Free throw disadvantage hurting Celtics

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Free throw disadvantage hurting Celtics

By A. Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com

BOSTON The Boston Celtics have broken down all the different reasons that have contributed to their 2-0 series hole against the Miami Heat.

While there's no disputing the C's must step their game up in several areas, none appears more obvious than free throws.

Although Boston has committed just five more fouls (48-43) in the two games than the Heat, Miami has taken 14 more free throw attempts in each game.

A big reason for that is the Heat's 1-2 punch of Dwyane Wade and LeBron James have been in attack mode both games, driving into the paint, looking to finish while drawing contact.

Limiting the Celtics' ability to get to the line has been part of the defensive game plan for the Heat.

"We're trying to be active and keep the ball in front of us," said Miami coach Erik Spoelstra. "It's a whole lot easier said than done against that team."

But having James and Wade certainly helps.

"Our game is we're attackers," Wade said. "Myself, LeBron, we're two of the (best) attackers, getting points in the paint, putting pressure on defense. Whatever the game calls for, we have the team that can do it."

James and Wade both rank among the top 10 players in the postseason in free throw attempts, coming in at No. 5 and No. 7, respectively.

The highest ranked Celtics player in the postseason in free throw attempts is Rajon Rondo, who is ranked 21st with a total of 36 free throws taken.

"We're not trying to be anybody different than we have been during the regular season," Spoelstra said. "We're a team that does attack. We're a team that does try to get opportunities in the paint, that does try to get to the free throw line. That's not something new we're trying to do now."

The Celtics, meanwhile, haven't attacked the paint with the same kind of force or focus.

Part of that has to do with Paul Pierce, the C's best at attacking the basket, being limited in both games.

In Game 1, he was ejected after picking up a second technical foul with seven minutes to play.

And in Game 2, Pierce spent most of the first half on the bench or in the trainer's room after suffering what he later said was a left Achilles strain.

Pierce was able to return, but missed his first five shots after stepping back on the floor.

The injury is not considered serious enough to keep the Captain out of tonight's pivotal Game 3 matchup.

"It was a minor strain," Pierce said. "But it's doing good."

A. Sherrod Blakely can be reached at sblakely@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Sherrod on Twitter at http:twitter.comsherrodbcsn

Fast-break points aren't necessarily a good thing for Celtics

Fast-break points aren't necessarily a good thing for Celtics

BOSTON – Conventional NBA wisdom tells you that getting out to score in transition is a good thing, usually serving as easy points scored, which is what every team wants, right?
 
But bundles of transition points have been nothing but trouble for the Celtics this season.
 
They are coming off a game against the New York Knicks in which they scored 22 fast-break points, which was their second-best showing this season. But the final score, a 117-106 loss, wasn’t all that unusual from what has happened this season when their transition game has generated a decent amount of scoring.
 
Boston has a 2-6 record this season when they score 16 or more fast-break points. On the nights when Boston’s fast-break offense generates 10 or fewer points?
 
They’re 11-5.
 
While there are several possible reasons why this is, here’s what you have to remember.
 
The Celtics are a ball-movement, 3-point shooting team.
 
Often that means they’ll pass up potential shots in transition, to instead work the ball around from one side of the floor to the other, until they get what they deem is the best shot to take (usually it’s a lightly contested to wide open 3-pointer).
 
The Celtics average 329.6 passes per game, which ranks second in the NBA (Philadelphia, 354.8). Not surprisingly, that has led to them ranking among the league’s leaders in assists (24.9, third in the NBA).
 
And that has led to Boston being ranked among the top-3 in several other key passing statistics, such as secondary assists (7.1, 2nd in the NBA); potential assists (49.5, 2nd); and assists points created (60.8, 3rd);
 
Here are a few more stats to crunch on, courtesy of CSN Associate Producer Andy Levine.
 
PAINT BY NUMBERS: When the Celtics score 40 percent or less of their points in the paint, they are 19-5 this season. When Boston gets 40 percent or more of its points in the paint, they are just 7-11.
 
BROWN IN THE FOURTH: Jaylen Brown has been among the better rookies this season, especially in the fourth quarter. Among rookies who played in at least 20 games in the fourth quarter, Brown is second in fourth quarter shooting at 54.9 percent. With those same standards, he’s sixth in shooting 3’s in the fourth at 38.5 percent.
 
CROWDER BOUNCES BACK: The past four games has seemingly brought out the best in Crowder. In that span, he has averaged 18.5 points and 6.8 rebounds while shooting 57 percent from the field and 48 percent from 3-point range. Crowder’s 3-point shooting of late has elevated him to seventh in the league while connecting on 42.5 percent of his 3-point attempts (minimum 150 attempts).

OUCH! It has not been a smooth start for Evan Turner with his new team, the Portland Trail Blazers. This season, Turner’s plus/minus is -234, which is the fourth-worst plus/minus in the NBA.
 
 

Stevens: Bradley, Zeller, Jerebko out vs. Trail Blazers

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Stevens: Bradley, Zeller, Jerebko out vs. Trail Blazers

BOSTON – Before Brad Stevens addressed the media before the Celtics faced the Portland Trail Blazers on Saturday afternoon, he had to take a moment to make sure he wouldn’t forget anyone who wasn’t able to play.
 
Yeah, the list was a pretty long one.
 
Tyler Zeller, Demetrius Jackson and Jonas Jerebko will not play tonight due to sickness. And Avery Bradley (right Achilles strain) will also be out with a timetable that’s starting to feel like it’ll be longer than anyone would want.
 
“I don’t anticipate Avery this week at all,” Stevens said. “He still has some soreness. Obviously we’re concerned about the long-term impact of a sore Achilles; what it means on that foot but also what it means when you compensate off it. But he’ll be back when he’s ready but I think he’s still a little bit away.”
 
Bradley, the team’s top on-the-ball defender and No. 2 scorer this season at 17.7 points per game, will be out for the sixth time in the Celtics’ last seven games because of the Achilles injury.
 
Replacing him in the starting lineup will be Marcus Smart whose status for tonight’s game wasn’t a sure thing.
 
On the Celtics’ pregame notes package, Smart was listed as probable with a sore right ankle injury. I asked Stevens about Smart’s status a few minutes ago, and he said the 6-foot-4 Smart will play tonight.
 
In his 15 starts this season, Smart has averaged 10.9 points, 3.9 rebounds and 4.5 assists while shooting 38.4 percent from the field and 31.7 percent on 3's - all of which are better than what he produces when coming off the bench.