Eddie House reveals what he sees as Celtics’ identity in 2022-23 NBA season

Eddie House reveals what he sees as Celtics’ identity in 2022-23 season originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

The debate over what is the Boston Celtics’ identity has intensified during the last week.

The C’s have lost three consecutive games and blew a double-digit second-half lead in each one. They have lost four of their last five games and own a 6-5 record since the Feb. 9 NBA trade deadline.

This slump has caused the Celtics to fall two games behind the Milwaukee Bucks for first place in the Eastern Conference standings.

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The Celtics’ identity last season, especially during their playoff run and 2022 NBA Finals appearance, was defense. They were the best defensive team in basketball.

Is that the case right now? Well, the Celtics rank No. 4 in defensive rating for the season. But since the trade deadline, they rank 17th in defensive rating.

So, what exactly is the Celtics’ identity? Eddie House gave his answer Monday night during NBC Sports Boston’s “Celtics Postgame Live”.

“We’ve been asking, what is (the Celtics’) identity, right? Earlier it was our ball movement, and then it was our defense is getting better,” House said. “I had an epiphany, it just came on me — we’re a live by the three, die by the three team. That’s what we are.”

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House explained that just because a team shoots well in the first half, doesn’t mean that success is sustainable. The defense and overall intensity of the game increases when the outcome is in the balance.

“Games get ratcheted up, guys start playing better defense closing out and getting hands up,” House said. “Teams make second half changes from the first half. You’re not as comfortable in the third quarter as you were in the first quarter. Especially in the fourth quarter, we all know things start getting a whole lot tighter than when the game started.”

House added: “We’re a live by the three, die by the three kind of team. And that’s a dangerous type of team (to be). You can lose or you can win — you have to find a happy medium. When you don’t have the 3s going down, what do you rely on? And I feel like we don’t rely on anything else except saying the numbers and analytically this is what we should do. Sometimes I think we have to kick the analytics out of the door and say we gotta play basketball and try to manufacture easy baskets.”

Here’s where the Celtics rank in 3-point statistics:

  • 3-PT shots made per game: 15.8 (2nd)

  • 3-PT attempts per game: 41.1 (2nd)

  • 3-PT percentage: 37.7 (7th)

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Only the Golden State Warriors attempt and make more 3-point shots per game than the Celtics. So, they do take a lot of them. They also make a pretty high percentage, too.

But House is absolutely right. When the 3-pointers aren’t falling on a particular night, what else can the Celtics fall back on to win them close games against quality opponents? If the Celtics are cold from beyond the arc, will they switch up their focus and attack the basket more?

The Cavaliers, led by Donovan Mitchell, constantly attacked the basket with success Monday night, especially in the fourth quarter and overtime. The Cavs had seven baskets in the paint during the fourth quarter. The C’s had two, and they also shot 2-of-10 from 3-point range over the final 12 minutes of regulation. Cleveland outscored Boston 31-17 in the fourth quarter. The Celtics were 0-of-4 on threes in overtime and scored just five points in the period. The Cavs won 118-114.

Sure, it’s only one game, and the Celtics were without Jayson Tatum, Al Horford and Robert Williams III. But they can’t rely on 3-pointers as much as they do right now. They need to be more aggressive offensively and attack defenses. The C’s have plenty of players capable of doing that, too.

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