A 93-76 Christmas Day victory in Brooklyn looked to change the notion that the Boston Celtics cannot win on the road. However, after suffering three-straight road beat downs, it’s become apparent that this team just can’t find the solution away from home.
Just how bad are they?
In losing to the Sacramento Kings 118-96 on Dec. 30, Boston not only dropped two games under .500, but it also fell to 1-8 in its last nine road games. That includes three-straight losses by a margin of 18 points or more. On the season, the Celtics are now 5-11 on the road.
Furthermore, during its current three-game skid, Boston has allowed its opponents to shoot a staggering 51.3 percent from the floor.
Keep in mind this is the same Celtics team that has ranked in the top five in road win percentage in four of the previous five seasons. The same team that only last year allowed opponents 89.3 points per game away from home. The same team that went into Miami, in a pivotal Game 5 during last season’s Eastern Conference finals, and came away victorious.
Now, it all of a sudden catches a case of the yips when out of the state of Massachusetts?
And we all thought rebounding was Boston’s biggest area of concern.
In 16 games on the road, the Celtics have averaged 92.9 points per game and allowed an average of 99.9 points. They have shot 44.2 percent from the field and 35.2 percent from three-point range. At the same time, opponents have converted 46.6 percent of their shots and 39.4 percent from beyond the arc.
In comparison, in 14 home games, Boston has averaged 99.3 points per game, while allowing an average of 96.0 points. The team has shot 48.3 percent from the field and 34.3 percent from three-point range. On the other hand, opponents have been successful on 44.3 percent of their attempts from the field and 35.3 percent from downtown.
The majority of detractors have pointed to the Celtics defense as the driving force behind the team’s Jeckyl and Hyde act between home and away. However, the numbers actually show that Boston has been pretty equivalent in that matter in both situations.
Instead, the team’s main area of concern should be its lack of scoring away from home. While averaging 99.3 points per game at home, the Celtics only manage 92.3 per game on the road.
Looking over the roster, no player displayed a difference of more than three points in their scoring averages between home or away. Surprisingly, some players have even performed a little better on the road.
So what is causing the drop in points?
For the answer, we have to once again focus back on Boston’s biggest issue this season: a lack of interior toughness.
At home, the Celtics rank No. 13 in the league in points in the paint, averaging 38.8 per game. In comparison, Boston ranks No. 26 in the league on the road, only averaging 32.3 points in the paint per game.
A look at the team’s shot chart tells a better story.
The Celtics are converting 90 of 146 (61.6 percent) paint opportunities at home. On the road, the team is only successful in 140 of 291 (48.1 percent) paint opportunities.
The biggest contributor to this has to be Brandon Bass. Boston’s fill-in power forward is shooting 66.7 percent in the paint at home, while only converting 33.3 percent of his attempts in the paint on the road.
It’s why the Celtics are 9-5 at home and only 5-11 on the road.
Summing It All Up
Pretty much every reason that Boston is suffering so much this season all points back to its lack of a proven big man.
Sure, Jared Sullinger has all the potential of being one of the best big men in the league. However, the Celtics need a solution now.
Points in the paint are one of the easiest ways of punishing an opponent. Instead, day in and day out, opponents have been punishing Boston by taking advantage of its lack of a solid interior presence.
How long will GM Danny Ainge take before making a change?
The Celtics still have 25 more road games remaining this season. Anything less than 15 wins won’t cut it.
Time to make a move.
All stats used in this article are accurate as of December 30, 2012
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You can follow Sebastian on Twitter at @SP7988