What Celtics need to address after win in Golden State

Nick Friar
November 16, 2019 - 6:45 am
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The Celtics’ offensive firepower can carry them through most games over the course of the season. Especially against teams like the Warriors.

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Jaylen Brown continues to be efficient. Kemba Walker goes from zero to 60 as soon as the fourth quarter starts. Jayson Tatum has been able to work through his struggles mid-game because the offense is so dependent on him, along with Walker and Brown. And Marcus Smart is a legitimate 3-point option.

But the Celtics can’t solely rely on their offense in every game. Even though they’ve won against some tough teams, the Celtics won’t always be able to survive if they don’t reassess their interior defense after the 105-100 win on Friday. (For a complete recap of the Celtics' win, click here.)

The Warriors scored 44 of their 100 points in the paint. That’s on par with what opponents are averaging against the Celtics through the first 11 games (44.2).

Believe it or not, that’s not a bad number relative to the rest of the NBA. The Celtics rank seventh in the league in opponents’ points in the paint per game. Of the six teams that surrender fewer total points per game, only the Lakers (42.8), Magic (43.2) and Jazz (44.2) give up fewer points in the paint on average. (Utah’s average is 44.16 versus Boston’s 44.18.)

But that stat alone doesn’t tell the whole story.

The Celtics commit 23.2 fouls per game, which has allowed opponents 26.7 free-throw attempts a night. Boston ranks 22 in fouls per game and 23 in free-throws allowed.

Those numbers are a result of struggles in the paint. Players aren’t getting in the right position.

As much as the Celtics rank third in the NBA in charges drawn (15), that’s primarily Walker’s doing. He tied for fourth in the league in charges drawn (seven). Grant Willians (three) and Smart (two) are the only other two Celtics who log major minutes that have taken a charge. (Semi Ojeleye has drawn two and Carsen Edwards has one.)

“I didn’t think we were good defensively at the rim,” Brad Stevens told reporters after Friday’s win. “But they put a lot of pressure on us down there.

“Some of our guys, we got to take more charges and we got to be vertical better, more (often) than we are. That was a strength of our team through the first five or six games and we didn’t do a good job of that day. That’s not one big, that’s one through 13 on our roster. We just got to — Kemba, I think, took the one charge, not sure that we had another. We had plenty of opportunities tonight.”

Stevens and his players expressed they weren’t caught up in the 10-game winning streak they’re in the midst of, so an issue like this won’t be ignored by anyone. The Celtics may not have everything figured out by Sunday’s game against the Kings, but their defense in the paint will be among the issues discussed most in the near future.

“We (are) not perfect at all,” Tatum said. “We got a long way to go, a lot of things to work on.”

Friday marked the fourth consecutive game in which Jaylen Brown scored 20-plus points. He finished with 22 on 9-for-17 shooting (3-for-3 from three). This is the longest stretch of 20-plus-point games in his NBA career.