Boston Celtics fans were not expecting a 2-2 start to begin the season. Boston’s lackadaisical play has been caused by ineffectiveness from the field.
I’ll admit, after the Boston Celtics deconstructed the Philadelphia 76ers on Opening Night at TD Garden, I was sipping heavily on the Green Kool-Aid.
But the reason the Celtics won that contest was their stout defense. It was not because they were making shots, something they have had trouble doing over this eyebrow-raising 2-2 start to the season.
For the second time in three nights, Boston sulked its way to the showers after a surprising 93-90 loss at the hands of the upstart Orlando Magic.
Nikola Vucevic & Co. hardly deserved the victory. The Magic shot 40.9 percent from the field and 28.6 percent from three. Just as it was last year, the Celtics have been excellent defensively.
They are yielding 100.3 points, the second-lowest mark in the NBA. Teams are shooting just 42.5 percent from the field and 31.3 percent from three against them, according to NBA.com.
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Somehow, even with all this talent, the problem for Boston has been putting the ball in the basket. The Celtics are shooting a horrid 41.4 percent, the third-lowest mark in the league. Their 103.0 points per game is better than only, you guessed it, the Magic.
Off-ball movement is stagnant, there is too much isolation and the Celtics are failing to find open shots. Players we expected to be finding easy buckets seemingly can’t find the bottom of the net.
Kyrie Irving scored 22 points versus Orlando, but from three-point land he was just 2-for-8. Over the first four games, Uncle Drew is shooting 34 percent from the field on 16.7 shot attempts per game and 14.3 percent from three on 4.7 attempts per outing.
In 34 minutes, Jayson Tatum went 3-for-12 from the field and a staggering 0-for-5 from deep for seven points. It seems as though the only shots the sophomore has been able to hit have been the nearly impossible, such as his Dirk-esque fadeaway shot to clinch a way-too-close win over the New York Knicks on Saturday or his step-back to end the first half against the Magic.
The ever-reliable Al Horford went 1-for-7 from three against Orlando. Horford is going to have so many wide open three-point shots playing off Irving, Tatum and Gordon Hayward, he might as well be shooting in the gym by himself. Practice is something he needs after a shooting night like he had on Monday.
Unlike Irving, Horford has been pretty solid from deep so far this season. He went 3-for-7 from range against the Toronto Raptors on Friday before hitting two of his three attempts from distance against New York. Boston can’t afford 1-for-7 nights from him considering the lack of defensive pressure he is facing outside the arc.
The final piece of the poor-shooting puzzle on Monday night was Jaylen Brown. I’m fully of the mindset Brown should be spending the majority of his time alongside Terry Rozier and the second unit. His playmaking skills are not utilized to the fullest extent when he is playing big minutes alongside ball-dominant guys such as Irving, Hayward and Tatum.
Against Orlando, Brown was relegated to spot-up shooting and it did not pay dividends. In 31 minutes, he was a -15 with five points on 2-for-9 shooting from the field and 1-for-4 shooting from deep. Brown has shot 2-for-9 in each of his last two games and is shooting 37.5 percent over the first four.
I’m not saying Brown should be easing up on his 10.7 shot attempts per game. Boston needs to prioritize getting him the ball in transition as opposed to forcing him to spot up to get his shot attempts.