Boston Celtics

Celtics continue to have struggles scoring


Celtics continue to have struggles scoring

By A.Sherrod Blakely

BOSTON In Boston's 90-87 loss to Memphis Wednesday night, Celtics coach Doc Rivers wasn't at all pleased with his team's late-game execution offensively.

Truth be told, Boston's late-game gaffes offensively speak to what is becoming an unexpected problem: The Celtics can't score.

When you consider the number of future Hall of Famers the Celtics have, the fact that most of them rank among the NBA's all-time greatest scorers, the idea that they're struggling to score across the board, is puzzling.

Look at the numbers.

Boston came into Wednesday's game ranked 21st in the NBA in scoring, with a 97.1 points-per-game average.

That total has only been reached once by the Celtics in their last 10 games, the kind of scoring drought that speaks volumes about how the C's are in a scoring slump that isn't limited to just one or two players.

"But it hasn't been all year," coach Doc Rivers said of his team's shooting slump. "So, it happens. It's something you get through. But we've got to get through it."

When looking to place blame, Rajon Rondo is an easy target.

He's the team's starting point guard and missed a potential game-winning shot on Wednesday.

But Rivers is quick to tell you that when it comes to placing the blame for the team's recent struggles scoring, it all starts with him.

"Then after that, it starts with the whole team," he said.

Still, Rondo is the most likely Celtic to guide the C's through their recent struggles with his ability to find players in position to score with relative ease.

One of those players Rondo probably needs to look for more in the coming games, is Paul Pierce.

Against the Grizzlies, Pierce had a game-high 22 points on 6-for-10 shooting from the field.

You love the efficient manner in which Pierce went about scoring, but on nights when the Celtics can't find any kind of steady rhythm offensively, Pierce is usually the go-to guy who can get them over the hump.

"You know, listen, I think as a whole, our team, we've got to get back to understanding . . . Paul is pretty good," Rivers said. "And he's got to get more touches in games. We go back and fourth on movement and we want that, but we've also got to get Paul involved. That's on me; I've got to get Paul involved more."

Another tweak the Celtics can make offensively is to simplify the team's various schemes down the stretch in close games.

"We have to have more consistency in what we're calling, play-calling," Rondo said. "We have to have a couple of bread-and-butter plays, not four or five different plays. We need to narrow it down to two or three at the most."

A. Sherrod Blakely can be reached Sherrod on Twitter at http:twitter.comsherrodbcsn

NBA adds 'Harden Rule' and 'Zaza Rule' for players' safety


NBA adds 'Harden Rule' and 'Zaza Rule' for players' safety

NEW YORK - NBA referees will be able to call flagrant or technical fouls on defenders who dangerously close on jump shooters without allowing them space to land, as Zaza Pachulia did on the play that injured Spurs star Kawhi Leonard in last season's playoffs.

Officials will also make sure jump shooters are in their upward shooting motion when determining if a perimeter foul is worthy of free throws, which could cut down on James Harden's attempts after he swings his arms into contact.

The new rules interpretations are being unofficially called the "Harden Rule" and the "Zaza Rule". The Washington Wizards accused the Celtics' Al Horford of a dangerous closeout on Markieff Morris that injured Morris and knocked him out of Game 1 of their playoff series two weeks before the Pachulia-Leonard play.

Leonard sprained his ankle when Pachulia slid his foot under Leonard's in Game 1 of Golden State's victory in the Western Conference finals. After calling a foul, officials will now be able to look at a replay to determine if the defender recklessly positioned his foot in an unnatural way, which could trigger an upgrade to a flagrant, or a technical if there was no contact but an apparent attempt to injure.

"It's 100 percent for the safety of the players," NBA senior vice president of replay and referee operations Joe Borgia said Thursday.

The NBA had made the freedom to land a point of emphasis for officials a few years ago, because of the risk of injuries. 

Officials can still rule the play a common foul if they did not see a dangerous or unnatural attempt by the defender upon review. Borgia said Pachulia's foul would have been deemed a flagrant.

With the fouls on the perimeter shots - often coming when the offensive player has come off a screen and quickly attempts to launch a shot as his defender tries to catch up - officials will focus on the sequencing of the play. The player with the ball must already be in his shooting motion when contact is made, rather than gathering the ball to shoot such as on a drive to the basket.

"We saw it as a major trend in the NBA so we had to almost back up and say, `Well, wait a minute, this is going to be a trend, so let's catch up to it,"' NBA president of league operations Byron Spruell said.