball during the team’s freefall in the standings over the last two months. Some comments from Brad Stevens on that front were quite revealing in the postgame press conference after a 96-89 win over the Magic.
“The thing I’m most excited about is that we had a 50 percent shooting day, because we’ve really struggled to shoot it recently,” Stevens said.
Most head coaches are concerned with defense first and foremost, so a remark like that which was volunteered by Stevens was quite telling. The Celtics shot exactly 50 percent yesterday (41-of-82) against the lowly Magic and that was a cause for celebration? A 50 percent shooting day couldn’t be that rare for an NBA team like the Celtics, could it?
I dug into the numbers and found it is was far more rare than you think
I hope you are sitting down for this one. Upon investigating the team’s past two months, I came to a disturbing conclusion. Before yesterday, it had been 26 games, nearly 1/3 of an entire NBA season, since the Celtics had shot 50 percent as a team from the field. The last time it happened was that fateful December 8th massacre against the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden.
The Celtics destroyed the Knicks that day 114-73, had a 10-12 overall record afterwards and dreams of a possible Atlantic Division crown were still alive. The Celtics shot 54.2 percent that afternoon, which doesn’t seem ridiculous. The team in fact shot over 50 percent six times in their first 22 games of the season.
Since that fateful December 8th though, the team’s shooting has been an absolute disaster. Boston was in fact dead last in the NBA from December 8th to February 1st in field goal percentage before yesterday, hitting a putrid 41.9 percent of their shots from the field. Amazingly, they were 29th in the NBA from 3-point range as well, hitting 30.5% of their 3-pointers, just ahead of the Detroit Pistons (thanks Josh Smith)!
When you shoot that badly from the field, you are going to be a bad basketball team. It’s no surprise that the Celtics went 5-21 over that period of games when they didn’t crack the 50 percent barrier from the field. They were 29th in offensive rating and a middle-of-the-road defensive team (17th in defensive rating) over that time span, but you just aren’t going to win basketball games when you can’t put the ball in the hoop.
Heck, even awful teams like Orlando manage to shoot 50 percent from the field every couple weeks or so (they’ve done it 10 times this year). For the Celtics not to do it over the course of 26 games, that’s just flat out impressive (in a bad way).
So while this team has been bad on both ends of the floor all year long, make no mistake what their biggest issue is: an inability to put the ball in the basket consistently. Whether a healthy Rajon Rondo can reverse that trend will be the biggest question facing this team over the next three months.