Making Sense of the Boston Celtics

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Only one person in Boston Celtics history has scored more than 40 points when they were 35 years old or older: the great Larry Bird. Now, after Boston’s Wednesday night victory over the Cavaliers, we can add one more player to that list – Paul Pierce. Pierce had a ridiculous performance and was hitting on all cylinders as he put together 40 points on 13-16 shooting from the field; he made eight out of eight free throws and was six of seven from beyond the arc.

The Celtics, who have been really struggling as of late, were in desperate need of a win. They were on a three-game skid and did not want to fall under the .500 mark. Thanks to Paul Pierce’s 40 points, eight rebounds, and five assists Boston was able to avoid such a situation. Rondo contributed 20 points and eight assists in this game and has been looking to be more aggressive in scoring the ball recently. In Boston’s loss to the Bulls on Tuesday he scored 26 points and eight assists as he shot the ball well from the field and the free throw line, in addition to making two three-point shots, something he almost never does.

Jason Terry found his way back into the starting lineup and put together the kind of performance that the Celtics need him to provide on a consistent basis; the kind of performance that is worthy of replacing a great player such as Ray Allen. Wednesday night he scored 15 points, four assists and hit three threes on nine shot attempts. That is what Jason Terry was brought to Boston to do. Score the ball, stretch the floor by hitting the open three, and do so while playing an efficient game. He has not been able to do this regularly and the Celtics have struggled because of it.

Boston shooting guard Courtney Lee is also shooting the ball relatively poorly this year and there are rumors that he may be on the trading block in an attempt to add a big man to their depleted front line. Lee averaged 11.4 points last year in Houston and shot 40% from three-point land. Despite beginning the year as a starter, Lee is shooting just under 28% from three and averaging only six points. With Avery Bradley getting close to making a return to the court, the Celtics feel they have one extra two-guard and they know that they need help inside.

The Boston Celtics should be paying very close attention to how the Knicks play basketball and the things they are doing to win ball games. The makeup of their roster really isn’t all that different. I’m not saying that they need to put Pierce at the power forward spot but they do need a four that can space the floor and knock down the open mid-range shot. Brandon Bass should be able to provide this, but perhaps that is the type of post player that they can look for. Someone who can space the floor; someone who can rebound the ball and play solid defense.

What the Celtics also need is to keep the ball moving once it leaves Rondo’s hands. They need shooters to surround Paul Pierce and they need to be able to knock down the three. Grabbing Jason Terry was the right move and we can only hope that he will start to shoot the ball better, with other guys such as Bass and Green hopefully being able to follow suit. The Celtics need to continue to play as unselfishly as possible and keep the offense flowing with movement which could decrease the amount they turn the ball over. With so many veterans on the roster they should not be turning the ball over so much.

These are the types of things that Doc Rivers should be emphasizing: Unselfish play, spacing, run when the opportunity is there, take care of the ball, and everyone needs to rebound and play tough defense. Jason Terry needs to provide the role that Jason Kidd brings to the Knicks. Kidd has become a premier three-point shooter; he spaces the floor, plays very intelligent defense, and simply takes care of the ball by making the right pass in the flow of the offence. It is the little things that make such a huge difference and Boston is not doing them consistently. As veteran ball club that considers themselves contenders, they should not possess deficiencies in rebounding and turnovers. The shooting will likely turn around, but extra ball movement and defensive energy are small tweaks to their game that could go a long way.

Leandro Barbosa was supposed to be an exciting late addition to this roster but is seemingly in Doc Rivers’ dog house. If I know Barbosa, and I think that I do, he chould be a good player to help out the Celtics down the stretch of the season and into the playoffs. Avery Bradley was playing tremendous basketball before he was injured and will definitely bring some of the needed defensive energy for Boston. He is a good system player and can rebound well for a guard. In 64 games last year for Boston, Bradley shot almost 50% from the field and was over 40% from three. If he can replicate those percentages when he returns he will make an instant impact on this team.

Keep an eye on the Celtics as they will likely be open to making a change by moving a player like Lee. Boston will play the Milwaukee Bucks on Friday and will then receive some beneficial rest before they play the Brooklyn Nets on Christmas Day.