Boston Celtics

How Celtics can reach another level offensively in NBA Finals

The Celtics' 3-point shooting has room for improvement.

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The Boston Celtics are an elite offensive team.

They ranked second in scoring (120.6 points per game) and had the best offensive rating (122.2) in NBA history during the regular season. They've been pretty good offensively in the 2024 playoffs, too. Boston ranks second in scoring (111.6 points per game) and offensive rating (119.6) through three rounds of the Eastern Conference playoffs. The C's have been the best clutch team in the postseason as well. They are 4-0 with a plus-43.9 net rating in clutch games.

There's a lot to like about how the Celtics are playing offensively as we await their opponent in the 2024 NBA Finals. But despite the success so far, there's still another level the Celtics can reach. And if they get there, it's hard to imagine them losing the Finals, regardless of whether the opponent is the Dallas Mavericks or Minnesota Timberwolves.

The way to get there is 3-point shooting.

The Celtics haven't been a bad 3-point shooting team in the playoffs -- not at all, actually -- but there's absolutely room for improvement in this area from a team and individual player perspective.

The C's made 1,281 3-point shots in the regular season, which was the second-most all time. They had eight players make 100-plus 3-pointers, and six shot 36.8 percent or better on those shots (minimum three attempts per game).

Here's a look at how the Celtics have fared from beyond the arc in the regular season compared to the playoffs.

Making 1.9 fewer 3-pointers per game in the playoffs might not seem like a huge drop, but that's almost six points per game. Three of the four games against the Indiana Pacers in the Eastern Conference Finals were decided by five points or fewer.

In fairness, it's not surprising to see a team's 3-point percentage dip a bit in the playoffs. Defenses are typically better in the postseason, and teams are more aggressive in defending these kinds of shots. The pace of play is usually a little slower, too. The pressure is ramped up a few levels as well, given what's at stake.

But these factors shouldn't cause a massive drop in 3-point percentage on an individual basis, which is what we've seen from a couple Celtics players in the playoffs. Jayson Tatum, Al Horford and Sam Hauser are the most glaring examples.

Tatum getting hot from 3-point range could make the Celtics almost unbeatable in the Finals.

He's not a bad 3-point shooter, but for some reason, he hasn't been as effective on these shots in the playoffs as he is in the regular season. Tatum is at 29 percent from beyond the arc in the playoffs so far. He hasn't shot above 31 percent in any of the first three series. He shot 32.3 percent on 3-pointers in the 2023 playoffs, including a 23.4 percent rate against the Miami Heat in the conference finals.

Hauser's drop in 3-point percentage has hurt the Celtics' bench. He hit 12 3-pointers in the five-game first-round series against the Heat, but he has made only four 3-pointers over the last nine games combined. Hauser shot 1-for-14 on 3-pointers in the conference finals.

Role players have the ability to be major difference-makers in Finals games. We've seen it many times throughout history. Celtics fans will remember James Posey scoring 18 points (4-of-8 on 3-pointers) in the historic Game 4 comeback win against the Los Angeles Lakers during the 2008 NBA Finals.

Hauser has the potential to make that kind of impact offensively because he's an excellent 3-point shooter, but we haven't seen him do it in a while.

The Celtics are fully capable of beating the Mavericks or Timberwolves in the Finals without red-hot shooting from beyond the arc. But the C's have the ability to shoot a lot better than they have through three rounds. If that happens in the Finals, Boston likely will be lifting the Larry O'Brien Trophy in a few weeks.

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