Celtics-Bucks preview: Watching the 3-ball

Celtics-Bucks preview: Watching the 3-ball
November 30, 2013, 10:00 am
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The Boston Celtics aren't trekking into any uncharted territory with their increased use of the 3-point shot as a weapon of mass destruction to opponents.

Averaging 17.4 3s taken per game (No. 26 in the NBA) this season, Boston took 23 (and connected on 11) in their 103-86 win over Cleveland Friday night.

When you have as many guards as the Celtics do, it was only a matter of time before the 3-ball became a more significant part of what they try to do offensively.

That time appears to be now, although the man leading the team's 3-point barrage is starting center Jared Sullinger.

In Boston's 103-86 win over Cleveland on Friday, Sullinger had 12 points with all his scoring coming from 3-point range.

“I heard (Head coach) Brad (Stevens) talking about how I don’t take enough of them (threes), so he kind of emphasized me shooting them more," Sullinger said after Friday's win. "Its definitely something I have worked on this summer a lot, I’ve been shooting them every day.”

Stevens has repeatedly encouraged all his players to take wide open shots that they are comfortable with shooting, regardless of where they are on the floor.

"My deal is that if you can make the three, then you might as well shoot it when you’re open," Stevens said. "You know we don’t have guys that necessarily are going to dominate in isolation all the time, but what we do have are guys that have some skill and have some unique skill for their position and can move the ball when we are moving it well. So you want to try and take advantage of that. You find what your strengths are, and it is not necessarily your strengths in the big picture, it might just be your strengths relative to who you are playing."

 We'll see if the 3-point shot is a strength tonight as the Celtics hit the road to take on the Milwaukee Bucks, losers of 11 in a row.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR:  The Bucks are hurting in just about every statistical category right now. For the Celtics, the game plan needs to be similar to what they did in Friday's win over Cleveland. That means point guard Jordan Crawford getting guys like Jeff Green and Avery Bradley going early, and the bench players coming in and doing all the little things such as rebounding, getting those 50/50 balls and most important, keeping the Bucks from getting any kind of momentum or confidence.

MATCHUP TO WATCH:  Jared Sullinger vs Zaza Pachulia: Pachulia was a major factor in Milwaukee's comeback win over Boston on Nov. 1. Limiting him will be challenging. The same can be said for Sullinger who is evolving into a reliable inside-outside scoring threat around the basket as well as from 3-point range.

PLAYER TO WATCH:  Avery Bradley's 21 points against the Cavs was among the more important but overlooked positives that came out of Friday's win. Look for him to continue to be aggressive offensively, especially if Milwaukee gives him the mid-range jumper that so many teams seem willing to do this season.

STAT TO TRACK:  Bad teams tend to get more than their share of non-calls that often manifest itself in the form of few free throw attempts. The Bucks average 18.1 free throw attempts which ranks 28th (out of 30 teams) in the NBA this season. Boston isn't much better with their 19.9 free throw attempts which ranks 26th in the league. Getting to the free throw line will indeed be a priority for both teams tonight.