Celtics face tough road in battle for first


Celtics face tough road in battle for first

By Jessica Camerato

After Fridays loss to the Atlanta Hawks, the Boston Celtics fell to 52-23 and third place in the Eastern Conference. With seven games left in the regular season, the Cs are three games behind the Chicago Bulls and a half-game back of the Miami Heat.

See what the road ahead holds for the Celtics and their opponents as they battle for the top spot in the East:

1. Chicago Bulls (55-20)Last 10 games: 8-2Current streak: 2 winsGames left: 7

Remainder of the season: In their final seven games, the Bulls face just two teams above .500 (Celtics and Magic). Four of their games are at home, where they are 32-5. But they play a pair of back-to-back games, homeaway and awayhome, before the end of the season.

What to watch:

April 2 vs. Toronto Raptors (20-54)
April 5 vs. Phoenix Suns (37-38)
April 7 vs. Boston Celtics (52-23)
April 8 @ Cleveland Cavaliers (15-60)
April 10 @ Orlando Magic (48-28)
April 12 @ New York Knicks (37-38)
April 13 vs. New Jersey Nets (23-52)

2. Miami Heat (53-23)Last 10 games: 8-2Current streak: 2 winsGames left: 6

Remainder of the season: While the Heat only see two teams above .500, they play back-to-back games against the Celtics and Hawks which are sure to be heated fights for playoff positioning. They have three games left at home (28-10) and three on the road (25-13).

April 3 @ New Jersey Nets (23-52)
April 6 vs. Milwaukee Bucks (30-45)
April 8 vs. Charlotte Bobcats (32-43)
April 10 vs. Boston Celtics (52-23)
April 11 @ Atlanta Hawks (44-32)
April 13 @ Toronto Raptors (20-54)

3. Boston Celtics (52-23)Last 10 games: 5-5Current streak: 1 lossGames left: 7
Remainder of the season: In addition to facing the Bulls and Heat, the Celtics have tough matchups in store against the 76ers and Knicks, both trying to move up in the standings. They will play four games at TD Garden (29-8) and three on the road (23- 15). Four of their final seven opponents have sub-.500 records.

April 3 vs. Detroit Pistons (26-49)
April 5 vs. Philadelphia 76ers (40-36)
April 7 @ Chicago Bulls (55-20)
April 8 vs. Washington Wizards (19-56)
April 10 @ Miami Heat (53-23)
April 11 @ Washington Wizards (19-56)
April 13 vs. New York Knicks (37-38)

Jessica Camerato is on Twitter at http:twitter.comjcameratonba

Beyond the numbers: The dual threat of Avery Bradley


Beyond the numbers: The dual threat of Avery Bradley

BOSTON – Another year, another season in which Avery Bradley plans to showcase a new and improved skill that will benefit the Boston Celtics.
But with each improved skill, Bradley moves just that much closer to being an all-around, two-way talent that creates problems for teams at both ends of the floor.
We all know about Bradley’s defense, which was good enough to land him a spot on the NBA’s All-Defensive first team last season. He also gets props for steadily improving his game offensively in some area every summer, but defenses might have their hands full more than ever with Bradley.
According to NBA stats guru Dick Lipe, the 6-foot-2 Bradley was the only guard in the NBA last season to shoot better than 70 percent in the restricted area among players who took a minimum of 200 field goal attempts.
He is among a list that includes Los Angeles Clippers big men DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin; Miami’s Hassan Whiteside; current teammate and former Atlanta Hawk Al Horford; San Antonio’s LaMarcus Aldridge; Golden State’s Kevin Durant and Atlanta big man Dwight Howard.
But if you’re thinking about keeping him away from that part of the floor, Bradley also made the 3-point shot a bigger part of his offensive game last season; as in, 40 percent of his shots came from beyond the 3-point line.

Having that kind of diversity makes him a difficult player to get a clear read on how to defend. And because of that, it may open things up even more so for his teammates.
Bradley can shoot from the perimeter; he can score close to the rim. His ball-handling skills have improved in the offseason to where it no longer looks as though it’s a major weakness.
And he defends at a level few players in the league can match.
Collectively it makes Bradley one of the many challenges awaiting teams whenever they face the Celtics, a player who is poised to showcase his diverse set of skills beginning tonight against the Brooklyn Nets. 

Pregame number: Al Horford to the rescue


Pregame number: Al Horford to the rescue

Tonight’s pregame number to watch is 45.4%. That was the Celtics' score frequency on pick and rolls finished by the screener last season, which was the worst rate in the NBA.

Score Frequency: The percentage of possession in which the team or player scores at least 1 point.

The major problem for the Celtics last season was personnel, as Jared Sullinger finished the most pick and roll plays for the C’s after setting a screen, and he was -- to put it nicely -- freaking terrible. Sullinger was the second-worst roll/pop man in the league, averaging a paltry 0.87 points per possession.

Fortunately, the Celtics replaced Jared Sullinger with four-time All-Star Al Horford, who is one of the elite roll/pop men in the NBA. Last season, Horford finished fifth in the NBA averaging 1.13 points per possession as a roll/pop man and boasted a more than solid 57.1 eFG% on those plays. 

eFG% (Effective Field Goal Percentage): Measures field goal percentage adjusting for the fact that a 3-point field goal is worth one more point than a 2-point field goal. The equation is ((FGM + (0.5 * 3PM)) / FGA

If you watched the preseason, then you already know the kind of impact Horford can have on the Celtics half court offense. So keep an eye out for those pick and rolls tonight and throughout the season, and we should see that 45.4% Score Frequency jump somewhere closer to 50%.