Celtics scoring is down - will a higher pace lead to a championship?
The Celtics loss to the lowly Chicago Bulls last night brings up a number of questions. The first question is what the hell happened? The top team in the East just got railroaded by the 14th ranked team, losing 108-85. The Celtics scoring for the last two games has been well below their 103.2 PPG average. Al Horford thinks the Celtics' pace needs to be accelerated:
Horford: "We need to run our offense with more pace, especially when we don’t have the luxury to have a guy like Kyrie out there."
The injury bug has struck, and I consider Kyrie Irving and Al Horford the two main cogs of the team. Kyrie being out requires a major adjustment, and no one is better at that than our coach Brad Stevens. Virtually everything went wrong last night. All shooting percentages were way below season averages. The Celtics as a team stole the ball only twice when they average 7.7 SPG. They blocked one shot when they normally block four or five. The defense was almost non-existent. The Celtics needed a Kyrie-out-with-injury fix.
Is pace the problem? I doubt it. Among the top four teams in pace, none have winning records. The Golden State Warriors are fifth, and the Rockets are eighth. The Celtics are in the company of the Bulls, with Boston at #24 and Chicago at #20. The Bucks (15-10 record) are 27th and the Spurs (19-8) are 27th and 29th, respectively. The numbers are all over the place, good teams with slow paces and bad teams with fast ones. Here is what NBCSports' A. Sherrod Blakely feels about pace in the NBA:
Based on the last decade of NBA champions, having a high pace is far from being a prerequisite for winning an NBA title. In fact, Golden State’s title run in 2015 was the only team in the last decade to win an NBA title AND lead the league in pace in the same season.
Only two teams (Golden State in 2015 and the Los Angeles Lakers in 2009) finished in the top 10 in pace in their title run. Conversely, three teams (Cleveland last year; Miami in 2013 and San Antonio in 2007) finished in the bottom-10 in pace en route to winning championships.
And closer to home, Boston’s 2008 run towards Banner 17 featured a Celtics team that had a pace of 93.30, which ranked 19th in the NBA.
Lack of pace is not the problem. Irving being out with an injury really hurt, but a solution can be found until he returns. Three games ago against the Spurs, the Celtics starters scored a total of 77 points, with Jayson Tatum notching 20 and Kyrie Irving 36. Kyrie only scored 16 against the Pistons and did not play last night. Tatum has scored a total of 15 points in the last two games, well below his average. But lack of defense was the major issue against the Bulls. Bobby Portis and Nilola Mirotic making up after their physical altercation and playing like superstars didn't help.
So everything went wrong, but Portis and Mirotic are not as good as they showed last night. They got a lot of uncontested shots and made many of them. The Celtics hallowed defense failed miserably, but that is an easy fix. We need Kyrie back. We need Tatum to get more involved in the offense. We need Jaylen Brown's eye to heal. Don't expect to see a replay of last night very often.