Think about it. In an 82-game regular season that’s over three-quarters complete, one game has to be the worst. Well — knock on wood — the Celtics had their worst shooting night of the year against the Knicks on Monday.
After sixty-two games, we know who the 44-18 Boston Celtics are: a top-5 defensive and offensive team in the league that, yes, shoots a lot of threes. In fact, they’re second only to the Golden State Warriors in three-point attempts a game at 42.1 a night. Despite a winter swoon in December and January, they’re still 8th in three-point shooting percentage and have regained that they kicked off the season with.
But again, one game has to be the worst and the worst happened at Madison Square Garden.
The Celtics made just nine of their 42 shots from the behind the arc. That’s worse than the back-to-back efforts against the Orlando Magic back in December of 12-for-47 and 11-for-46 or the 9-for-39 they bricked against the Clippers in LA. February’s flame throwers, Derrick White and Sam Hauser, missed all eight of their combined triples. To make matters worse, the Knicks, who rank in the lower third of the NBA in 3FG%, made 12-of-31 and went to the line a whopping 34 times to boot. Check your cookbooks. That’s a recipe for disaster.
“I thought we missed a lot of good looks,” head coach Joe Mazzulla said after the game. “They put pressure on our defense. They do a really good job of putting pressure on the paint and [getting] free throws. If you can’t make open shots, you constantly have to guard paint threat, paint threat, paint threat. They put a lot of pressure on our defense. I just didn’t think it was our night.”
The Celtics generate a ton of wide-open threes (19.6) and make a of ton of wide-open threes (41.9%). On the worst (period) shooting (period) night (period) ever (period), they shot 17-of-51 on uncontested shots. It truly wasn’t their night.
Thankfully, these nights have been few and far between for Boston. The Celtics have shot under 27% in just seven games this season and lost six of them. How good have they been otherwise? In twenty-four games, they’ve made over 40% of their threes. Their record in those games? 24-0. They’ve been trending in that direction, too. They’ll finish February at 41.1% from 3.
Frustrated fans might second guess the team for continuing to shoot themselves in the foot when they don’t have it on a night like this, but this has been Boston’s identity all year. Shoot to get hot, shoot to stay hot, right? That’s not going to change in a single game, a single month, or a single series in the playoffs. After a third straight game of frustrating shooting for Jayson Tatum, the All-Star MVP was only concerned with missing home.
“Get back home. I haven’t been home in two weeks,” Tatum diagnosed as a possible cure for his cold streak. “I miss my bed. [I’ll] see Deuce. Just get back home and get a home-cooked meal and get ready for Wednesday.”
The Celtics open March and a three-game homestand starting with the visiting Cleveland Cavaliers.