Boston Celtics: 3 intriguing questions vs undefeated Milwaukee Bucks

BOSTON, MA - APRIL 17: Shane Larkin
BOSTON, MA - APRIL 17: Shane Larkin /
2 of 4
Boston Celtics
Boston Celtics Brad Steven (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images) /

Has the Boston Celtics offense turned a corner?

The Boston Celtics might have figured something out in that Thunder game. Their first half was atrocious; they shot 32 percent from the field and put up a measly 34 points. They missed all 12 of their threes, and their shot chart was littered with missed mid-range jumpers.

More from Chowder and Champions

In the third quarter alone, they took 14 threes and made nine of them. They took only two mid-range jumpers. They were getting into their offense early in the shot clock, generating good looks before the defense set up. Everything was in-rhythm, and they looked like the world-beaters they’re supposed to be for the first time all season.

Some shot attempts just resulted from horrible defense – Russell Westbrook seemed completely lost guarding Irving off the ball, leading to two straight wide-open three-point attempts. With nine minutes left in the quarter, Terrance Ferguson just gave up fighting through a screen and let Jaylen Brown have an open jumper. Those opportunities and others were the defense’s fault more than anything, but the Celtics deserve praise for readjusting at the half and taking those high-quality opportunities when they presented themselves.

Both Jaylen Brown and Gordon Hayward made difficult passes out to open guys on the perimeter early in the quarter, which is great to see. Those kinds of passes happen when drivers know where their teammates are supposed to be, and seeing it – especially from Brown, who has a reputation of getting overwhelmed in traffic – is a great sign.

Also. 3 reasons Celtics are capable of dethroning the Warriors. light

Through their first four games of the season, the Celtics ranked 28th in the league in drives per game at 34.3. They averaged 42.5 drives per game in their last two contests, which would be good for 13th in the league. Kyrie Irving is a big part of that improvement. He only scored three points against the Pistons, but was impactful driving to the rim and creating offense for teammates.

The Celtics blew out Detroit thanks to their suffocating defense. They looked better in terms of comfort on the offensive side of the ball, and put up a legitimately strong offensive first half, but fell back down to Earth after that. They shot only 32 percent in the third quarter.

Even after these two relatively improved games, Boston is still 28th in the league in effective field goal percentage. While Stevens has succeeded in getting the group to play more systemically, there’s still a lot of your-turn-my-turn offense.

While they hope to continue improving the offense every game, the Bucks pose a significant challenge. Not only is their defense elite (second best in the league, and 3.2 points per 100 possessions better than the third-place Denver Nuggets), it seems engineered to encourage Boston’s worst habits.

If you watch some game film of the Bucks, you’ll see that teams take a lot of midrange jumpers against them. The Bucks are great at encouraging those low-efficiency looks (a HUGE schematic change from Jason Kidd’s prehistoric design). It will be very interesting to see whether Thursday night looks like a setback or a step forward.