By Matthew Geagan, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — The Boston Celtics are not afraid to hoist up three-pointers.
Heck, no team in the NBA is afraid of the three-point line these days, as the game has evolved into a battle of long-distance strikes. And when the shots are falling, it leads to a whole bunch of points in a hurry.
The Celtics had their shots falling Thursday evening at TD Garden. They set a franchise-record with 24 makes from downtown in their 117-113 victory over the previously unbeaten Milwaukee Bucks, easily surpassing the previous record of 19. Boston came up one made three short of the NBA record, which was set by the Cavaliers two years ago.
The Bucks had no answer for Boston’s three-point onslaught. The Celtics’ incredible ball movement left them chasing for most of the night, and Milwaukee’s porous defense against the pick-and-roll gave the C’s plenty of open looks. Boston took advantage and hoisted up 55 shots from deep, also a franchise record.
Some would say that’s just too many threes. Kyrie Irving, who hit six of his 12 attempts from downtown and finished with a team-high 28 points, doesn’t think it was enough.
“Get ’em up. They’re wide open,” said Irving. “If they’re going to play defense like that then I don’t see why not.”
He even took it a step further.
“I hope we shoot 80 next game if they play defense like that,” added Irving.
Everyone on the Boston roster chipped in, as six different Celtics hit a three in Thursday night’s win. Irving’s six makes led the way, with Marcus Morris right behind him with five off the bench (Morris set the record with a make late in the third quarter). Al Horford got a handful of wide open shots at the top of the key, hitting four threes, and Gordon Hayward chimed in with a trio of triples. Marcus Smart was the only Celtics player without a made three, missing all three of his attempts.
The Celtics were in the middle of the NBA entering Thursday night’s game, with their 11 threes per game ranking 16th in the league. Their 32.8 shooting percentage from beyond the arc was 24th in the NBA. Both numbers got a healthy boost after Boston’s three-point attack, with their makes per game increasing to 12.6 (7th in the league) and their shooting percentage up to a more respectable 35 percent (21st).
As is sometimes the case, the Celtics did cool off from downtown in the fourth quarter. After Hayward knocked down a triple with 5:24 left, the Celtics missed their last five three-point attempts. They ended up needing all 24 of those previous makes, as the Bucks went on a late run to make things closer than they ever had to be. That’s the way it goes when a team lives and dies by the three.
While the three can come and go, the Celtics should feel much better about their ball movement Thursday night. They dished out an incredible 30 assists on 41 made baskets, keeping the Bucks on their heels all night long. Horford led the charge with eight helpers while Irving (seven), Hayward (five), and Jayson Tatum (four) all kept the ball moving.
“We’re having fun,” said Irving. “I don’t like to say that we’re playing care-free, but I think that we’re making the decisions that we want and we’re playing off one another.”
The scary part is the Celtics still feel like they could have done even more on the offensive end.
“Since the second half of the OKC game, we’ve played pretty good offensively,” said Celtics head coach Stevens. “We’ve gotten good shots. We’ve generated good ones. Tonight, we didn’t settle as much; we still had some possessions we’d like to have back, but I thought that we took what the defense gave us. We got to the second side of the floor and we found open shooters.”
The Celtics took advantage of their open looks Thursday night and nearly set a new NBA record. They aren’t bummed out about missing that mark, because there’s a good chance they’ll have another shot at it sometime in the near future.
“Hopefully we just do it again,” said Hayward.