Celtics Need More Offense From Courtney Lee
Before the season, the Boston Celtics were expected to use Courtney Lee as the replacement for Avery Bradley until Bradley returned from having surgery on both of his shoulders in the summer. Since Bradley returned on January 2nd against the Memphis Grizzlies, Lee’s minutes were lowered until Rajon Rondo tore his right ACL.
Throughout this season, Lee has struggled with his shot. Doc Rivers was mentioning Lee as one of the better corner three-point shooters in the league in training camp. He is shooting just 32.7% from beyond the arc.
Lee helped the Celtics improve defensively after point guard Rondo suffered his injury in the double overtime defeat to the Atlanta Hawks on January 25th. He was inserted into the starting lineup with Bradley and they had immediate success with their ability to create turnovers and score in the open court.
Late in games the Celtics alternate Lee with Jason Terry in the final few minutes. Terry is on the court when the team is on offense while the team uses Lee as a defensive substitution. Unfortunately, for the Celtics, Lee was not on the court when the Charlotte Bobcats hit a critical shot late in the game. The Celtics committed a turnover that led to a Gerald Henderson 3-pointer in transition.
Perhaps Lee would not have made much of a difference in the final two minutes of the Celtics’ 94-91 loss to the Bobcats on Monday. The Celtics had just played a triple overtime game the night before with Terry going 43 minutes, it’s reasonable to argue the Celtics could have kept Lee on the court more against the Bobcats. Lee had only played 23 minutes against the Denver Nuggets and he was on the floor for just 19 minutes in Charlotte. Terry wasn’t the reason that the Celtics lost. The Celtics did not play aggressively, especially in the third quarter and they allowed the Bobcats to hang around in front of their home crowd.
Lee got swallowed on a backside screen by Bobcats guard Kemba Walker before Ramon Sessions hit a game-winning jumper from the elbow because Bradley twisted his ankle on the switch.
Lee and Bradley are similar players who both bring defensive skills with their ball pressure. Meanwhile, Terry is a guard who can come off the bench and provide instant scoring. This is why the team rotates Terry and Lee late in close contests because they want to be able to spread the court with shooters in the final stretches while bringing in Lee after timeouts to play lock-down defense on ball-handlers and perimeter shooters.
With the season-ending injury to Leandro Barbosa on Monday, the Celtics will need Lee to contribute more offensively. Barbosa’s quickness in getting to the paint was vital to the Celtics’ scoring off the bench. Lee will play 25-30 minutes per game. Over the past four games, Lee is 12-of-30 from the field and he is shooting 40% (2-of-5) from beyond the three-point line. He contributed two steals in both victories over the Nuggets and the Chicago Bulls.
In the Celtics’ 71-69 win over the Bulls, Lee knocked down a couple of shots driving off picks and shooting at the elbow. This could be beneficial to helping Lee regain confidence in his outside shot. There were occasions earlier in the year where Lee would get wide-open shots in the corner in transition and he would miss terribly. The perfect example was his three-point attempt in the final seconds of the 95-94 overtime loss to the Philadelphia 76ers on December 7th when Lee threw up an airball
Since the Celtics are limited with just over $1 million in their salary cap to sign free agents either internationally or in the D-League, they will have to rely on the group they currently have. If Lee can add some scoring, the Celtics will become an even more dangerous team.