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John Schuhmann

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Rajon Rondo and the Celtics got the inside shots they wanted in Game 1 -- they just didn't fall.
Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

Tune could change for Celtics with better inside shooting


Posted May 29 2012 1:37PM

The Boston Celtics and Miami Heat each have stars who play mostly on the perimeter. But Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals, a 93-79 victory for the Heat, was determined in the paint.

The Celtics shot 15-for-44 from outside the paint on Monday. The Heat shot 15-for-45. Boston attempted 10 more shots from mid-range and totaled 34 points from outside the paint. Miami took 11 more 3s and totaled 35 points from outside the paint. That's about as even as you can get on jump shots.

The difference in the game was what happened inside the paint, where the Celtics got 10 more shots, but came away with four fewer buckets. In Game 1, Boston shot 17-for-37 (46 percent) in the paint. The Heat shot 21-for-27 (78 percent).

LeBron James (10-for-11) and Dwyane Wade (6-for-7) combined to shoot 16-for-18 (89 percent) from the paint and 5-for-17 (29 percent) from outside the paint. That 89 percent isn't exactly sustainable (they shot 62 percent in the paint in the regular season), but the Celtics obviously need to keep those guys on the perimeter.

Celtics opponents' shots in the paint per game
Season/round FGM FGA FG%
Reg. season 19.9 39.7 50.2%
First 2 rounds 18.7 38.2 49.0%
Game 1 21 27 77.8%

On the other end of the floor, Rajon Rondo (7-for-16) and Paul Pierce (2-for-8) combined to shoot 9-for-24 (38 percent) from the paint. And after getting five shots in the paint in the first half, Kevin Garnett got just one in the second half. That's your ball game right there.

Celtics shots in the paint per game
Season/round FGM FGA FG%
Reg. season 17.5 32.5 53.8%
First 2 rounds 16.8 31.2 53.9%
Game 1 17 37 45.9%

On both ends of the floor, the number of attempts was a good number for the Celtics. It was the accuracy that was the problem. Furthermore, for all those drives to the basket, neither Pierce nor Rondo attempted a single free throw.

(Speaking of free throws, when the Celtics finally defeated the Sixers on Saturday, they apparently absorbed Philly's foul-shooting struggles, shooting 11-for-21 from the line on Monday after connecting on 82 percent of their freebies through the first two rounds.)

Rondo's never been a great finisher, but Pierce shot 58 percent from the paint in the regular season, including 10-for-14 in his three games against the Heat. And he shot 52 percent from the paint in the first two rounds of the postseason.

But challenging shots at the rim without fouling is something that the Heat do pretty well. They ranked second in opponent field goal percentage in the restricted area (55.5 percent) in the regular season. And their opponents had a free throw rate around the league average.

In Games 2-5 of last year's conference finals, the Heat allowed Derrick Rose to get 36 shots in the restricted area. But he made just 15 of the 36, and averaged less than seven free throws in those four games.

The Celtics probably aren't going to shoot that poorly from the paint again. But they can do a better job of moving the ball, so that most of those at-the-rim opportunities aren't a result of out-of-control, one-on-one drives. And they can also make sure that Garnett gets more of those shots than he did in Game 1.

An ugly night from beyond the arc

As much as the Celtics were hurt by their ineffectiveness in the paint, they also need to find someone who can make a 3-point shot.

The Heat's aggressive defense makes them vulnerable to weak-side 3s. They're 3-11 this season when they allow their opponent to shoot 42 percent or better from 3-point range. And they're 42-8 when their opponent shoots less than 38 percent from beyond the arc.

The Celtics shot 52 percent from 3-point range in their four regular-season meetings with the Heat, including 16-for-21 from the corners. In the postseason, they're shooting just 28 percent from beyond the arc after going 4-for-14 on 3s in Game 1.

With Ray Allen hurting, the Celtics' 3-point attack, which ranked seventh in the regular season, is greatly diminished. Keyon Dooling, who was 6-for-8 on corner 3s against Miami in the regular season, could be a key. But he's made just one of his last 10 3-point attempts.

Pierce is the only Celtics shooter who has shot somewhat decently in the playoffs, 19-for-53 (36 percent) from 3-point range, including 2-for-4 in Game 1. So maybe the Celtics could plant Pierce on the weak side to take advantage of the Heat's defensive aggressiveness.

The Heat were even worse than the Celtics from downtown on Monday, shooting just 5-for-25, including a brutal 1-for-11 from the corners. All 11 of those corner 3s were attempted by Shane Battier (1-for-5) or Mario Chalmers (0-for-6).

Don't expect them to shoot so poorly in Game 2 on Wednesday (8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN).

All numbers courtesy of NBA.com/stats.

John Schuhmann is a staff writer for NBA.com. You can e-mail him here and follow him on twitter.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting.

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