Celtics Must Find Answer to Hawks’ Athletic Defense to Solve Cold Shooting

by abournenesn

Apr 30, 2012

Celtics Must Find Answer to Hawks' Athletic Defense to Solve Cold ShootingRay Allen was glued to the bench, looking snazzy in a dark suit and paisley tie on Sunday night. He was also looking helpless as he couldn't pitch in and end the team's shooting woes.

The Celtics never looked comfortable shooting from anywhere in Game 1 against the Hawks, something made obvious by their glaring 0-for-11 mark on 3-point field goals. The Hawks took advantage of their overall athleticism to close out on every Celtics jump shot without giving the would-be shooter a free lane to blow by for a layup, which is what often happens with teams that aggressively try to run shooters off the 3-point line.

The issue was not confined to the deep ball, though. The Hawks' length affected the Celtics inside the arc as well, as the Celtics shot 35 percent (14-for-40) from mid-range. The Celtics shot 34 percent from three and 42 percent from mid-range in four regular-season meetings.

Not all shots are created equal, though, even if they are from similar distances. Paul Pierce was mostly satisfied with the Celtics' shot selection, or at least his own shots — "The shots I got [Sunday], I'll take all of them," Pierce said — but Doc Rivers seemed to think his team settled.

"I thought overall we didn't give our offense a chance to develop," Rivers said. "I thought we were a first-option team, and you have to shoot the heck out of the ball to be that and win a game."

Open shots may be even more difficult to come by in Game 2, when the Celtics could be without point guard Rajon Rondo. Rondo was ejected for arguing a call and bumping an official in the fourth quarter of Game 1, and his absence, even for only a single game, would hinder a team that relies on ball movement to create shots more than any other team. The Celtics had the highest assist rate in the league, and while Rivers' system lent itself toward a lot of assists, Rondo was obviously the No. 1 facilitator.

The Celtics' defense took more blame, but their shooting was as big a culprit for their loss in the series opener. Even without Allen, the Celtics have to find a way to create better shots going forward, since the Hawks will not get shorter or slower overnight, and their defense will not get any easier to crack.

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