The Boston Celtics have been remarkable this season. They have the best record in the NBA at 21-4, and are still 3.5 games ahead of the Cleveland Cavaliers, who are making the early-season nonbelievers stir, as they streak to the tune of twelve straight games. The Cs have shown that they can win in difficult situations, and have overcome loads of adversity so far this season, which makes this contributor to their losses, their kryptonite, so frustrating.
It's free throws, folks. The Celtics' four losses have come as a result of poor free throw shooting.
Loss #1: 102-99 vs CLE 19-25 from FT line Loss #2: 108-100 vs MIL 11-21 from FT line Loss #3: 104-98 vs MIA 19-27 from FT line Loss #4: 118-108 vs DET 12-21 from the FT line
It's a bit unfair to blame the first loss of the season on free throw shooting, as it was the game that Gordon Hayward fractured his ankle, causing fans around the world to dry-heave in synchronicity. The players were clearly shaken-up, and it probably affected their play throughout the game. With that being said, the Cs went 19-25 from the charity stripe that night and only lost by three points.
Their second loss came to the Milwaukee Bucks, when the Cs were beaten by eight points; the final score being 108-100. This was the Cs' worst FT shooting night of the season thus far. They finished 11-21 from the line; an abysmal 52%. This was only one of two games where the Cs have shot below 60% after being fouled.
The second game where they shot under 60% came against the Detroit Pistons, when the Celtics were defeated by ten points, 118-108. They were outplayed throughout the contest. Tobias Harris dropped 31 points, Andre Drummond finished with 26 points and 22 rebounds, and Avery Bradley shut-down Kyrie Irving. Their terrible free throw shooting surely didn't help the effort, as the ended the night hitting only 57% of those shots.
Lastly is the streak-ending game versus the Miami Heat. The Celtics missed eight foul shots on the night, and lost by six points, 104-98. This one especially hurts because if we consider the Heat's FT% on the night, we see that this was a winnable contest. Miami only missed two free-throws, but let's pretend that both teams went perfect from behind the line that night. So, we add eight points to the Celtics' final score and two points to the Heat's final score, and all of a sudden, we've got a tie game, 106-106. The Cs are undefeated in overtime this season, so I'm going to assume that they would've won this game as well, meaning that the streak would've continued, and the Celtics probably wouldn't have lost another game all season, resulting in the never-before-seen 80-2 record.
Do we now see how important free throws are!?
On a positive note, the Celtics have improved their free throw shooting every month this season. In October, they finished with 75.7%; in November it was 77.5%; and in December it has increased to 78.6%.
But unfortunately, they're way down on their numbers from last season. When Isaiah Thomas ran the squad, they ranked third in the league in FT% with a final count of 80.2%. Isaiah himself shot over 90% on the year. This season, the Cs can be found in the middle of the NBA pack, in the 14th spot, at 77.1%.
There is one Celtic who is perfect from the line thus far: Guerschon Yabusele. Hey Brad, where are his minutes!?