Jermaine O’Neal catches the ball in the paint with an opening to shoot. He gathers himself to leap (or something like that) for a layup; the crowd begins to brace itself for a rejection. As O’Neal leaves the floor (at least high enough to fit a driver’s license underneath his sneakers), Serge Ibaka begins his ascent, climbing higher, higher even, and O’Neal’s attempted layup hits Ibaka somewhere near the armpit before bouncing harmlessly to another Oklahoma City Thunder player.
It’s a scene we’ve witnessed often this season. Boston’s gelatin old legs provide little lift and less separation from the league’s roaming shot blockers. The Celtics have been the most-blocked NBA team so far this season. (ESPN Boston)
According to Synergy Sports, the Celtics rank 29th in the league averaging a mere 1 point per play around the basket (in non-post-up situations). In fact, the Celtics have connected on a mere 47.9 percent of those shots (104 of 217 overall). For comparison’s sake, the Miami Heat average a league-best 1.286 points per play around the basket, converting a whopping 62.3 percent of their close-range shots (170 of 273 overall).
What’s more, the Celtics are getting their shots blocked at an alarming rate. According to HoopData, the Celtics are getting blocked on 8.48 percent of their field goal tries. The next closest team is Detroit at 7.69 percent (the league average is 6.24 percent).
The solution, thankfully, is simple. All the Celtics need is to sneak into the Miami Heat’s hotel room, handcuff Lebron James to the bed, steal his legs, find and kidnap a Swedish doctor, then force the Swedish doctor to clone Lebron’s stolen legs fifteen times over, surgically remove all the Celtics players’ legs and replace them with Lebron clones. As I said, simple, although I’m pretty sure questions might be asked when Lebron’s legs show up attached to Greg Stiemsma’s frame, or when Jermaine O’Neal suddenly begins dunking between his legs from the foul line.
More seriously, the Celtics should improve slightly at finishing around the rim as they begin to round into better shape, and as they begin to adjust to their no-longer-so-sprightly bodies. (Think: Kevin Garnett’s tear drop over Ibaka, which would have been a tomahawk dunk three seasons ago but still counted as two points.) But don’t expect them to start dunking on people a dozen times per game or become the best finishing team in the league. It’s not happening, unless they find a Swedish doctor. And I’m not exactly sure why he has to be Swedish.