To Three Or Not To Three

Jason Campos

If last Friday’s playoff game against the Philadelphia 76ers tells us anything, it tells us this: these are not our parents’ Celtics.

The game’s final score is not why I wrote the above statement. Although it was a slice of heaven to beat Philadelphia and advance to the second round of the playoffs, the manner in which the Celtics did it does not bode well for them as they continue their championship hunt.

The only thing that the final score indicated is the Celtics as a team had an out of body experience. The squad as it is currently constituted may never enjoy another shooting explosion like that again. The Celtics shot an insane nine of ten from three-point range, (which set a NBA playoff record) and put on a show that had not been seen around these parts for quite some time.

So, what am I complaining about? Well, I’m not complaining so much as I wish to point out a disturbing (at least to me) stat from that game: seven Celtic players converted a three-point attempt.

What’s bad about that, you ask? Nothing, so long as it doesn’t go to their heads. The team will unlikely repeat the three point clinic demonstration this playoff year. Although the team achieved a significant proportion of its success by draining treys, the playoffs are a different animal.

Don’t get me wrong, the game was exciting and the fact that the final score of a playoff game had one team at 120 points makes one nostalgic for the glory days of the 1980s, when those great Celtic teams scored 120 points or more regularly in the playoffs.

The point is that playoff success is almost always attained by playing strong defense and turnover free basketball. The potential damage that Game Five might have on the Celtics is that the team may think collectively that in-game problems and obstacles can be solved by shooting from international waters. However, most coaches or former coaches of the National Basketball Association will tell you that three pointers is not the best way to win games or to climb back into a game. It may work once and a while, as it did last Friday, but it didn’t work Sunday in Game One of the second round against the Detroit Pistons.

The Celtics shot a poor six of 19 from the three-point line. What was frustrating for me as a fan was that they had crept to within seven points with under three minutes left, but the players felt that the way to tie the game was to employ the same method they used the game before: send up a barrage of threes. And it didn’t work.

What the 76ers experienced on Friday is what the Celtics experienced on Sunday. The Celtics watched helplessly as nearly 50% of the Pistons’ treys found the bottom of the net. If Detroit had not had the success they did from the outside, it might have been a different game.

There’s more than one way to skin a cat, guys. I know that you have the ability to sink the treys, but use it as part of an arsenal, not as the only weapon. Try it; you might like it.