The Boston Celtics did not shoot above 50 percent from the field in any of their first 22 games last season.
This season? They’re already 2-for-2 in that aspect.
After knocking down 56.1 percent of their shots during Tuesday’s season-opening, 126-117 win at home against Philadelphia, the C’s went down to South Beach Friday night and shot 51.9 percent in a 111-104 win over the Miami Heat.
Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum have been the catalysts of the offense, combining for 127 points in the first two games (64 for Tatum, 63 for Brown). They’ve attempted 42 field goals apiece to this point, with Brown making 61.9 percent of his shots and Tatum connecting on 54.8 percent.
Grant Williams has also been extremely efficient off the bench, scoring 25 total points on 9-of-11 shooting.
As a team, the Celtics are shooting 54.0 percent from the field, which is nearly five percentage points higher than Cleveland’s second-place mark of 49.4 percent.
Friday night’s shooting performance was extra impressive given the quality of Miami’s defense. The Heat allowed the lowest field-goal percentage in the Eastern Conference last season with opponents shooting just 44.7 percent. They also limited Boston to just 45.3 percent shooting in their seven-game Eastern Conference Finals matchup.
Not only have the Celtics shot well in each of their first two games, but they have shot well against two of the top 10 defenses from last season, and two teams that are projected to finish near the top of the East.
Last year’s offense really didn’t start cooking until around the midway point of the season, but this year Boston is coming hot out of the oven.
Boston Block Party
Boston also had a commanding presence on the defensive end Friday night, as they hosted a block party in Miami.
Five different players combined for 11 blocked shots led by Derrick White, whose three blocks matched Miami’s team total. Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, Grant Williams, and Noah Vonleh added two swats apiece.
It’s unusual to have three wing players record multiple blocks in the same game, but Brown, Tatum, and White all used their length to their advantage in contesting Miami’s perimeter shots.
Ironically, Boston’s best rim protector couldn’t even attend the block party, as Rob Williams remains in Boston where he’s recovering from an offseason knee procedure.
Just imagine how much of a nightmare the team’s shot contesting will be after the All-Defensive center returns.
Vonleh Making Strong Impression
The Noah Vonleh story continues to get better with each turn of the page. The 27-year-old center went from playing overseas in China last season, to earning a Celtics training camp invite this fall, to fighting his way for a final roster spot last week, to now playing a significant role off the bench for the defending Eastern Conference Champions.
Not only has the Salem/Haverhill, Massachusetts native been called upon to play significant minutes in each of the first two games, but he’s also been tasked with defending two All-Star centers right off the bat.
Vonleh was the first player off the bench in Tuesday night’s opener and finished with two points and two rebounds while logging a plus-7 against Joel Embiid and the 76ers. He was subbed in early again Friday night and finished with four points, five rebounds, and two blocks while recording a plus-10 against Bam Adebayo and the Heat.
Vonleh has come a long way – literally – in the past year. To have him helping to fill Rob Williams’ void has been both an unexpected and pleasant surprise.