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The Celtics battle with shot selection

Celtics still searching for better balance offensively

NBA: Boston Celtics at New York Knicks Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

Last night wasn’t the type of stress-relieving beat down fans were expecting against a young Knicks. Leads were lost, good play was rare, and questions were asked. Most notably, shot selection became a big topic of conversation amongst fans and writers with neither particularly thrilled with the amount of mid-range shots the team was taking.

Team stats

-Through 3 games, the Celtics are 11th in the league in three-point attempts, but 21st in 3PT% at 35.1%.

-31.8% of shots were at the rim, ranked 25th in the league. 29th in league at FG% at the rim (51.9%).

-20.8% of shots classified as long mid-range, 4th highest in the league. 7th in league at FG% on long mid-range jumpers (45.6%)

-16.4% FT rate is 26th in the league

-Celtics are tied for 13th in assist percentage (23.7%) and 18th in passes made (284).

*Stats via NBA.Com & Cleaning the Glass

Player stats

Cleaning the Glass

So, there’s a lot to unpack here. For one, the low amount of passes made and average assist percentage is an indicator that the teams ball movement has been less than stellar. Boston is still doing a decent job taking the three, but when trying to take advantage of mismatches, the attempts tend to devolve into tough, mid-range looks.

Due to this, there has been a rush to blame Jayson Tatum, the teams young star who has fallen in love with the operating in the mid-post when isolated. The issue with that theory, is that Tatum is second on the team in TS%, and in the 100th percentile for his position in points per shot via Cleaning the Glass. Basically, though his shot selection raises eyebrows at times, he’s super efficient at what he’s doing and it would be misguided to place the blame at his feet.

In my opinion, the main culprits of the disfunction of the team’s offense thus far has been Kyrie Irving and the lack of continuity the team has thus far. For Irving, this is the second year in a row that he’s started the season slow and he currently holds a 25.3 USG% (which is second on the team) while simultaneously having a 40.8 TS%. That’s magnified by the fact that he is second on the team (behind Tatum) on long mid-range jumpers, but unlike Tatum who’s hitting them at 47% clip, Irving is shooting 33% on those looks.

Irving has worked hard to get his teammates involved, leading the team in assist percentage, passes made, and secondary assists. However, his inability thus far to find his own offense has really hurt the Celtics considering he still leads the team in FGA’s.

Now is not the time to get concerned. Not only are the Celtics still figuring each other out, but Coach Stevens is still trying to determine which pieces fit together the best and hasn’t been afraid to do a lot of mix and matching while letting guys play through tough stretches. As a result of that, sometimes the offense will devolve into tough looks, but as Hayward rounds into form, Kyrie finds his shot, and the understanding of roles for each player begins to be crystalized, the Celtics will begin to look more like the team fans envisioned with crisp passing, fast pace, lots of threes, and an ability to attack mismatches when the situation calls for it. As for now, the Celtics are simply letting the talent carry them as they figure stuff out.

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