Celtics Hot or Not - March 11
BOSTON – The Boston Celtics have compiled a 4-1 record to begin the month of March, helping them crawl up standings to the sixth seed in the East. Those five games have featured some great, some mediocre, and some not-so-great performances by the team.
The same can be said for Boston’s individual players, who have had varying levels of effectiveness during this recent hot streak. We take a look today at the players who have been at both ends of the Hot-or-Not spectrum during March’s five games. Each player’s averages and shot chart below are for the five games he has participated in this month.
HOT - Paul Pierce
Save for LeBron James and Kobe Bryant, who are currently playing at otherworldly levels, Paul Pierce might be the hottest basketball player on Earth. Pierce is having his best offensive month of the season, and it’s not even close.
Boston’s captain is putting up 20.8 points per game this month thanks to some phenomenal shooting numbers. Pierce has hit 51.5 percent of his shots and 52.2 percent of his 3-pointers in March. How great are those numbers? His previous top overall shooting month this season was December, when he hit 44.1 percent of his shots. His previous top 3-point shooting month was February, when he hit 40 percent of his treys.
As you can see in the image to the right, Pierce is excelling from the wings and from beyond the arc. He has hit 11 of his 20 3-pointers from the wings this month. Pierce is also getting to the basket with ease, as 35.3 percent of his shots have been taken around the basket.
On top of the efficient and abundant scoring, Pierce is also hauling in 7.6 rebounds per game and dishing out 5.6 assists per game. Yeah, his turnovers may be up a bit to 4.0 per game, but that’s because the ball is in his hands more often than not.
HOT – Avery Bradley
Avery Bradley’s defense made an immediate impact when he returned to the lineup in early January following double-shoulder surgery last summer. A couple of months later, his offense is beginning to make an impact, too.
Bradley is scoring 12.0 PPG this month and is on pace to become the sixth Celtics player this season to average double-figures in the scoring column. He currently averages 9.7 PPG, but if his current pace continues, which it should, Bradley will record the first double-digit scoring season of his young career.
Much of the reason why Bradley’s scoring average has risen is because of the relocation of his outside shooting stroke. He hit half of his 3-pointers after last season’s All-Star break, but in his 21 games before this season’s All-Star break, Bradley had made just 29.8 percent of his shots from downtown. That poor shooting has gone by the wayside, as he has hit half of his 3s in the month of March.
Bradley is clearly comfortable again at the offensive end and that’s a bit of a surprise. Remember, he is still adjusting to the role of starting point guard after Rajon Rondo went down with his torn ACL. That isn’t an easy job. Bradley has overcome that challenge by finding his shot and dishing out 4.0 APG, which is the best assist month of his career.
NOT – Kevin Garnett
Kevin Garnett is typically the most consistent player for the Celtics year-in and year-out. He doesn’t deviate much from his scoring or rebounding averages, and he’s typically going to hit about half of his shots. With that consistency in mind, we’ll give him a break for his struggles in early March.
Garnett is coming off of a 5-for-19 shooting performance Sunday afternoon in Oklahoma City and he has hit only 41.7 percent of his field goals this month. He has struggled from just about everywhere on the floor with the exception of the left corner. Garnett has hit 55 percent of his shots from the left corner, but only 39.3 percent of his shots from the rest of the floor.
To KG’s credit, his poor shooting hasn’t affected the rest of his game. Garnett’s average of 9.6 RPG in March is his highest monthly number this season and he continues to bring the goods at the defensive end.
NOT – Jason Terry
It’s quite a surprise that the Celtics have been rolling lately despite the fact that Jason Terry has struggled so mightily with his shot – that is, his 2-point shot.
Terry’s range from 3-point territory has been right on target this month. He has hit 45 percent of his 3s in the past five games, including a stellar 4-of-5 performance from the right corner. Ironically, his shots that are closer to the basket are the ones that have haunted him.
Boston’s sharpshooter has made only 32 percent of his shots from inside the 3-point arc during his last five games. That percentage includes an ugly 3-for-11 (27.3 percent) mark on shots that were taken around the basket.
Shooting struggles are currently plaguing Terry but he remains an integral part of this team. He single-handedly won the March 8 game against the Hawks by scoring the decisive and final five points of overtime. He has also averaged 4.0 APG during March’s five games, which has helped other players like Jeff Green excel.
Terry is not shooting the ball the way he would like to, and neither is Garnett. Their shots will come back around eventually, but until then, guys like Pierce and Bradley can lead the show.