Celtics look to push the pace offensively

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Celtics look to push the pace offensively

WALTHAM The Boston Celtics want to get out and run more which should result in more points scored.

Presumably more points will in some way impact the C's rock-solid defense that has been among the NBA's best for years.

"We're still all about defense," said Celtics coach Doc Rivers. "Having said that, you can still score."

True, but a shift to becoming more offensive is necessary for the Celtics to continue competing with the NBA's elite.

Making more shots would be simplifying the challenge that Boston faces.

"We need to just increase our pace," Rivers said. "But we turned the ball over too much last year. Over anything, that hurt our offense last year."

Boston committed 14.1 turnovers per game last season which ranked 17th in the league. However, the second half of the season saw a Boston team that ran more pick-and-rolls which created more scoring opportunities and fewer turnovers.

Prior to the All-Star break, Boston averaged 14.7 turnovers which ranked No. 21 in the NBA. After the break, the Celtics were up to No. 6 in turnovers with 13 per game.

Not only does that bode well for their chances to be successful during the regular season, but it sets the table for them to have a shot at winning it all.

For Boston to have any chance this season at bringing home Banner 18, they must become a more effective scoring team than the one last season which averaged 91.8 points which ranked No. 26 in the NBA.

Looking back at the last 10 NBA champions, they all achieved greatness differently.

But the one thing they all had in common was that they were a better scoring team than the C's squad we saw last year that advanced to the Eastern Conference finals before being eliminated in seven games by Miami.

Boston's scoring woes were a major factor in their Game 7 loss to the Heat, a game in which the Celtics' second unit scored a total of just two points.

"That's unacceptable," said Celtic guard Jason Terry, one of the league's top sixth men. "And it won't happen while I'm a Celtic."

If Boston has any realistic hope of winning a title this year, their scoring has to increase significantly.

Only one team (Detroit, 2004) in the past decade has won an NBA title in the same season in which they finished in the league's bottom 10 scoring.

During Boston's 2008 title run, the C's ranked 11th in the NBA in scoring, and were the league's No. 2 scoring defense.

The only champion since 2003 to finish in the top 10 scoring and have a top-10 scoring defense, was the Miami Heat last year when they finished seventh and fifth, respectively.

That is the kind of balance that Boston will be seeking this season.

And if the C's can stay relatively healthy, it is a goal that's very achievable.

Boston's defense will continued to be anchored by Kevin Garnett. On the perimeter, the C's have Rajon Rondo, Courtney Lee and Avery Bradley (shoulders) once he returns.

Throw in the big man depth they now have with Chris Wilcox, Jason Collins, Darko Milicic along with rookies Jared Sullinger and Fab Melo, and you have a squad that has the potential to both protect the paint and defend the perimeter.

Offensively, Boston's bench should be better -- much better -- than last season's backups when it comes to scoring.

According to Hoopstats.com, the Celtics bench averaged 23.2 points per game which ranked 29th (out of 30 teams) last season.

Boston's second unit was even worse in the playoffs, chipping in just 15.2 points per game.

In addition to Terry, a former Sixth Man of the Year award winner, Boston's second unit also includes Jeff Green who should also figure prominently in the team's efforts to bolster its scoring punch.

Along with his perimeter shooting, Terry and Lee also give Boston a pair of players who can create their own shot off the dribble which should take some of the dribble-drive pressure off Rajon Rondo.

"More guys can put the ball on the floor, so that's good," Rivers said.

Celtics-Hawks preview: Thomas 'not worried about' Schroeder

Celtics-Hawks preview: Thomas 'not worried about' Schroeder

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. –  Isaiah Thomas has respect for the Atlanta Hawks team.

So when I asked him about the Hawks, Thomas spoke glowingly about Paul Millsap as being a “special player” and Dwight Howard having a huge impact on shot attempts whether he’s blocking them or not.

But he knows all eyes will be on him and Hawks point guard Dennis Schroeder who had some not-so-nice things to say about Thomas following Boston’s 103-101 win at Atlanta on Jan. 13.

The two waged a feisty, highly combative game most of the Jan. 13 game with Thomas getting the better of Schroeder in just about every statistical category such as scoring (28 points for Thomas compared to 4 for Schroeder), assists (nine to three), and minutes played (36:16 to 22:36).

And then there was the one statistic that mattered most … the win.

But after the game, Schroeder told reporters that Thomas had spoken badly about his mother.

“I’m playing basketball,” Schroder told reporters after the game in January. “If he think that he got to curse at my mom or say some dumb stuff about my family, that has nothing to do with basketball. That’s his choice. I’ve got too much class for that. Next one, we are going to get it.”

The news got back to Thomas who emphatically denied he said anything along those lines.

“I don’t talk about nobody’s mom,” Thomas said when he became aware of Schroeder’s comments. “I don’t cuss at anybody’s mom and I don’t talk about people’s family. So whatever he said, that’s a 100 percent lie and he knows that.”

When I asked Thomas about Schroeder following Boston’s 104-98 win at Detroit Sunday night, he had little to say about the Hawks point guard.

“Man I’m past that. I’m not worried about that guy,” Thomas said. “Once he did that the last game, where he tried to damage my character, (saying I was) talking about his parents … I’m past that. Hopefully we can beat the Atlanta Hawks. I’m not even worried about him.”

Schroeder may not be on Thomas’ radar as a major concern, but the players he spoke of earlier – Millsap and Howard – are two players who can have a significant impact on whether the Celtics can continue to build off of the good things they did against the Pistons.

And Atlanta (32-26) will come in extremely thirsty for success having lost their last three games – all by 15 or more points - and four of the last five.

Despite the Hawks recent struggles, the Celtics understand that despite their success this season they are in no position to take any team lightly.

“They’re a good team. They play the game the right way,” said Boston’s Jaylen Brown. “They have some really good players, some really good shooters, really good bigs down low. We have to come out and play harder than them, match their intensity, execute, move the ball, share the ball and have fun.”

Shaughnessy: Why I'm not a fan of Celtics not trading at deadline

Shaughnessy: Why I'm not a fan of Celtics not trading at deadline

Dan Shaughnessy joins Sports Sunday and talks with Felger about why he hated the Boston Celtics not making any moves at the deadline.