During FPC NBA’s contenders series, the staff will analyze one of five teams who could potentially take home the Larry O’Brien trophy this season. These five teams include the Golden State Warriors, Houston Rockets, Cleveland Cavaliers, Boston Celtics, and Toronto Raptors. Here, Eduardo Monk Jr. tells us how the Celtics can win their 18th ring.
The Boston Celtics came off of the offseason of their dreams, seeing Danny Ainge’s genius in the full force with swindling the Cavaliers for Kyrie Irving, bringing on the services of Utah Jazz All-Star Gordon Hayward and Duke superstar Jayson Tatum in the draft, and in the process, primed themselves for a Finals run. Although this season meant to shoot for the stars, the Celtics have stumbled as of late, mustering up only a 17-13 record in the past thirty games. So in order to help steer the course, here are the Celtics’ keys to the Finals.
Solve Offensive Struggles
Offensive misery has been tormenting the Celtics like a stormcloud all season and both the shooting percentages and scoring numbers show this. They have only averaged a meager 103.5 points per game, a total on par with the 18 win Dallas Mavericks and Atlanta Hawks. While their defensive strengths cover up a lot of flaws, shooting 44.7 percent from the field does not help their cause.
Irving has been dazzling all season, but the Celtics need more from the rest of the gang. Without Hayward to help lessen the scoring load, Jaylen Brown and Tatum will need to start stepping up a little more come playoff time. Boston also struggles in the pace department, only 22nd in the league in pace ratings. A sluggish, defensive style can succeed with the proper fits but with more versatile, athletic players in the lineup (Tatum, Brown, and Irving), the Celtics may fancy more pace-and-space elements into their gameplan.
On top of the customary scoring woes, Boston’s bench hasn’t offered much amnesty. Trying to consistently score without any pop in the second line makes offense very difficult to come by, especially if the starters can’t get shots to fall. Boston’s second strings sit dead last in field goal percentage in the entire league, leaving an already struggling starting lineup out to dry.
The trade deadline being behind us cuts off any helplines, so a hefty block rests on Marcus Smart, Terry Rozier, and Marcus Morris. Morris leads the bench in scoring with a mundane 12.1 points per game. All three will need to elevate their scoring outputs if the Celtics want any hope of keeping pace with the soaring Raptors or plucky Cavaliers.
When a center averages more assists than the star point guard, there will always be plenty of problems keeping the offensive humming smoothly. The Celtics’ harsh scoring issues more than likely stem from their absence of great passing, as they only sit 21st in the league in assist numbers. They lack a facilitator on offense and in a player-friendly system that indirectly encourages isolation game, and considering Tatum’s polished offensive toolbox and Irving’s generally fantastic isolation style, the Celtics don’t stress clean collaboration all that much.
An exceptional passing system can open much up on offense and once the playoffs roll around, if the begrudging isolation fails to turn up the offense, the Celtics will be in hot water. Irving will need to develop into much more of a floor general in order to ease the offensive headaches.
More Active on The Boards
The Celtics started off hot with rebounding, averaging a strong 47.15 rebounds per game over the first twenty games which included their sixteen game tear. However, over the last twenty games, they have fallen off with only 44.50 rebounds per game, going a rather weak 11-9. The Celtics played without a true rebounding center in their starting lineup as Al Horford’s versatility is his greatest gift, not rebounding.
While Aron Baynes and his 5.2 rebounds per game offer reliable relief off the bench, the Celtics need more oomph from essentially the entire starting lineup if they hope to make a deep run the playoffs.