Trade bolsters C's chances of getting out of the East

191544.jpg

Trade bolsters C's chances of getting out of the East

By A. Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com

SALT LAKE CITY When the season began, the Boston Celtics were a team built for one thing: to knock off the two-time defending NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers.

But the C's are well-versed on not getting too ahead of themselves.

A bunch of teams in the East did that last season, which opened the door for the Celtics to make an unexpected and improbable run to the NBA Finals as a fourth seed.

So while so much attention surrounding the Celts' recent trades has centered around how it will affect their chances of bringing home Banner 18, overlooked has been its potential impact on them getting out of the Eastern Conference.

When you look at the teams that the Celtics will have to, in all likelihood, battle to get to the Finals, they all have one thing in common - high-impact players at the small forward position.

LeBron James in Miami. Luol Deng in Chicago. Carmelo Anthony in New York. Joe Johnson in Atlanta. Hedo Turkoglu in Orlando.

Now, Boston's Paul Pierce can more than hold his own with the best of them.

But to think the Celtics won't need additional help at that position is just not being realistic.

When you look back at the success that the C's had a year ago in the playoffs, it was due in part because of their ability to attack teams in waves.

Pierce was Boston's best threat at the small-forward position, but the contributions made a year ago by Tony Allen (now with the Memphis Grizzlies) cannot be ignored. And when you look back at the 2008 title team, James Posey's play was vital to the title run as well.

Von Wafer has done a solid job of helping fill that void at the backup-small forward position, but the Celtics knew they needed an upgrade if they were going to have the kind of season they envision.

The anger and outrage that followed the Perkins trade has subsided some, which is allowing Celtics Nation to see this deal for what it really is.

Of course Perkins' contract was a factor, and his health to a lesser extent.

But this deal was driven primarily with one goal in mind: to give the Celtics a better chance of getting out of the Eastern Conference.

And as it should be, making that kind of improvement should come with a hefty cost; in this instance, it was losing Kendrick Perkins.

But it is the price Danny Ainge had to pay to ensure that the C's, at the very least, were going to have a shot at being one of the last teams standing.

The addition of Jeff Green is supposed to help lessen some of the wear and tear on Pierce, who hasn't had a legit backup at the small-forward position since Marquis Daniels (now with the Sacramento Kings) went down with a bruised spinal cord injury on Feb. 6 against Orlando.

You can count Pierce among those upset initially by the trade.

But as the shock wore off and he started to see the potential with the trade, Pierce seems to have a better feel for how this may be exactly what the C's need right now to deal with a league filled with high-scoring, high impact players at the small forward position.

"That's going to be huge as far as matchups," Pierce told CSNNE.com about the addition of Green, who, at 6-foot-9 and 235 pounds, can play both forward positions. "When you start looking at the playoffs, you look at the number of guys I've had to guard over the years, you look at LeBron, Turkoglu and now possibly Carmelo Anthony, who was recently traded to New York from Denver. You bring in a guy that can definitely match up with them if I get into foul trouble or anything like that."

But Pierce also believes that he and Green can cause major problems for opponents when they're on the floor together.

"We can definitely play together, and force teams to really pick their poison," Pierce said. "He's a guy that can play on the perimeter and post-up, and be a major matchup problem. I can present that too at the wing. Having Jeff, it definitely gives us some versatility in that aspect."

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

WATCH: Celtics vs. Rockets

celtics_rockets_smart_harden_111615.jpg

WATCH: Celtics vs. Rockets

Tune into CSN to watch the Celtics play the Rockets in Houston. You can also click here to watch the Celtics livestream presented by McDonald's on the NBC Sports App. Coverage begins at 7:30 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live Presented by ACE Ticket.

- Game Preview: Get ready for 3-point showdown

- Channel Finder: Make sure you know where to watch

[SHOP: Gear up, Celtics fans!]

- Live Extra FAQ: All your questions answered

- Latest on the Celtics: All of the most recent news and notes

- Talk about the game via social media on CSN's Pulse, presented by Ford

Celtics-Rockets preview: Get ready for 3-point showdown

Celtics-Rockets preview: Get ready for 3-point showdown

Earlier this month the Boston Celtics took a season-high 42 three-pointers in a game which raised a few eyebrows. 

And you know what?

No one would be surprised if the Celtics (12-8) surpassed that total tonight when they face the Houston Rockets who have set the pace when it comes to launching 3-point bombs in the NBA this season with 37.0 attempts per game. 

The Celtics aren’t too far behind, averaging 30.8 three-pointers which ranks fifth in the NBA.

But what makes these two teams so unique is that in addition to taking a lot of 3s, they also rank among the NBA’s leaders when it comes to knocking them down. 

The Rockets (13-7) make an NBA-high 14.0 three-pointers per game while the Celtics are fifth in the league with 11.1 made 3s per game. 

And the key to that stat is that both teams shoot a surprisingly high percentage from 3-point range as well. 

Houston’s 37.8 percent from 3-point range is the fifth-best mark in the NBA while the Celtics shoot 36.0 percent on 3's which ranks 10th in the league. 

So what does all this 3-ball shooting mean? 

It means get your popcorn ready for what should be one of the more exciting, high-scoring games on the Boston Celtics’ schedule this season.

Here are some other key stats to keep tabs on during tonight’s game. 

 

FIRST QUARTER SCORING

There is no team in the NBA better at jumping on you from the outset, then Houston. They lead the NBA in first-quarter scoring with 31.2 points per game while shooting 51.9 percent in the quarter which is also tops in the NBA. But there’s a downside to their first quarter success. Houston’s first quarter defense is pretty bad, ranking 27th in the league in first-quarter points allowed (28.5) while allowing teams to shoot a league-worst 52.3 percent from the field in the game’s first 12 minutes. 

 

FOURTH QUARTER SCORING

As impressive as Houston is to start games, the Boston Celtics are just as dominant offensively in the fourth quarter. Boston averages a league-best 29.1 points per game in the fourth compared to the Rockets whose 24.4 points in the fourth ranks 21st in the NBA. Boston’s strong finish to games is aided by a defense that seems to save its best work for the fourth quarter. Opponents are shooting just 40.6 percent against the Celtics in the fourth which ranks as the third-best fourth quarter defense in the NBA.

 

OFFENSIVE REBOUND PERCENTAGE

Boston’s struggles on the boards are well documented which includes - but is certainly not limited to - offensive rebounding. The Rockets will present a major problem to Boston when it comes to trying to avoid Houston getting second and third-shot opportunities. The Rockets rank fifth in the NBA in second-chance points (15.3) per game while the Celtics’ defense allows 15.2 second-chance points which ranks 27th in the league. And Boston’s offensive rebounding percentage for opponents ranks dead-last in the NBA at .265.

 

BALL MOVEMENT

Both teams rank among the league leaders in assists per game with Boston’s 24.4 assists per game average No. 2 in the NBA and Houston’s 24.3 assists ranks fourth. But more telling is how the Celtics rely more heavily on keeping the ball moving, more so than the Rockets. You see this in Boston averaging 329.2 passes per game which ranks third in the NBA while the Rockets’ 273.5 passes per game average is 29th in the league. Still, Houston’s passing game is to be respected especially when you consider the lofty assists numbers they’ve racked up in addition to them getting 59.2 points created via the assist according to nba.com/stats

 

TURNOVERS

These two are at opposite ends of the basketball world when it comes to turnovers. Boston commits 12.3 per game which is the fourth-fewest committed in the NBA while the Rockets are turning the ball over 16.1 times per game and that ranks 27th in the league. And these two remain widely far apart in the fourth quarter which is when the Celtics turn the ball over a league-low 2.2 times per game in the fourth while Houston turns the ball more than twice as much (4.5) which ranks 29th in the league.