Boston Celtics and the drive to finish games with efficiency

Boston Celtics center Al Horford (42) Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
Boston Celtics center Al Horford (42) Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports /

To live by the three-point shot is to often die by the three-point shot. A strong love/hate relationship is brewing towards the Boston Celtics and this very adage.

On one hand, throughout the season, the Celtics have had games like they did in Game 1 of the NBA Finals. Boston was lights out from deep (21-41), especially with a huge fourth-quarter effort that propelled the team to victory.

The Celtics have been relatively successful in knocking down the three in not only this series against the Golden State Warriors, but throughout the playoffs as well.

Trouble is, the team has a minor tendency to fall in love with the three and goes cold at inopportune times. This has caused the Celtics to fail to close out games due to a sudden reliance on the three ball.

Game 4 nothing new for Boston Celtics

The best part of the Game 1 victory and excellent shooting was that the Celtics were knocking down threes within the flow of their offense. Nothing was really forced, and they weren’t working from a stagnate offense and throwing up shots as the shot clock wound down.

Boston did not work that same magic in the Game 4 loss. After Marcus Smart hit a three-pointer to give the Celtics a 94-90 lead with 5:18 remaining, Boston managed to make only one more basket.

The Celtics were 1-8 from the field during that final part of the game. Seven of those attempts were from three, with Al Horford connecting from deep with 1:32 remaining. Despite their struggles from the field, plus one turnover in that span, Boston was still within three points of the Warriors after that Horford make.

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The Celtics have been right around their regular season three-point percentage (35.6 percent) for much of the playoffs, save for the Eastern Conference semi’s, where they shot 37.7 percent. It’s not as much the shooting of threes that is concerning — though I still believe they aren’t a true three-pointing shooting team — it’s where some of the shots that are taken that become problematic.

If they’re all falling, it’s great (the love). But when they are not, and the game is on the line and multiple possessions see too much isolation action before someone settles for a three, it’s frustrating (the hate).

Golden State’s active defense and ability to deflect passes is part of the problem. So, too, is the frustration in watching the Celtics continue to try and pass through hands. And, as much love as there is for the lob pass, it just hasn’t been there as consistently in the Finals as it has been in previous rounds.

More consistent play from two of the three main members of the bench rotation could also help alleviate some pressure off of the starters shoulders.

Bench play from the Boston Celtics

Derrick White has been nothing short of spectacular off the bench for the Celtics in the NBA Finals on both ends of the court. His defense has helped keep the team’s intensity up when Marcus Smart is on the bench. And White’s ability to locate his shot once again has helped give Boston another scoring option.

White found his shooting touch in Games 6 and 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals, and that’s continued against Golden State. He’s shooting 10-20 from three-point range and is averaging 14 points per game while also facilitating and keeping the offense flowing.

Now, it’s time for two of his bench mates to get their swagger back on offense.

Grant Williams seems to be more of an enforcer and agitator this series than anything else. But Williams has proven time and time again this postseason that an ability to fill up the scoring column is beneficial to Boston.

Through the first four games of the Finals, Williams has only attempted 13 shots. Foul trouble limited him in Game 4, but overall Williams is shooting 7-13 from the field (3-8 from deep).

Payton Pritchard, too, has not been much of a factor, especially in Games 3 and 4, where he only played a total of 20 minutes. Pritchard is 3-9 from behind the arc with only 16 total points so far in this series.

Both are capable of delivering. While it’s not expected for them to each score 20 points or more, if they can each reach double figures, the Celtics will be better off.

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It’s down to a best-of-three series now, with the Celtics guaranteed at least one more game at the TD Garden to show off to their home crowd. If they keep the offense flowing, knock down threes in key moments, and get their top three rotation players to play well, Game 6 could very well be with the title on the line.

If not, well, the same would be needed to save the season, but there’s no reason that the Celtics can’t put together a perfect performance two more times, and bring home banner number 18 by time the week is through.