Celtics desperate for inside scoring

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Celtics desperate for inside scoring

The Celtics (7-9) have scored more than 90 points just seven times through the first 16 games of the season. Five of their seven wins have come when they reach that mark, two of which came when they scored 100 points.

So yeah, breaking news: the more points a team can score, the better chance they have at winning.

The Celtics know that, obviously. They just cant do anything about it, averaging 89.4 points per game, a full seven points less than last season and putting them at 24th in the NBA in that category.

So what company are the Cs in? You dont want to know . . . but here you go anyways:

Washington Wizards, New Orleans Hornets, Toronto Raptors, and Detroit Pistons are ranked worse, while the Charlotte Bobcats,Sacramento Kings, and New Jersey Nets rank just ahead.

Record wise, those are seven of the worst eight teams in the NBA.

Feeling sick yet?

The Nets dont play the type of defense that usually holds opponents to 34 points at halftime. Or the Phoenix Suns, keeping the Cs to 71 total points.

True, the Cs have never been a team to rank near or close to the top in points scored per game, mainly because of the slow pace at which they play, and this season theyre playing even slower.

According to Hoopdata.com, the Cs average 90.6 possessions per game, which is about two possessions less than last season, and tied for last in the league with the offensively-challenged Bobcats.

Does that make for boring basketball? Well, that depends. When it ends in a miss then absolutely. And lately, far too many possessions have been ending with missed shots or turnovers for the Celtics.

Turnovers are a story for another day, but lets delve into a little field goal percentage talk. Fun! But more specifically, where are they missing shots from?

The Celtics are shooting 45-percent (ranked 13th in NBA) as a team so far this season, but their production at or near the rim is nowhere close to where it needs to be if they are going to contend.

The biggest concern going into the season was what production the team would get out of the center and power forward positions. So far, that concern has proved to be a legitimate one.

Yup, they are who we thought they were.

So just how bad is it? Well, the Cs are averaging 22 shots at the rim per game (9th most in NBA), while hitting just over 13. That puts them at 60-percent from under the basket, ranking 25th in the NBA. That percentage is based on dunks, layups, tip-ins, and baskets of that nature.

But what if they step back a bit, say 3-9 feet away from the basket? Has the production been better there?

Nope. Worse.

The Cs have all but abandoned the low-post game it would seem, and you cant really blame them. Not only are they attempting just nine shots from 3-9 feet per game (25th in NBA), theyre hitting on average just 2.7, putting them at a 29.9 percent success rate. Only one team shoots a worse percentage than that, the New York Knicks.

Kevin Garnett has shown he can defend with the best of them, and when it comes to the outside jumper hes still one of the best bigs in the league. But hes shooting just 48.3-percent this season from the field, down 35 percentage points from last season.

Jermaine ONeal? Forget about it. Hes barely shooting above 40 percent, and if the first thing you dont picture is a short turnaround jumper clanging off the rim, you havent watched him play this season. O'Neal is shooting 58.8 percent at the rim (below the league average of 62.7 percent) and a despicable 20 percent from 3-9 feet (league average 37.2 percent).

Who do the Cs have to depend on after those guys? Not Chris Wilcox at least not at any point yet this season (and really, throughout most of his career). Brandon Bass has proven to be an exceptional bench option for the Celtics, but his inside game is limited like Glen Davis was before the two were exchanged.

While Bass has been great from 10-23 feet away from the basket, at or near the basket hes been just as bad and in some cases worse than ONeal.

Greg Stiemsma? He's a solid shot blocker, but anything else is just gravy. JaJuan Johnson plays more of an outside game, and looking at his build, you can see why.

Yes, Paul Pierce needs to pick it up and play better. Yes, Rajon Rondo and Ray Allen need to return to the lineup. But if the Cs dont change their identity down low, teams will continue to walk all over them.

Haggerty: Bruins motto is don't just do something, stand there!

Haggerty: Bruins motto is don't just do something, stand there!

After back-to-back, soul-crushing losses earlier this week, the Bruins responded by doing pretty much what they've done over the last couple of seasons:

Nothing.

Claude Julien was not relieved of his duties -- as many expected after the Bruins blew a couple of three-goal leads in a shootout loss in Detroit on Wednesday night -- and there was no big shakeup for a reeling hockey club that certainly feels like it needs it.

Instead the Bruins will host the Chicago Blackhawks on Friday night after going through a “nothing-to-see-here, everything-is-fine” morning skate at Warrior Ice Arena, then go to Pittsburgh for a Sunday afternoon matinee against a Penguins team that’s playing some pretty good hockey.

Maybe the Bruins will play better than they did in taking one out of a possible four points against two of the worst teams in the East -- the Islanders and Red Wings -- and perhaps that will tamp down some of the unrest among those that closely follow this organization.

But the fact is, the Bruins front office doing nothing in the face of stunning underperformance from its hockey club is the furthest thing from courage, bravery or doing the right thing.

This is the third straight year we've seen no-shows and a startling lack of emotional engagement from a team that collapsed down the stretch and missed the postseason in each of the last two seasons, and is now in a position where it may not even be in the playoff hunt at the end of this one. To sit still as it happens again feels, to this humble hockey writer, like willful indifference in the face of the obvious: Something is broken with the Bruins.

There's no single big trade that can fix it, not with the Coyotes and Avalanche as the only true sellers. And a Bruins management group with the true best interests of the hockey club in mind would look at the 'seller' option, dealing away some of the core pieces and starting a true rebuild around Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and the young players under team control that are beginning to filter into the NHL level.

But it doesn’t feel like this current B’s front office, or the ownership group, has the appetite for that, and instead wants to retool on the fly while also attempting to compete for the playoffs. That’s a delicate balance and it’s one that has caused the Red Wings to go sideways this season, putting them in danger of missing the Stanley Cup playoffs for the first time since 1990-91.

That’s the same Red Wings team, incidentally, that somehow came back from deficits of 3-0 and 4-1 against the Bruins on Wednesday.

With a trade unlikely, the easiest way to a short-term spark continues to be a change with the head coach. Everybody knows Claude Julien has been the best coach in the modern Bruins era, and he’ll forever be loved and cherished in the Boston area for helping win the Stanley Cup in 2011. But the jarring comments from Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand about the team not being ready to play, and collectively taking the Isles too lightly, can’t be ignored.

It feels like things are altogether too comfortable in the Bruins dressing room, and that can be a byproduct of the same coach with the same core group of players for the last 10 years. The sense here is that the Bruins need a short term butt-kicker who'd come in and challenge some Bruins veterans who haven’t been challenged enough in recent years, and will bring an edge to a group that’s look satisfied and happy lately while insulated with big-money contracts and no-movement clauses.

That kind of move could give the Bruins enough of a nudge to get them into the playoffs this season, and help ease the rebuilding pain until Charlie McAvoy, Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson, Zach Senyshyn and the next wave of Bruins prospects are ready to blossom.  

Instead the fancy-stats brigade will tell you that the Bruins are automatically going to turn things around because of the incredibly slim premise that it’s all based on shooting percentage, and Bruin apologists will tell you that the roster simply isn’t good enough right now. So riding it out with Julien is the right move because he's the MacGyver-like chewing gum that’s holding it all together right now.

Sorry, but many are not buying this Bruins-approved message.

They have two-thirds of the best forward line from the World Cup of Hockey in Bergeron and Marchand. They have a legitimate No. 1 goalie in Tuukka Rask. They have experienced, proven winners in David Krejci, David Backes and Zdeno Chara. They have bright, young talents in David Pastrnak and Brandon Carlo. And they're about to get passed by the Senators and Maple Leafs in the playoff race once those other teams catch up to Boston in games played. Nobody can make the straight-faced claim that Toronto or Ottawa is superior to the Bruins in the overall talent department.

The Bruins are underachieving this season, and some players have been truly disappointing in big spots.

The simple truth is that Julien isn’t getting the most out of them. They settle for perimeter shots far too much in the offensive zone, which plays into the poor team shooting percentage, and they take opponents lightly far too often for a hockey club in the NHL’s middle class.

Those kinds of traits fall back on the coach, and, unfortunately, replacing Julien is the most readily available card for Bruins management to play when they finally begin feeling the desperation and urgency that’s been missing too much this season.

Perhaps some of it is a fear of removing a popular, accomplished figure like Julien, and then watching him have success somewhere else. Perhaps some of it is a hesitancy to turn things over to assistants Joe Sacco and Bruce Cassidy at such a delicate point in time this season. Perhaps some of it is that one of the few real alternatives the Bruins are facing would be general manager Don Sweeney or team president Cam Neely actually manning the bench as Julien’s replacement if they fired the head coach, a maneuver that hasn’t been seen with the Bruins since the Harry Sinden days when Mike O’Connell went to the bench in 2002-03 after firing Robbie Ftorek.

Whatever the reason, the Bruins still haven’t seen enough to decide that something needs to change with this group sputtering along to another playoff DNQ. The fans are decrying it while holding their hefty season-ticket package bills in their hands, the clear-eyed observer sees it without question, and there’s no doubt some hard-working Bruins players are hoping for it behind the scenes on a ship that’s taking on water.

But nothing of significance is going to change with this Bruins team until they make a change, and that’s something they continue to avoid.

Pro Football Talk: Ex-Patriot Jamie Collins close to re-signing with Browns

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Pro Football Talk: Ex-Patriot Jamie Collins close to re-signing with Browns

The Browns are close to finalizing a multi-year contract with former Patriots linebacker Jamie Collins, CBS Sports reported Thursday.

The report said “significant progress” has been made between the sides and that the deal will be done by the weekend.

Click here for the complete story.