Sam Houser running back, and Joe Mazzola’s All-Star rusher are among the Celtics’ best events of January

January tends to be essentially the most boring month within the NBA. The hum of Christmas Day video games within the rearview because it slowly creeps into the commerce deadline/All-Star group in February tends to create pleasure, particularly because the NFL season reaches the end line.

The Celtics will play 15 video games over the primary 28 days of January and cross the center of the season within the course of. However naturally, minds wander into the long run.

There might be some uptick in curiosity, particularly on Thursday nights this month. Boston will go to Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks this week, on journeys to play the rookie nets subsequent Thursday, then host the Golden State Warriors in a rematch on January 19.

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However some nights, like Tuesday’s go to to Oklahoma Metropolis, will problem the staff’s potential to seek out motivation. With that in thoughts, listed here are 4 issues we’re watching in January:

1. Poisonous stagnation

Sam Houser’s recession has now stretched over a month. In 16 video games since November 30, he is shot 33.8 p.c from the ground and 28.1 p.c exterior the 3-point arc. As soon as the NBA’s plus/minus leaders danced early within the yr, Hauser was -45 minus these 16 video games. He acquired a constructive plus/minus in solely six of these video games, although 4 of these video games have come since Christmas Day.

Our panic meters have been comparatively low on the Hauser. The shooters are going by way of the slack. The second-year ahead additionally confirmed confidence throughout his struggles, which is an encouraging signal for any younger participant.

However January is usually a little bit of a troublesome month. Brad Stevens mentioned his job is to discover all alternatives to improve the roster earlier than the buying and selling deadline and notice how he has to determine what’s some extent and what’s actual. Is Hauser’s month-long sluggishness simply stagnating whereas he adjusts to elevated defensive curiosity, or is it one thing extra troubling?

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As groups proceed to attempt to make the most of Hauser on the defensive aspect, his superior metrics have been encouraging. On Dec. 14, opponents shoot towards him at 39.4 p.c, or 6.4 p.c lower than anticipated output based on NBA defensive monitoring knowledge. This included opponents capturing 41.5 p.c extra on all two-point pictures, or 11 p.c lower than anticipated output.

There may be nonetheless a excessive file towards him in isolation. Hauser defended the staff’s third-highest protection this season (solely Alhorford and Grant Williams tackled essentially the most) and permits a modest one level per recreation with opponents capturing 54 p.c (21-of-39) towards him in these situations. Nevertheless, his turnover charge of 14.3 p.c is among the many greatest on the staff.

Hauser wants to seek out his offensive mojo in January and toughen up his protection, or he may pressure Stephens to discover wing choices extra aggressively on which the staff can have extra confidence in potential playoff minutes.

2. All-Star Joe?

We all know Jason Tatum And the Jaylen Brown She is sort of definitely headed to Utah for All-Star Weekend. It is extremely unlikely that the Celtics will be capable of invite a 3rd participant given the expertise all through the convention. The one drama in Boston’s All-Stars: Will is an interim coach Joe Mazola And his employees in Salt Lake Metropolis?

The staff with the perfect file in every convention close to the start of February sends its teaching employees to an All-Star weekend. Boston has a one-game lead on the rookie proper now, with the Bucks and Cavaliers 2.5 video games behind.

Boston getting its teaching employees into an All-Star recreation can be an enchanting story given the occasions of late summer time that led as much as the 2006 All-Star Sport Im Udoka suspension. It might be a nod to a bunch that managed to take care of some sense of normalcy and helped information Boston to a quick begin at a time when the wheels may have simply run off the factor.

Mazzola suffers from the identical bumps each first-time coach endures. He wasn’t excellent however we’d counsel that most of the time he is urgent the proper buttons. Those that have been shocked when the staff hit a tough patch appeared to neglect that Udoka had loads of heartbreaking moments early in his rookie marketing campaign earlier than actually discovering his voice and pushing his staff as a part of a second half surge.

3. Re-double huge?

When will Robert Williams III Rejoin the beginning lineup? This may occasionally have been Boston’s hottest query since his return. The Celtics’ beginning starters – Tatum, Brown, Marcus Sensible and Horford – have been wonderful operating backs with Derrick White because the fifth base starter. This group earned a internet ranking of +15.6 of their 242 minutes collectively, the third-best mark within the NBA amongst large-sized five-man pairs.

In most different conditions, there can be little cause to tinker with what works. However Boston’s beginning lineup final season with Williams III rather than White was such a wrecking ball – posting a league-best +24.6 ranking in 443 minutes – that it merely seems just like the staff should get again at it in some unspecified time in the future.

The Williams III radiates much-needed vitality and defensive depth each time he touches the bottom and solely fuels these large double-cross flames.

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The Horford/Williams III duo solely performed 31 minutes collectively however the outcomes have been encouraging. Notably, Boston had posted a Defensive Ranking of 91 in that interval. That is a really small however nonetheless notable pattern that is 19.6 factors per 100 possessions beneath Boston’s defensive rankings for the season, which already ranks seventh within the NBA.

Given Boston’s lack of pure measurement, there can be an comprehensible want to rank up Horford’s minutes and Williams’ third. And the most important hurdle may merely be ready for the third Williams to have the ability to deal with a better workload as he works his method again from low season knee surgical procedure.

However we’re very intrigued – even when it merely occurred in back-to-back half spells in childhood – to see how that group goes and when the staff would possibly ultimately return to it within the early video games.

4. Tatum rushes within the second half

It is somewhat preposterous to counsel that there is one other degree Tatum may take given how nice he has been through the first half of the season. Sadly, historical past has it that he made his greatest basketball save within the second half of the season.

It was a 51-point outbreak in late January final yr that ignited each Tatum and the Celtics as an entire final season. Whereas he is solidly cemented himself within the MVP dialog together with his early-season play, a late-season rally will definitely assist his trigger as effectively.

Perhaps begin early Thursday go to with Doncic and the Mavericks.

What we’re interested by most is Tatum’s three-point shot. He is a career-low 35 p.c by way of the 35 video games performed. That is a slight lower from final season (35.3 p.c) however it’s nonetheless effectively beneath his profession common of 37.9 p.c.

Tatum is already averaging 30.9 factors per recreation, so it is scary to consider his potential output if he will get that 3-point shot within the second half. He began the season at 40.8 p.c on 8.2 three-pointers per recreation in October, however slowly light, together with capturing simply 33.3 p.c on 9 three-pointers per recreation in December. He went 0-for-4 behind the arc to begin the brand new yr in Denver.

Final season, Tatum shot 32.9 p.c on three-pointers earlier than the All-Star break, then 41.5 p.c over his final 20 video games. This included 44.7% in March.

Can he do it once more? And what would possibly that imply for each his MVP probabilities and Boston’s?

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