By Brian Robb, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) – Brad Stevens has spent his past three years in Boston preaching the values of a pace-and-space offense. In year four of his tenure as Celtic, it appears he’s finally found the proper mix of talent and experience to see his preferred brand of offense flourish and that was evident on Saturday night.
The Celtics are in the midst of their most successful stretch of the season and they can point to one seemingly unlikely area for their success: 3-point shooting. The trend continued on a snowy Saturday night at the TD Garden where the hosts made 18-of-36 attempts from 3-point range to cruise to a 117-108 victory over the Pelicans.
It was the fourth straight win for the Green on their homestand and they can chalk it all up to stellar offensive production across the board, starting with their leading scorer.
Isaiah Thomas posted 38 points, including 17 in the fourth quarter on Saturday. He’s averaging over 31 points per game since returning from a groin injury last month, but he got plenty of help from the shorthanded lineup as well. Marcus Smart chipped in with a season-high 22 points on 7-of-10 shooting, while Gerald Green (15 points) and Kelly Olynyk (12 points) did plenty of damage off the bench.
Overall, the Celtics have scored over 100 points in 11 straight games, creating a rhythm that has their point guard giving his team high praise.
“For sure,” Thomas said when questioned about whether this offense is the best he’s played with. “Everybody is playing with confidence and everybody is in the right spot. For the most parts, they are getting the shots they work on. That’s what coach always talks about, shooting your shot with confidence or making a play for somebody else. We’ve been doing that in the wins we’ve had lately.”
Even without Avery Bradley (Achilles) in the mix, Boston managed to put up 117 points against the NBA’s 6th best defense in New Orleans. The Celtics only shot 43 percent as a team, but their accuracy from downtown (50 percent) helped erase a 10-point first half deficit and turn the game into a blowout late.
“I mean when guys are shooting with confidence and knocking them down, makes and misses are contagious,” Thomas said of the 3s. “When we’re making them it seems like everybody’s feeling it and doing what they’re supposed to do. We’re at a good place right now, and we’ve just got to keep strong.”
The strong shooting from distance wasn’t just isolated to Saturday night either. Take a look at some of the numbers the Celtics are putting up in their last four games.
“We’re playing to our strengths and we’re taking what the defense gives us,” Olynyk said postgame. “We don’t have a lot of guys that you’re throwing the ball in and posting up 10, 12, 15 times a game, so a lot of movement, a lot of ball screens, make guys help, draw and kick and knock down shots.”
Boston’s latest win pulled them within 1.5 games of the second seed in the Eastern Conference. They’ll get a chance to close that gap even more on Tuesday when they face off against the league’s best offense in the Toronto Raptors. Without any wins over any top-5 teams in the NBA this year, the matchup will serve as an opportunity for the Celtics to show their improved offense can hang with the league’s elite.
Brian Robb covers the Celtics for CBS Boston and contributes to NBA.com, among other media outlets. You can follow him on Twitter @CelticsHub.