More fast-break points might stop Celtics' losing streak


LOS ANGELES – The Celtics' ability to not just get out in transition but actually score, will be a factor in their quest to end a season-long three game losing skid when they take on the Los Angeles Lakers tonight.

They're coming off a 103-95 loss to the Orlando Magic, a game in which the offense was once again problematic.


One of the easiest ways to boost scoring and overall efficiency on offense is to take advantage of 3-on-2 or 2-on-1 fast-break opportunities – something Boston failed to do against the Magic.

In the loss, Boston had just six fast-break points.

More disturbing was the fact that they shot 3-for-9 on fast breaks.

“We have to be better all-around, especially in our transition execution,” said Celtics guard Kyrie Irving.

Especially tonight because they face a Lakers team that has struggled overall, but ranks among the best in the NBA at scoring in transition.

Los Angeles’s 17.1 fast-break points per game average ranks second in the NBA, while Boston is at the opposite end of the spectrum with a 9.7 average that ranks 22nd in the league.

Here are five under the radar storylines as the Celtics try to win on the Lakers home floor for the third consecutive time.

For those hoping to get a glimpse of Lonzo Ball, taken one pick ahead of Boston’s Jayson Tatum in last June's NBA draft, he’ll be on the bench all game long. Ball has a sore left knee and is listed as being out tonight. While his dad Lavar Ball gets most of the headlines, Lonzo has actually put together a strong rookie season. He has played in 36 games while averaging 10.2 points, 7.1 rebounds and 7.1 assists per game.

Part of Boston’s success defensively has been the ability to limit a team’s scoring around the basket. Boston allows 42.1 points per game in the paint this season which ranks eighth in the NBA. They face one of the best – make that, the best – at scoring in the paint in the Lakers, who average a league-best 53.3 points per game in the paint.

The Celtics signed him to a 10-day contract because of his shooting, so it’s likely he’ll get on the floor at some point on this West Coast trip before his 10-day deal expires – possibly as early as tonight. If the Celtics put him on the active roster, look for Abdel Nader or fellow rookie Guerschon Yabusele to be on the inactive list.

The never-ending knock on Smart has been and will continue to be, his shooting. But as I've said repeatedly, Smart’s shooting should never overshadow the intangibles he brings because those plays, more than his shot-making, are what makes him such a unique talent in the NBA and a key to Boston's success defensively. In Boston’s three-game losing streak, Smart’s shooting has been on the rise. He’s averaged 10.1 points while shooting 42.3 percent from the field. But the hustle plays, the game-changing charges, the late-game deflections, the fourth-year guard hasn’t made nearly as many of those plays as we’re accustomed to. Smart getting back to doing Marcus Smart-like things tonight will go far in Boston getting back on track after dropping three straight.

For a Celtics team that’s looking for a fix offensively, the Lakers defense could be the perfect elixir. The Lakers give up a ton of points (their 108.2 points allowed is the fifth-highest total per game in the NBA this season) and the reason is pretty clear. They allow teams to keep shooting and shooting get the picture. Teams shoot 45.8 percent against them, which ranks 14th in the NBA. That's pretty good. And when it comes to defending the 3-point shot, teams are connecting on 34.3 percent against them, which ranks fourth in the NBA. However, opponents average 88.5 shot attempts against the Lakers, which is the third-most allowed shot attempts per game and has been a major factor in their struggles defensively.


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