Blakely: Deep bench should pay dividends for C's

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Blakely: Deep bench should pay dividends for C's

BOSTON There's no shortage of bodies for Doc Rivers to choose from when trying to figure out who to put on the floor this season.

But even with a roster that could legitimately go double-digits deep in players used almost every night, Rivers said his rotation strategy this season won't be altered that much from past seasons.

"We're not going to go that deep," Rivers said. "We'll go the same."

Rivers starts most seasons off by playing 10 or so players, depending on how they perform and whether the C's can maintain enough healthy bodies.

That means most games will feature a few players who won't see action that could conceivably contribute.

While the Celtics' goals of another deep playoff run will come down to the performance of their top eight or nine players, Rivers understands all too well the value of having depth during the season.

Because Boston has arguably the deepest bench in the league, that should pay huge dividends for the C's during the regular season when they can essentially wear down teams on a nightly basis.

Not only does that make it tougher for opponents to game-plan against Boston, but it also affords Rivers a greater opportunity to keep core guys such as Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett even fresher for the playoffs.

"Coming off the bench, our job is to make things easier for the starters," Celtics backup center Darko Milicic told CSNNE.com. "We do our job, we'll be OK."

Part of doing their job is developing continuity both among themselves as well as with the starters who at times they will be on the floor with as Rivers continues to mix up his lineups.

"The continuity is pretty good right now," said Boston's Courtney Lee. "But this team, we're not satisfied with anything we do. Even when we do something well, we know we can do it better. That's what this team is about, always trying to be better."

And that involves developing a rotation that players understand, will shrink in some fashion come playoff time.

"That's what's so great about this team," Lee said. "Doc has so many options to choose from, and the competition for minutes is there. That's only going to bring out the best in you as a player. And that's only going to help the team. So you can't look at that as anything but a positive."

Lee is expected to edge out Jason Terry for the starting job at shooting guard. Joining Lee in the starting unit will be Rajon Rondo, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett. The fifth starting spot - at least for the season opener against Miami on Tuesday - is expected to go to Brandon Bass.

That leaves the C's bench rotation to start the season consisting of Terry, Milicic, Jared Sullinger and Jeff Green. If Rivers plays 10 players, that 10th player will likely fluctuate between Leandro Barbosa, Jason Collins and Chris Wilcox.

Avery Bradley remains out until at least the middle of December while recovering from surgery to both of his shoulders. Rookies Kris Joseph and Fab Melo are unlikely to see much action early on this season.

Rivers is hesitant to heap too much praise on his second unit - especially with them having not played a single game yet together - but he acknowledges that this team does have the kind of depth that gives him more options than he has had in past years.

"I don't know after 10 (players), we'll see, or 11," Rivers said. "But I'm not worried about that, honestly. I'm more worried about that top-9 or 10. Because those are the guys that are gonna win."

WATCH: Celtics vs. Rockets

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WATCH: Celtics vs. Rockets

Tune into CSN to watch the Celtics play the Rockets in Houston. You can also click here to watch the Celtics livestream presented by McDonald's on the NBC Sports App. Coverage begins at 7:30 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live Presented by ACE Ticket.

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Celtics-Rockets preview: Get ready for 3-point showdown

Celtics-Rockets preview: Get ready for 3-point showdown

Earlier this month the Boston Celtics took a season-high 42 three-pointers in a game which raised a few eyebrows. 

And you know what?

No one would be surprised if the Celtics (12-8) surpassed that total tonight when they face the Houston Rockets who have set the pace when it comes to launching 3-point bombs in the NBA this season with 37.0 attempts per game. 

The Celtics aren’t too far behind, averaging 30.8 three-pointers which ranks fifth in the NBA.

But what makes these two teams so unique is that in addition to taking a lot of 3s, they also rank among the NBA’s leaders when it comes to knocking them down. 

The Rockets (13-7) make an NBA-high 14.0 three-pointers per game while the Celtics are fifth in the league with 11.1 made 3s per game. 

And the key to that stat is that both teams shoot a surprisingly high percentage from 3-point range as well. 

Houston’s 37.8 percent from 3-point range is the fifth-best mark in the NBA while the Celtics shoot 36.0 percent on 3's which ranks 10th in the league. 

So what does all this 3-ball shooting mean? 

It means get your popcorn ready for what should be one of the more exciting, high-scoring games on the Boston Celtics’ schedule this season.

Here are some other key stats to keep tabs on during tonight’s game. 

 

FIRST QUARTER SCORING

There is no team in the NBA better at jumping on you from the outset, then Houston. They lead the NBA in first-quarter scoring with 31.2 points per game while shooting 51.9 percent in the quarter which is also tops in the NBA. But there’s a downside to their first quarter success. Houston’s first quarter defense is pretty bad, ranking 27th in the league in first-quarter points allowed (28.5) while allowing teams to shoot a league-worst 52.3 percent from the field in the game’s first 12 minutes. 

 

FOURTH QUARTER SCORING

As impressive as Houston is to start games, the Boston Celtics are just as dominant offensively in the fourth quarter. Boston averages a league-best 29.1 points per game in the fourth compared to the Rockets whose 24.4 points in the fourth ranks 21st in the NBA. Boston’s strong finish to games is aided by a defense that seems to save its best work for the fourth quarter. Opponents are shooting just 40.6 percent against the Celtics in the fourth which ranks as the third-best fourth quarter defense in the NBA.

 

OFFENSIVE REBOUND PERCENTAGE

Boston’s struggles on the boards are well documented which includes - but is certainly not limited to - offensive rebounding. The Rockets will present a major problem to Boston when it comes to trying to avoid Houston getting second and third-shot opportunities. The Rockets rank fifth in the NBA in second-chance points (15.3) per game while the Celtics’ defense allows 15.2 second-chance points which ranks 27th in the league. And Boston’s offensive rebounding percentage for opponents ranks dead-last in the NBA at .265.

 

BALL MOVEMENT

Both teams rank among the league leaders in assists per game with Boston’s 24.4 assists per game average No. 2 in the NBA and Houston’s 24.3 assists ranks fourth. But more telling is how the Celtics rely more heavily on keeping the ball moving, more so than the Rockets. You see this in Boston averaging 329.2 passes per game which ranks third in the NBA while the Rockets’ 273.5 passes per game average is 29th in the league. Still, Houston’s passing game is to be respected especially when you consider the lofty assists numbers they’ve racked up in addition to them getting 59.2 points created via the assist according to nba.com/stats

 

TURNOVERS

These two are at opposite ends of the basketball world when it comes to turnovers. Boston commits 12.3 per game which is the fourth-fewest committed in the NBA while the Rockets are turning the ball over 16.1 times per game and that ranks 27th in the league. And these two remain widely far apart in the fourth quarter which is when the Celtics turn the ball over a league-low 2.2 times per game in the fourth while Houston turns the ball more than twice as much (4.5) which ranks 29th in the league.