The New Orleans Pelicans are headed to Bean Town for a matchup against the Boston Celtics. With a pending three-team deal involving these two teams, both will be undermanned, and that means the Pelicans should be looking to pull out a victory after their victory over Memphis, oddly enough, the third team in the three-team deal.
The Boston Celtics are one of the middling teams in the Eastern Conference, with the arrow pointing downward. After coming one and a half games behind the eighth seed in the East, the Celtics traded Brandan Wright and Jeff Green earlier this past week for more future assets. Their current record sits at 12-22, but many more losses should litter their future. This is another game against an Eastern Conference opponent, which means, another must win game for New Orleans.
With their trades in the final stages, the Celtics top players are Avery Bradley, Jared Sullinger, and Kelly Olynyk. Bradley is defensive-minded wing with an improving three-point shot, Jared Sullinger is a young, undersized big man with a knack for grabbing rebounds, and second-year player Kelly Olynyk is an offensive-minded big, who's stuck in between positions defensively.
There are some positives for this team. After the departure of Rajon Rondo, 2014 first round pick Marcus Smart has been receiving more playing time, and has had some impressive possessions so far. The biggest thing that stands out to me about Smart is his size. For a point guard, Smart is built like a linebacker, and that, combined with his defensive prowess will make him a problem down the road.
Stats Of Note
When diving deep into their numbers, the Celtics are currently sitting in the top half of the NBA in defensive efficiency, ranking 13th with a 106.1 per 100 possessions, via HP Network's Nylon Calculus. Quite surprising, considering a lack of a rim protector, and really, great defensive players. Bradley is an above-average defender, but a large part of their rotation is comprised of Tyler Zeller, Kelly Olynyk, Marcus Thornton, Jae Crowder, and Jameer Nelson. Out of this group, only Crowder can be confused with being a solid defender.
Offensively is where problems lie. A current efficiency ranking of 20th, the Celtics have at least a couple of interesting players. Olynyk can do a bit of everything, Bradley and Sullinger are experimenting with improving their range, and Marcus Smart is starting to play more often. There isn't a number one option sitting on the roster, but some intriguing players with fine skill sets on the roster.
And finally, the Celtics do this while running the second-fastest pace in the league. There's nothing that the Celtics do special while running, but like any smart team these days, they push the pace, attack the rim, and shoot threes. The Celtics have all of their first round picks for the next four decades, on top of some potential first round first picks (Minnesota, Phoenix and Philadelphia picks, but all have protections that could make them second round selections), and a treasure chest of picks from Brooklyn.
Keys to Victory
Attack The Basket: The Celtics are 20th in the league at protecting the rim. Boston has the size, but they don't have the one guy who can prevent and alter shots around the rim outside of Tyler Zeller, but that's more because of his sheer size and athleticism. The Pelicans have Tyreke Evans and Jrue Holiday, both being excellent at attacking the rim. Run some pick and rolls with Davis and get to the basket.
Capitalize On Getting To The Line: One step further on attacking the basket, the Pelicans need to get to the line against Boston. The Celtics are 28th in free throw rate at .0223. Anthony Davis gets 6.3 free throw attempts per game, while Tyreke Evans gets 4.1 free throws per game. Both should strive to get 8-10 free throws in this game.
Let Boston Shoot Threes: The Celtics are 13th in the league in three-point attempts per game, but rank 26th in three-point field goal percentage. They will run and jack some threes up, but they don't have a consistent maker on their roster. Force the right guys (Nelson, Sullinger, Crowder) to shoot a ton of poor look threes and force one-shot possessions.
Jump On The Tanking Team: The Celtics just traded two of their best players and have some quality tanking players getting valuable minutes. If I'm Monty Williams, I'm playing the first half to knock Boston out fast, allowing players to rest in the second half. Losing to Charlotte (a team that's putting together a small run right now) doesn't look bad at the moment. Losing to Boston?
Hey, the best player on the Celtics in this game will be Avery Bradley. Geaux Pelicans.
What: Pelicans at Celtics
Where: TD Garden
When: January 12th, 6:30 PM
How: NBA TV