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Numbers game: Celtics go ice cold behind the arc in loss to Jazz

Boston hit just 5-out-of-33 threes against Utah.

NBA: Utah Jazz at Boston Celtics Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Sometimes, the numbers just aren’t in your favor. Even considering all the post-game talk about a lack of identity and toughness, it’s hard to avoid the glaring statistical anomaly from last night’s loss to the Jazz. The Celtics were 5-for-33 from behind the arc and missed nearly half of their twenty free throw attempts. Maybe it was the back-to-back (the Jazz were on one, too). Maybe it was the Jazz defense getting a second look at the Celtics offense. Maybe it’s just bad luck (even though the excuse of small sample sizing is growing proportionately smaller as the season progresses). Either way, those are statistical anomalies that just don’t happen that often.

These aren’t bad shots. The Second Spectrum statistics weren’t available at publishing, but so many of these are open, come in the flow of the offense, but just aren’t going down. There’s just a point where it’s not your night and as Kyrie Irving mentioned in the locker room after the game, “I’m going to be the most patient person in here.” This is just a blip.

For the season, it’s been widely mentioned that the Celtics are one of the worst teams at getting to the line (29th at 19.4 FTA’s per game) and not surprisingly, shoot a ton of threes (3rd at 36.4 3FGA’s). For what it’s worth, those numbers mirror the Milwaukee Bucks and Toronto Raptors, the current East frontrunners. But of course, in a miss-or-make league, it’s a matter of making those shots.

Celtics 2017-2018 3FG%

3 FG% wins-losses
3 FG% wins-losses
under 25% 3-2
25-30% 5-7
30-35% 9-6
35-40% 12-4
40-45% 12-2
45-50% 9-4
over 50% 5-2

Celtics 2017-2018 3FGA’s

3FGA's wins-losses
3FGA's wins-losses
under 20 3-0
20-25 9-5
26-30 17-8
31-35 14-6
36-40 11-5
over 40 2-2

In 2017-2018, the Celtics were one of the best three-point shooting teams in the league second to only the Warriors in 3FG% (37.7%) and 10th in 3FG5A’s (30.4 per game). They’ve ramped up those efforts this season, but haven’t exactly seen dividends on their investments. Even after last night’s shooting debacle, they’re not that far off in terms of 3FG% (34.9%). In their two worst losses--last night’s vs. Utah and against Orlando at the start of the season--they were remarkably bad at 15.2% and 22.5% respectively.

However, Brad Stevens was right:

Last year’s Celtics found ways to win these types of games. A year ago, they grinded out a 92-88 win against Golden State after hitting just 7 of their 32 three-pointers. It’s hard to say that this team today could pull out a bar fight like that now. Comparatively speaking, their defense is on par to last year’s and a solid defense can mitigate some perimeter shooting variance, but they lack that mental toughness that was a hallmark of those Cardiac Kids that authored so many comebacks last season. Twelve of Boston’s sixteen games so far have been determined in the clutch and they’re 6-6; last year, they finished 29-17.

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