Pregame Post-Ups: Foes Are Noticing C's Lack of Paint Scoring

Monday, November 5 - Celtics at Nuggets

Pregame – Opposing Teams Are Noticing C's Lack of Interior Scoring

DENVER – The Celtics aren’t the only ones noticing that their offense has been anemic inside the paint. Opponents are honing in on that fact, too.

Prior to tonight’s matchup with the Nuggets, Denver head coach Mike Malone pointed out to the media – unprompted – that Boston ranks last in the league in points in the paint with an average of just 35.3 per game. That number is far and away the worst in the league, with the next-lowest average coming in at 42.3 per game (Houston and Memphis).

Brad Stevens touched on that fact prior to Monday morning’s shootaround at the Pepsi Center. He noted that his team’s paltry interior scoring isn’t a new issue.

“Last year we were not very good either,” he said. He added, “That’s been an issue for us for the last 18 months. Prior to that we were pretty good at it. So we’ve just got to keep hammering on it, see if we can get a little better.”

Stevens dove deeper into those issues prior to tip-off. He explained that the Celtics don’t necessarily need to change their offense; they just need to improve upon certain nuances of the offense that lead to interior scoring opportunities.

“I do think that we need to be better at cutting,” he said. “Just a little bit more alert to being quicker with our drive decisions on quick swings, making a point of getting the ball quickly to the ground and to the rim and then read from there.”

Asked later if the C’s don’t have the guys on the roster to accomplish that goal, Stevens answered briskly, “I think we have enough.”

Certainly, Boston has plenty of players who can put pressure on the defense off the bounce. Kyrie Irving is one of the best in the league in that area, and he averaged 11.6 driver per game last season. Meanwhile, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown averaged 10.1 and 6.1 drives per game, respectively, last postseason. This season, Irving’s average has dropped to 7.7 per game, and Tatum and Brown have each dropped to 5.8 per game.

The Celtics need those players, as well as others, to improve in that area in order to begin to generate interior scoring. They must also be alert to the defense to find cutting opportunities when they are off the ball. To their credit, Stevens did comment that he has seen improvements in such plays of late.

“We’ve been good the last few games once we’ve gotten there about spraying it and then making the next right pass,” he said. “We’re just not getting there quite enough. Hopefully we will tonight.”

Boston certainly has the ability to get into the paint; it has just yet to unlock that ability this season. A pleasant stat of which the C’s should take note is that they scored an average of 44.0 points per game in the paint last season against the Nuggets. Both of these rosters are largely the same as the ones that squared off last season, so it’s obvious that Boston has the ability to accomplish its goal tonight.

However, this time around, Denver is clearly honing in on the fact that the C’s have struggled to generate points in the lane. That fact will make doing so even a heftier challenge as these two contenders meet for the first time this season.

- Marc D'Amico