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Charles Krupa / Associated press
The Boston Celtics spent the first two months of the 2021-22 NBA season waiting for their breakthrough.
The wait continues.
Wednesday night’s win over the Cleveland Cavaliers pushed the Shamrocks’ record to an even level of 0.500: 16 wins and 16 losses. They have yet to experience a winning or losing streak of more than three games.
Boston is talented, but he hasn’t always been available and hasn’t always performed as well as he could. The team’s season, just like last season, is defined more by frustration than anything else.
Amid the maddening inconsistency, however, some strengths have surfaced. We’re here to highlight and rank the top three.
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Boston Globe / Getty Images
There could be an audible New England whimper for this situation, as Boston’s adoption of the iso-ball can lead to stagnant play and unsightly possessions when the head-to-head game isn’t working out.
But there’s a reason the Celtics run more isolations than all teams other than the Brooklyn Nets, according to NBA.com. Boston has players who can score points in these situations.
Between Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Dennis Schroder alone, the C’s have three scorers who can ignite against anyone. With this trio leading the charge, the team got 9.9 points per game on isolation alone, a total that, once again, only trails the Nets.
It’s not always the most visually appealing style of play, but it can be very effective. Think of it this way: Boston has one of the Association’s highest isolation point averages despite a low season from Tatum and disappointing shooting rates from Schroder. Put those two on the right track, and the isolation offense could become the club’s biggest strength.
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Marta Lavandier / Associated press
While Tatum and Brown haven’t suffered on offense in recent years, it always felt like they were leaving points on the board by not winning more trips to the foul line.
Considering their grips, strength, and finish, you’d think they would attract whistles, but offensive calls weren’t heard often enough.
That is changing this season. Tatum and Brown have averaged career highs in free throws made and attempted. Since everyone spots a conversion rate of over 75% on the Charity Band, the hike added a sizable amount of scoring to this attack.
With the All-Stars in the lead, the Celtics are first in free throws (17.4 per game), fifth in attempted free throws (21.5) and fourth in free throw accuracy (80, 8%).
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Sarah Stier / Getty Images
When the Celtics have Tatum and Brown at the top of their games – or even one rolling alongside a scorching Schroder – they can overwhelm their opponents with offense.
But look at the structure of this team. It was built to win with defense.
The Celtics haven’t always dominated this end of the season, but they have shown the ability to do so. In fact, going back to November 3 – the game right after their players-only reunion – they had the NBA fourth best defense.
And yet, it doesn’t look like we’ve seen the best of this bunch. There is no weak defensive link in the opening lineup of Tatum, Brown, Marcus Smart, Robert Williams III and Al Horford. They can also bring pesky traffic jams to the bench.
If Boston can invoke their defensive dominance more regularly, this club could have the kind of campaign their fans have long been waiting for.