Inconsistency continues: Are the Boston Celtics too reliant on the 3-point shot?
The NBA game has been evolving for the past decade into one that requires nearly everyone on the court to be able to extend their game outside the arc. This season, Joe Mazzulla and the Boston Celtics sit second in the entire association in 3-point field goals per game, only behind the defending champion, Golden State Warriors.
Despite the fact that the Cs sit in the top ten in 3-point percentage, the question has to be asked if this team is far too reliant on three-point field goals given what has transpired over the last few weeks. With the club going back on the road after finishing the home stand on a positive note, Mazzulla and Boston are now riding a two-game losing streak which included one of the worst losses in the history of the franchise in Oklahoma City. Porous defense was the name of the game in that contest, but let us take a look at the offense over the last two weeks or so.
Over the last 10 contests, Boston is 27th in the league in 3-point percentage at 31.3 percent, ahead of the Rockets, Grizzlies, and Bucks during that stretch. The ball movement and unselfishness of this team on the offensive end are clear through the assist numbers each night out but after a hot start from beyond the arc, things have begun to cool down in Beantown. Nearly 48% of Boston’s field goal attempts come via the 3-point shot, second in the entire NBA, behind only its next opponent, the Dallas Mavericks.
Just before the Boston Celtics Christmas day matchup, Mazzulla attempted to explain the decline in the shooting department, stating:
“I don’t know,” he said. “I think over the course of the season we shot the ball so well to start that there’s naturally going to be a small decline. We just have to maintain our confidence and our trust. We have really good shooters, so just have to stick with it.”
The Boston Celtics have seriously struggled from beyond the arc
The Boston Celtics have shot under 32% from behind the arc in seven of the last nine contests, including five losses. Trading an excellent shot for an even better shot was something that defined the beginning of the campaign for Boston, but with the Celtics shooting 32.2% over the last 10 games from three with the defense giving six or more feet of space (“wide open”), the results are not going to be the same.
Just 46.9% of Boston’s points come from inside the arc, and if this ball club has any sort of aspirations of getting out of this slump, there needs to be an awareness that off nights exist. A lack of energy was the issue at the Paycom Center in Oklahoma City, but with Boston making just seven of their 21 “wide-open” three-pointers, it is difficult to even find a shift in the energy.
Some days the Celtics are on fire, like on Christmas Day against Milwaukee, but more often than not as of lately, Boston is forced to win games with what has become a middle-of-the-pack defense without Robert Williams III in the rotation. There needs to be a willingness to be more patient in the halfcourt.
Shooting the first open 3-pointer on a rotation on the perimeter may be a quality shot, but attacking the basket and drawing a foul as Malcolm Brogdon does on a regular basis will build more confidence in order to knock down those threes when they do come. There is no avoiding the importance of the 3-point shot in today’s game, but during a run like this, the solution is not to shoot out of it. Boston needs to get out in transition, and play faster on the offensive end while knowing when to give up that desirable three pointer for a much higher percentage shot. It is all good when the 3-balls are falling through the net, but when the long distance shot begins to be consistently off the mark, it can become the catalyst to a loss.
Winning the points in the paint battle is critical for Boston, and with Williams III slowly coming back into the fold on both ends, there needs to be a switch that turns on and stays on. Against the Clippers, the Celtics did not shoot the ball well from the great beyond, but they executed on the fast break, and outscored Los Angeles by 12 in the paint.
The Thunder put up 70 points in the painted area in their blowout win against Boston, while the Cs only managed to execute nine fast break points. Attempts from the three point line began to take a massive jump in 2013, and while it is going to be one of the X-factors for this Boston offense this season, the Celtics must find a way to gain their confidence back when it comes to shooting because right now, those shots are not falling. Efficient ball movement does not always have to conclude in an open three point attempt.
Driving, cutting, and active movement in the halfcourt should create an opening inside the arc resulting in a much higher percentage shot for a team that needs to take a look at its shot selection over the last few weeks.
Getting back to the main question, are the Boston Celtics too reliant on the 3-ball? It is difficult to come up with one conclusive answer with the amount of shooters on the team, but for right now, it may be time for this ball club to rain in on the number of attempts from the great beyond given the way nearly everyone is shooting at the moment.