When the Celtics are struggling to hit jump shots, their offense has trouble finding other ways to score.
The Boston Celtics are a jump-shooting team.
This isn't exactly a revelation. We've known the offensive approach for the past few years and often times when the Celtics aren't hitting shots, Doc Rivers reminds us that the NBA is a make-or-miss league. The problem for Boston, however, is that it relies so heavily on points from jumpers, that when shots aren't falling, there are nights like the 78-point effort on Wednesday.
The team wasn't always so jump shot-heavy. The transformation from a balanced attack to a perimeter-oriented offense has been in-line with the career arcs of two of the Celtics' most important offensive players: Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce.
Garnett's game has eroded more and more to the perimeter as he's aged. He no longer has the legs or the athleticism to consistently score in the low post. It's a testament to Garnett's work ethic and basketball IQ that he's been able to re-work his game and become a knock-down mid-range shooter. There probably isn't a shot, from close, mid-range, from beyond the arc, or anywhere else on the floor, that the Celtics have more confidence in going in than Garnett's long two-pointers.
Pierce's offense, meanwhile, has also aged along with his body. Unlike Garnett though, much of his game has remained intact. He might not have the same quickness or foot speed to beat defenders off the dribble or draw fouls, but his savy ability to score has resulted in him still being the go-to guy when Boston needs a basket. This season especially, Pierce has taken advantage of easy baskets off 3-pointers. Whether it's in transition as a trailer or coming off set screens, he's confident in his long-range shot and converting a fairly efficient .381 percent.
While Garnett and Pierce have focused more of their offense away from the basket, the team has followed suit. In 2007-08, 66 percent of Boston's shots came from jumpers, according to 82games. In 2008-09, that number was 64 percent. In 2009-10, 64 percent. In 2010-11, 68 percent. In 2011-12, 72 percent.
This season, it's 71 percent.
Compared to the rest of the league, there are 10 other teams that either shoot as much or more jumpers than the Celtics. Two of those teams are the Miami Heat and Oklahoma City Thunder, who both take jump shots on 71 percent of their possessions, the same mark as Boston. The difference, however, between those two teams and the Celtics is that the Heat and Thunder shoot much more efficiently at .493 and .471, respectively. Boston, meanwhile, converts .456 of their jumpers, ranking them in the middle of the pack of the aforementioned 10 teams, ahead of squads like the Toronto Raptors and Washington Wizards.
When you think of the Heat and Thunder, you don't think of their offenses as being so jump-shot reliant. So why do they shoot and hit so many? To compare it to another sport, it's similar to football when teams run the ball to set up the pass, or in the case of the New England Patriots, pass to set up the run. The Heat and Thunder have players who can attack the paint at will, opening up kick-outs to shooters on the perimeter. For the Celtics, that's something Rondo unfortunately has the sole burden of doing.
Avery Bradley's off-ball cutting and Jared Sullinger's paint presence does help, but don't expect the Celtics to stop taking so many jump shots anytime soon. That's the identity of the offense right now, for better or worse.