Through the first six games of the season, the Celtics shot 57-126 from deep, good for 45.2 percent. The team reached something of a peak with their three-point shooting on Tuesday against the Philadelphia 76ers when the guys knocked down 14 of their 20 attempts in the midst of a 31-point blowout.
However, the following night against the Minnesota Timberwolves, the Celtics' red hot shooting from deep grew as cold as the Minneapolis weather in the heart of winter. The Celtics made just five of their 19 three-point field goal attempts against the Wolves and barely managed to squeak by Al Jefferson and company, with a 92-20 victory.
Two days later against the offensive-minded Phoenix Suns, the game plan called for the ball to be pounded down low against the likes of Amare Stoudemire and Channing Frye. The Celtics ended up losing 110-103, but 60 of those 103 points were scored in the paint. Clearly, scoring in the paint was possible against the Suns. Unfortunately, Boston apparently forgot about this strategy in the game's final three minutes and they resorted to bombing away from deep, which played a key role in the team's first loss off the season.
The Celtics managed to top Wednesday's dreadful performance from three-point land, as they shot a truly feeble 4-18 (22.2 percent) from deep on Friday. To make matters worse, the Suns were draining three-pointers left and right and finished the game on 13-24 shooting from three-point land, good for 54.2 percent. Jason Richardson (6-7 on threes) and Steve Nash (3-6 on threes) in particular provided the crushing blows that sank the Celts.
But at what point should the C's have recognized the three-ball just wasn't dropping and continued to pound it in down low, particularly to Kevin Garnett, who was in the middle of scoring a season-high 26 points? It's very difficult to gauge when to scrap the three-point shot, especially when facing a deficit, but Doc Rivers apparently wishes they had stuck with the original game plan.
"Going into the game, the game plan was to go to the post (and) drive the basketball," said Rivers. "I thought we did that for a while and then we got away from it. The game turned into more of (the Suns') pace and their way.
"The only thing I didn't like (was) I thought with three and a half minutes left, instead of searching for wide open twos that we had, we went into three mode and I didn't think we had to do that. I thought several times we could have easily got to the basket for a quick two and we passed up twos to look for threes and that to me was uncharacteristic of us."
The Celtics are easily one of the best three-point shooting teams in the league and are even better at defending the three, with the exception of last night. Coming into last night's game against the Suns, opponents were shooting just 24.7 percent from three-point nation against the Celtics.
No one should want the Celtics to stop shooting threes, but I think based on last night's loss, the team can do a much better job of recognizing situations and matchups and if they can exploit an opposing defense inside, they should make that their first scoring priority. I wouldn't be surprised to see this topic be emphasized at Monday's practice and even after that I don't fully expect the Celtics' three-point attempts to drop all that much. The Suns game just proved that when the threes aren't falling and there's an easier scoring method available, the Celtics should utilize that option first.