The Celtics First Two Games: The Good and the Bad

With the fall season comes basketball, and with basketball in Boston comes hot takes and overreactions. In other words, the Celtics lost, and the Nets won on the same night. Say goodbye to the number one pick. Marcus Smart and Kelly Olynyk haven’t played yet—are they dead?

The loss in Chicago was a hard one, especially on the boards. Luckily, Brad Stevens is already solving problems:

I mean, that’s one way to get the message across. Chicago out-rebounded Boston 18 to three on the offensive boards on Saturday and 55-36 overall. Bull’s Center Robin Lopez grabbed six offensive rebounds by himself that night. Avery Bradley leads the Celtics in that category through two games with just five in total. In fact, Bradley leads the entire team in total rebounds over the first two games with 15.

It’s easy to point at one play, the Dwyane Wade dagger and blame the outcome on that, but we know better. The Bulls missed eight free throws in a game decided by six points, but the Celtics missed nine of their own, including Isaiah Thomas missing four out of his six attempts.

 

Are you still panicking? Here’s the first piece of good news: I’m out of bad news. The second is that the Celtics offense has been smooth and efficient—unless you played off the bench. Here’s how well that starters shot in the first two games:

player GP FGA FGM FGm FG% aFG%
#0 Avery Bradley 2 27 13 14 48.2% 55.6%
#4 Isaiah Thomas 2 29 17 12 58.6% 67.2%  
#99 Jae Crowder 2 21 13 8 61.9% 71.4%
#90 Amir Johnson 2 10 6 4 60% 60%
#42 Al Horford 2 17 9 8 52.9% 55.9%

(FGM is field goals made, FGm is field goals missed).

Something you won’t see here is that the three point shooting is still spotty. The Celtics hit eight three-pointers against Chicago on 34 percent shooting while Dwyane Wade and Jimmy Butler hit four apiece as Chicago as a team shot 44 percent from deep. Something else to take note of is the field goal discrepancy, as the Bulls took 92 total field goals while the Celtics only took 76.

So, here’s the positive spin: the Celtics took 16 fewer field goals, missed nine free throws, got absolutely smashed on the boards, and only lost by six points. The rebounding problem is a tough one to fix, but we know the rest will be fixed up in time. Keep in mind that no combination of five players has played more than 10 minutes together through two games, so we naturally don’t know which of the 31 different lineups used so far is the best one. Once Marcus Smart and Kelly Olynyk return to the bench, there could be another adjustment period before things really start to gel.

Until then, here is my list of things to watch for in the coming games:

  • Frontcourt combinations. Tyler Zeller has started the second half already, and Stevens says he wants Amir Johnson to get used to playing with Jonas Jerebko. Maybe we'll see different second half starting fives more often.
  • Terry Rozier is running the offense. Isaiah Thomas and Avery Bradley primarily utilize the pick and roll on offense while Terry Rozier has mostly been a spot-up shooter in his minutes so far.
  • Jaylen Brown in general. Jaylen has been solid while playing on an unstable bench, and will probably not lose out on play time when Smart and Olynyk come back. He’s already shown some great defense and sneaky cuts on offense, just what the Celtics need—and I think his skills will go to better use in a lineup with Olynyk and Smart.

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