The first quarter of the season is over and through 21 games the Boston Celtics find themselves tied for second in the Atlantic Division with a respectable 12-9 record. However, the Celtics are showing some early troubles in mid-game production that could greatly limit their ability to make a deep run in the playoffs.
The Celtics offense over the entire game is currently ranked 12th with 98.3 points per game and it appears to only be getting better as the season goes on. However, the C's production during the second quarter is extremely lacking, averaging a league worst 22.2 points while allowing their opponents to score 23.4 points.
Over Boston's nine losses, opponents have been able to score 26.89 points in the second quarter and the Celtics are barely keeping up by answering with 21.11 points on average. The lack of production in the second quarter often leaves Boston trailing at half time, which they in turn have a hard time recovering from, resulting in a loss in 7 of 11 games.
The Celtics aren't making things easier for themselves as they follow up the first half with a below average defensive effort in the second half by allowing 24.4 points (20th Ranked) and 24.6 points (22nd Ranked) in the third and fourth quarters respectively. These numbers aren't overwhelming if Boston is scoring at a higher level, however the C's aren't pushing their offensive averages in the second half and seem to be a step behind most of their opponents.
Boston needs to see a greater effort on the defensive end of the floor in order to over turn the bad offensive second quarters that they have been putting together. The good news is that the return of Avery Bradley appears to be in the near future, which will bring one of the best perimeter defenders in the league back to the starting line-up and will likely help to vastly improve the Celtics' defensive numbers.
An improvement on the offensive side of the floor can be made in a few areas, and they all start with being aggressive. If the Celtics can stay aggressive coming out of the first quarter, they should be able to find their way to the free throw line more often which is arguably one of the easier ways of boosting the team's scoring.
In addition, the Celtics front court needs to increase the aggression and intensity in order to get the second chance shots they have been lacking all season. Boston is currently ranked last in the NBA with 7.3 offensive rebounds per game, which greatly hurts the chances of a team recovering from a poor shooting quarter. If the Celtics can put forth an extra effort to crash the offensive boards, it could give the team a few second chance opportunities and turn around the offensive performance.
The Boston Celtics are playing at a strong level and seem to be on a path that will likely lead to a playoff birth, however they need to continue to improve on their areas of weakness in order to compete against Miami and New York. The return of Avery Bradley could help to address many of these areas, and as the team finds their chemistry and rhythm, the scoring issues in the second quarter may effectively be addressed.
Hopefully Boston will find a solution quickly and win their way to a favorable seed heading into the summer.