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.

Three things we learned from the Red Sox’ 11-9 loss to the Twins

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Three things we learned from the Red Sox’ 11-9 loss to the Twins

Three things we learned from the Boston Red Sox’ 11-9 loss to the Minnesota Twins . . .

1) David Price isn’t having fun

Boston’s $217 million-dollar arm had another rough outing -- this time against a team that already has 60 losses.

Those are the team’s he’s supposed to dominate.

“It’s been terrible,” Price said on how his season has gone following the loss. “Just awful.”

Price’s mistakes have often been credited to mechanical mishaps this year. Farrell mentioned that following his start in New York, Price spent time working on getting more of a downhill trajectory on his pitches.

But Price doesn’t think his issue is physical.

So it must be mental -- but he doesn’t feel that’s the case either.

“Honestly I don’t think it’s either one of those,” Price said when asked which he thought was a factor. “It’s me going out there and making pitches. “

But when it comes down to the barebones, pitching -- much like anything else -- is a physical and mental act.

So when he says it’s neither, that’s almost impossible. It could be both, but it has to be one.

His mind could be racing out on the mound from a manifestation of the issues he’s had throughout the season.

Or it could just be that his fastball isn’t changing planes consistently, like Farrell mentioned.

Both could be possible too, but it takes a certain type of physical approach and mental approach to pitch -- and Price needs to figure out which one is the issue, or how to address both. 

2) Sandy Leon might be coming back to Earth

Over his last five games, Boston’s new leading catcher is hitting .176 (3-for-17), dropping his average to .395.

A couple things have to be understood. His average is still impressive. In the five games prior to this dry spell, Leon went 7-for-19 (.368) But -- much like Jackie Bradley Jr. -- Leon hasn’t been known for his offensive output throughout his career. So dry spells are always tests of how he can respond to adversity and make necessary adjustments quickly.

Furthermore, if he’s not so much falling into a funk as opposed to becoming the real Sandy Leon -- what is Boston getting?

Is his run going to be remembered as an exciting run that lasted much longer than anyone expected? Or if he going to show he’s a legitimate hitter that can hit at least -.260 to .280 with a little pop from the bottom of the line-up?

What’s more, if he turns back into the Sandy Leon he’s been throughout his career, the Red Sox will have an interesting dilemma on how to handle the catching situation once again.

3) Heath Hembree has lost the momentum he gained after being called up.

Following Saturday’s contest, the right-hander was demoted to Triple-A Pawtucket after an outing where he went 1/3 of an inning, giving up a run on three hits -- and allowing some inherited runners to score.

Hembree at one point was the savior of the bullpen, stretching his arm out over three innings at a time to bail out the scuffling Red Sox starting rotation that abused it’s bullpen.

His ERA is still only 2.41 -- and this has been the most he’s ever pitched that big league level -- but the Red Sox have seen a change in him since the All-Star break.

Which makes sense, given that hitters have seven hits and two walks against him in his 1.1 innings of work -- spanning four games since the break.

“He’s not confident pitcher right now,” John Farrell said about Hembree before announcing his demotion. “As good as Heath has been for the vast majority of this year -- and really in the whole first half -- the four times out since the break have been the other side of that.”

Joe Kelly will be the pitcher to replace Hembree and Farrell hopes to be able to stretch him out over multiple innings at a time, as well.