The Boston Celtics have taken advantage of opportunities when the shot clock approaches its final seconds against the Philadelphia 76ers.
John Schuhmann noticed this strange trend in his most recent column (via NBA.com):
“In their eight games, the Celtics have taken 28 percent of their shots in the last six seconds of the shot clock, by far the highest rate in the postseason (the Cavs have the second highest rate at 23 percent). The Celtics have become comfortable living late in the clock.”
Boston leads all playoff teams with 21.1 possessions per game in which the shot clock gets down to less than four seconds. For comparison, that’s more than double the amount of four-seconds-or-less possessions that Philadelphia has had so far in the postseason.
The Celtics have averaged 1.01 points per possession on these opportunities, per Synergy Sports. They are shooting 62-of-142 (43.7 percent) when this happens, which ranks as the fourth-most efficient among playoff teams.
During the regular season, Marcus Morris led the team with 2.8 possessions per game when the shot clock went down to less than four seconds. While they only had 12.1 possessions per game when this happened, they ranked as the third-most efficient team in the NBA with 0.87 points per possession.
But since the postseason began, other players have taken control of this situation as well. Jayson Tatum (3.9 per game), Al Horford (3.6), Terry Rozier (3.5), Morris (2.8) and Jaylen Brown (2.5) all rank in the Top 15 for most possessions per game when the shot clock is under four seconds.
Tatum ranks in the Top 10 among all postseason players with 3.5 points per game when there are less than four seconds on the shot clock. Horford, meanwhile, ranks second overall in the playoffs with 4.8 points per game when there are less than four seconds on the clock. The big man trails only Milwaukee’s Khris Middleton.
Horford (1.31 PPP) ranks Top 5 efficiency with less than four seconds on the clock. He is shooting 14-for-22 (63.6 percent) on these opportunities, which ranks in the Top 5 as well.
He is 8-for-10 on post-ups when the shot clock has less than four seconds on it as well, averaging 1.64 PPP. Horford leads all players in the postseason so far with 1.3 two-pointers per game very late on the shot clock, shooting 10-for-15 (66.7 percent) in the process.
It’s one of the best advantages that Boston has shown against the 76ers and Milwaukee Bucks in the postseason. In the clip below, Horford is able to bail out Boston’s offense late in the shot clock despite facing Joel Embiid, one of the best defenders in basketball.
This tendency to shoot the ball so late on possessions hasn’t hurt the Celtics thus far, but it’s hard to imagine that Boston can remain this efficient and productive when they’re constantly racing against the shot clock.