3 Takeaways from Celtics' November Performance

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistDecember 2, 2021

3 Takeaways from Celtics' November Performance

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    Sarah Stier/Getty Images

    After wobbling out of the gate to open the 2021-22 NBA season, the Boston Celtics needed some recovery time.

    That's exactly what November provided.

    Fresh off a 2-4 showing in October, the Shamrocks went 9-6 with November's eighth-best net rating. The offense still hasn't fully clicked, and the injury bug has thrown a few curveballs, but this team's potential is starting to show.

    There were several lessons learned over the last calendar month, so let's dissect three of the most important.

This Defense Is Really Stinkin' Good

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    Charles Krupa/Associated Press

    The Celtics have come along way since opening the month with a double-digit loss that preceded an "emotional" players-only meeting.

    The impact was seen almost immediately, as Boston's previously disappointing defense (20th in October) held two opponents below 80 points on back-to-back nights, including a Miami Heat team that went for 125-plus in each of its previous two outings. The Celtics held eight of their 15 November opponents south of triple digits.

    Only the Golden State Warriors and Phoenix Suns—teams that went a combined 29-2 in November—bettered Boston's defensive efficiency for the month. As impressive as that sounds, it feels sustainable.

    The Celtics don't have a defensive weak link in their starting lineup. With Marcus Smart at the point of attack, Robert Williams III and Al Horford underneath, and Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown patrolling the wings, there's no comfortable way to go at this group.

This Offense Needs Jayson Tatum to Get His Groove Back

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    Charles Krupa/Associated Press

    It's fine for the Celtics to be a defense-first team. The personnel suggests that's how the organization wants it.

    But it's a problem for Boston to be too one-sided.

    For all of the progress the Celtics made in other areas during the month, the offense was still a mess. They landed just 20th in efficiency, while ranking 24th in field-goal percentage and 23rd in three-point shooting.

    There are multiple ways for this offense to improve, but the easiest would be for Tatum to start looking like himself again. He has the three-level arsenal of a possible future scoring champ, but it's been locked up by a season-long shooting slump. His conversion rates are way behind his career norms (39.3/33.6/80.7 slash in November), and he still isn't earning enough free throws (5.5 attempts per night for the month).

The Sophomores Need to Find Their Touch

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    Michael Dwyer/Associated Press

    The Celtics probably weren't planning on being an elite shooting team, but they probably didn't plan on being this starved for spacing, either. Only seven teams were less accurate from range in November, and most of them are prioritizing draft lottery odds over wins.

    Beyond Grant Williams and Romeo Langford, there isn't a player on this roster exceeding expectations with their outside shots. But no one is falling shorter of them than sophomores Aaron Nesmith and Payton Pritchard.

    Neither makes a ton of sense. Whenever Nesmith saw the floor as a rookie, his fiery three-ball almost always came with him. Pritchard's smooth transition to the big leagues was aided in a big way by a 41.1 percent splash rate.

    Fast-forward to this season, and both shooting marks have flatlined. Their inaccuracy is cutting into their floor time, and it could be tricky for either to snap out of it with inconsistent minutes. But it's hard to play perimeter players who rely on their outside shot and aren't even making it at a 24-percent clip.


    Statistics courtesy of NBA.com.