Why The Celtics Can’t Score Against The Very Average Knicks Defense

  • Eric Goldschein

To say the Boston Celtics have been struggling on offense over the past two days is an understatement. Sure, two playoff games on the road against a good, motivated team like the Knicks isn’t a great sample to draw from, but the Celtics are averaging 74.5 points in those games — 22 points less than their regular season average. They shot 19 percent from the field in the second half last night. We haven’t seen playoff offense that bad in over a decade.

What’s the deal here? Why can’t the Celtics score against a team that had the 16th overall defense in the league this year? The Knicks were nothing special, but now they’re making the Celtics look like… the Wizards. Worse than the Wizards, even.

Here’s what the Celtics shot chart (courtesy of NBA Stats) looked like during the first 82 games of the season:

The Celtics were average-to-above-average from mid-range and in the paint during the regular season. While their three-point shooting was generally fine — bad in some places, good in others — the meat of their offense ran through getting the ball inside.

Compare that to the last two games:

Ugly! Lots of red here, but particularly in the mid-range to paint areas. The Knicks have flipped the Celtics, taking away they do best and relegating them to the perimeter. And while a few of those are going in, it’s not nearly enough to make up for the lack of interior scoring.

And while defense is certainly a team effort, no Knick has done a better job of protecting the paint recently than Kenyon Martin. With reigning Defensive Player of the Year Tyson Chandler still on the mend, the job has fallen to K-Mart to intimidate and outmuscle the Celtics — and he’s delivered. Here’s one of his four blocks last night:

If the Celtics don’t find a way to score inside in the next two to four games, they’ll be history soon. And then we’ll still be talking about Kenyon Martin as one of the most important players on a playoff basketball team. Mind, blown.

Photo via Getty