Boston Celtics Need to be Stronger in the Paint

Apr 24, 2016; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas (4) shoots the ball over Atlanta Hawks center Al Horford (15) during the first half in game four of the first round of the NBA Playoffs at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 24, 2016; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas (4) shoots the ball over Atlanta Hawks center Al Horford (15) during the first half in game four of the first round of the NBA Playoffs at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports /

The Boston Celtics need to prove that they can be a stronger finishing team in the paint this season

The Boston Celtics showed a willingness to be aggressive in the paint, but the results simply were not good enough. The Celtics need to attack the paint to have a successful offense but they will struggle until they do a better job of executing and finishing.

The fact that the Celtics were one of the smallest teams in the league that continually went to a three guard lineup is not a good reason as to why they struggled so much on the inside. Collectively, the Celtics were able to do very little to help what they could do on the inside and that often lead to far too many forced plays on both ends of the court.

Al Horford puts the Celtics in a significantly better position to be stronger in the paint, but most of the responsibility will fall on the guards. Over the past two seasons the Celtics have had their offense lead by incredibly aggressive guards who need to be able to attack the paint. Unfortunately, a lot of opportunities were wasted by ineffective play in the paint.

It comes as no surprise to know the Celtics were blocked the seventh most times in the league last year, while not generating nearly enough free throws in order to make up for that. The Celtics were able to attack the paint, but that is exactly what defenses wanted them to do.

Isaiah Thomas is an outlier on the Celtics. He lead the league in drives to the rim and did a phenomenal job of generating contact. Unfortunately, no one else on the Celtics posses that same kind of unique skill set that allows Thomas to be so effective in the paint.

Boston Celtics
Apr 26, 2016; Atlanta, GA, USA; Boston Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas (4) shoots the ball past Atlanta Hawks guard Kyle Korver (26) in the third quarter in game five of the first round of the NBA Playoffs at Philips Arena. The Hawks defeated the Celtics 110-83. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports /

The Celtics play in an offensive system where they need to be able to be effective in the paint, and they can approach their potential if they are able to get an advantage in that area. The Celtics need to find ways to make up for their poor shooting, and continually getting stuffed in the paint compounds their biggest problem.

The Celtics need to be stronger in the paint because that is where they can do a huge bulk of their damage. They also need to be stronger in the paint in order to make life easier on their perimeter shooters.

The Celtics were number two in the league in total drives to the rim as a team, and that will inevitably make them one of the most blocked teams in the league. Unfortunately, they still have not found the balance they need in those areas. Even with their high volume of drives, the Celtics have not been able to finish the way they need to be in order to be an elite offense.

The Celtics will continue to depend heavily on finishing at the rim and that can hurt their offensive potential if they are being abused by shot blockers. In addition to the high volume of blocks by opponents on the Celtics, their overall field goal percentage while driving is no where near where it should be.

The Celtics lack elite shooting and the addition of Horford will not be enough to elevate their shooting to where it needs to be. The Celtics should be an improved shooting team, but they are far off from being a good shooting team. When it comes to driving to the rim, the Celtics were not good last season but that is where they can become elite in the league and that is where their offense needs to be strongest this season.

The Celtics shot just 45.4% on drives to the rim, and that is going to be unacceptable next season. The Celtics need to be aggressive but they also need to be intelligent. Thomas was so effective last year because of his keen ability to know when he needed to attack and when he needed to distribute. The rest of the team, however, needs to become smarter with their drives to the rim, but they need to do that without losing their aggressiveness.

Horford will make the decision making easier. He will do a better job than anyone else on the team at opening up lanes to the rim and providing floor spacing. Stevens will certainly look to use Horford in ways that will open things up on the inside, if nothing else because of how little trust there is in their outside shooting.

If the Celtics cannot be a top shooting team, they need to be a top team driving to the rim. Thomas will hold his own but their offense cannot succeed if they are not functioning as a unit.

The Celtics had a high scoring offense last year but it was far too inefficient. They used great ball movement to create open looks, unfortunately they were not effective in finishing those looks. The easiest way for the Celtics to become a more efficient team is at the rim. They need to cut out driving into a far too cluttered paint area and they need to avoid forcing things on the inside because that is where they need to be their most effective.

The Celtics will always look to take advantage of opportunities all over the court, but the bottom line is that the paint is where they can get the most immediate improvement. They need to make sure they properly use Horford’s presence in order to make life easier on the guards who will be living in the paint.

Next: Free Jordan Mickey Part Two?

The Celtics know what Thomas can do driving to the rim, and with the way Terry Rozier struggled to shoot last year, he could be driving at an even higher rate than Thomas, but that is the last area the Celtics can afford to be throwing opportunities away.