In modern America everyone is always busy, running around from business meetings to soccer practices and ballet recitals. With a whirlwind of activities, sometimes against your will, people can’t watch every minute of Boston Celtics basketball. That’s why I’m here. Every Monday I will run through three ups and three downs of Boston basketball from the previous week. Lets start with the Ups!
Al Horford and Kyrie Irving Are Finding Their Groove
The chemistry between Horford and Kyrie wasn’t there to start. After the injury to Hayward, each player had to figure out their new role within the offense. The feeling out process took a few days, but the tandem is starting to gel. Boston has made an effort to run the offense more through Horford and it has paid off. Horford is an excellent passing big, and Kyrie’s penetration opens up passing lanes. The two-man game has been seamless over Boston’s four-game winning streak. While Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown have got a lot of the headlines, and rightfully so, Horford and Kyrie are reminding people why they are multi-time All-Stars.
Aron Baynes is a Hit in Boston
Adding Baynes slid under the radar after what was a chaotic offseason for Boston. The Aussie big man had never been a star, but his rugged style of play was something the team had not had since the days of Kendrick Perkins. Baynes has been an anchor on the defensive end. While not the most athletic center, he has used the rule of verticality better than anyone since Roy Hibbert. He has also crashed the glass with a certain brutality. Over the four-game winning streak, Baynes has averaged six rebounds in just 20 minutes per game. Baynes has helped on offense as a knock-down, pick-and-pop player. He has been a useful outlet for Kyrie in the pick-and-roll game when Horford is on the bench.
The Boston Celtics, a Defensive Dynamo?
Hayward and Kyrie improved the offense, but after the loss of Avery Bradley and Jae Crowder, many experts were concerned about Boston’s defense. After stifling the Miami Heat on Saturday night, Boston now has the second-best defense in the league. They are in the top-five in defensive rating (2nd), defensive rebound percentage (3rd), and steals (5th). The length of players like Brown and Tatum has ramped up Boston’s perimeter defense. Boston is holding opposing teams to just 28.3 percent from beyond the arc, a major factor for their improvement. On top of the length, Horford has put himself in the early season Defensive Player of the Year conversation, after guarding the likes of Giannis, Kristaps Porzingis and Ben Simmons.
After a perfect 3-0 week there aren’t too many things to complain about, but there were a few things that need to be cleaned up.
Too Many Turnovers
The Celtics are sixth in the league in turnovers per game with 14.7. Most of these are due to so many young players in key spots, and it needs to be improved. The defense can’t stay at this level if Boston continues to give their opponents free possessions. As players start to gel, the turnovers should decrease, but it’s something to monitor.
Why Can’t Boston Shoot Free Throws?
Again, I’m grasping at straws a bit here, but it is curious. Boston finished third in the league last season in free throw shooting percentage. Through six games they are ranked 21st. Again, you could chalk this up to youth and players still trying to find their form, but the Celtics are throwing away points at the charity stripe. The average 6.3 free throws they are missing could be the difference between a win and a loss.
Where or Where has Jaylen Brown Gone?
You can stack this up in the “Small Sample Size, Large Overreaction” category if you so choose. After leading the team with 23 points against the Knicks, Brown was held to single-digit scoring in his last two games. More concerning is the fact that in those games he shot just 3-17 from the field. Brown will undoubtably struggle at times throughout the season. More often than not Kyrie, Horford and Tatum will pick up the slack, but Boston is going to rely on him to add a scoring punch on the wing. The shooting will need to improve and so will the consistency.