Throughout this whole season, the Boston Celtics have been searching for an offensive solution. The search has not necessarily been a specific player’s production, but they have been trying to find any chemistry or scheme that makes the offense run at peak levels. It comes in spurts game to game. However, more times than not, the offense has been stuck relying on isolation basketball with Jayson Tatum or Jaylen Brown and it has not been a consistent successful formula to this point in the season.
To try and change these misfortunes, it seems the team has shifted their offensive outlook. The Celtics now are relying heavily on the three-point shots, upping their attempts per game over the last few weeks. The green light seems to be given to just about any good look the team has, and they are going to live with the result. The team’s five highest three point attempt totals this season all have come since the Orlando Magic game on March 21st.
The problem with this offensive scheme is that you are living and dying on your rhythm that night. One night the team can go 11-for-47 like the Celtics did against the Dallas Mavericks, and the next it can be a 21-for-54 performance similar to Sunday night against the Charlotte Hornets. It is a roller coaster ride, but it does give an offense a theme to build on.
Sunday night was an example of that Celtics offense humming along. They took each opening they had from behind the arc. Their ideal possession was the ball moving from side to side, catching the defense sleeping until a three-point look was available. It is a simple concept, but it really does have the offense looking better compared to other parts of the season where everything was disjointed trying to score playing hero ball.
This heavy three-point offense also suits the newest member of the Boston Celtics, Evan Fournier, quite well. He had a rocky start to his Celtics career, but then has come back strong putting up impressive numbers. Last Friday against the Houston Rockets, Fournier made a career-high seven three-pointers. He found his Boston rhythm flying around screens and getting the pass for a good look. This version of Fournier has made a huge impact with the offense being a reliable fourth scorer who can knock down shots. He thrives on the three ball, and Stevens will not deter him from that shot.
The schematics behind a heavy three-point driven offense do set up well with the Celtics’ roster. They have their one through four who can knock down an open three. The center position, either Robert Williams or Tristan Thompson, then can have lots of room to work and space the bodies out in the paint. The other four on the court can stay around the arc with screening action to find an open shooter.
Williams’ ascent up this season has given the offense the ability to leave him by himself down low creating havoc on the offensive glass. Long rebounds off of three-point attempts also favor him well. Let the wings and shooter work on the outside, and if there is a miss, have Williams and one or two others crash the glass and look for an easy put back. It may not be conventional, but it seems to be getting the job done on nights when the Celtics are feeling it.
This offensive style, of course, is no secret. The Suns and then the Rockets had their reign as three-point attempt leaders with Mike D’Antoni and his “seven seconds or less” strategy. It was a change in offense based off simple math that got the analytics community praising the revolution. Now, it is common place, but it is still used at a high level. The Utah Jazz are leading the league in three-point attempts this season which has been a huge reason behind their success.
This success is what the Celtics are aiming for. Over the last 10 games, the Celtics are leading the NBA with 43.8 three-point attempts a game. Stevens looks like he has tried everything to this point to spark the offense and is now letting his team just live and die by the three. It will be interesting to see if this high attempt rate will continue through the back half of the season.