WARNING: the following stats may cause some readers to have painful flashbacks. Read ahead at your own risk only.
Can they execute down the stretch? The Celtics had a 2-1 lead in the Finals and led by four with less than five minutes left in Game 4. But they scored just three points on their final eight possessions of the game, and then scored less than a point per possession as they dropped Games 5 and 6. Clutch offense was an issue all season for the Celtics, who scored less than a point per clutch possession in the regular season and just 57 points on 64 clutch possessions (89.1 per 100) in the playoffs. Another ball-handler (Brogdon) should help, but Brown and Tatum also need to prove that they can come up big on big possessions.
If you close your eyes, you can probably still see the Celtics’ clutch offense tightening up and producing Stormtrooper-like shooting accuracy. Early in the year, the offense was inconsistent all game long. During their hottest stretches, the team was obliterating teams and didn’t have to worry about the clutch. Then things got tight again in the postseason and it ultimately cost them the championship.
Teams basically decided that they would take Tatum and Brown out of the play and force someone like Marcus Smart, Grant Williams, or Derrick White to beat them. Certainly not a unique gameplan, but one that the Celtics didn’t have an answer for. And when Tatum and Brown did get the ball, it was usually in an iso situation or at the end of the shot clock where they settled for a jump shot. Or if they finally made a point of driving into the lane, the ball would inevitably be stripped and the Celtics would be demonstrably complaining to referees looking for calls.
Needless to say, addressing this issue was one of Brad Stevens’ biggest goals this offseason.
Enter Malcolm Brogdon who “ranked fourth with 18.3 drives per game last season” (according to Schuhmann). Having another offensive initiator on the court will help immensely because he’s another guy that can create shots for himself and others. That should give everyone on the court more room to maneuver. Brogdon is a serious threat from outside as well.
With that said, as mentioned above, it still falls to Jayson and Jaylen to improve in this area as well. Both have been focusing on their strength and technique for driving into the lane while protecting the ball. Both grew throughout the year in their ability to read the defense and distribute the ball.
This is a key stat to keep an eye on this year and it could be an indicator of how much progress the team has made since last year and how far they can get in the next playoffs.