The Boston Celtics had lacked a killer instinct during their blowout losses to the Nuggets and the Wizards. However, they showed some swagger and gumption last night against the Knicks. Especially their ability to attack the paint, and earn free throws.

GETTING NEW YORK INTO THE BONUS

Kelly Olynyk made a great point when asked how the Celtics were able to get to the line so often. You can read the entire article here.

“We were just hitting first,” answered Olynyk. “We were getting them in the bonus early, and we got some rebounding fouls at our own end that turned into free throws.”

It’s a great point. Bill Belichick often talks about the importance of special teams and “hidden yards.” So us New England fans should start to recognize the importance of drawing fouls.

Even off-ball fouls have a sort of hidden benefit. The Celtics were able to draw charges, reach-ins, and loose ball fouls. You can only accomplish that by being smart, in good position, and by hustling.

And when you can get your opponent into the bonus, it results in points on the scoreboard. The scoreboard impact of a single drawn charge may be “hidden” slightly. But the impact of 43 free throw attempts in a single game, well, isn’t.

ATTACKING THE RIM

The Celtics also attacked the rim all night long. Isaiah Thomas currently leads the NBA in drives to the rim per game. He is also 5th in the NBA in FTA per game. The Celtics earned free throws against the Knicks by being aggressive and attacking the rim. Just ask Avery Bradley.

“The more aggressive team always gets the most calls,” said Avery Bradley, “and we came out from the beginning of the game being the aggressor, and it showed because we were getting calls on our side.”

ISAIAH GETS TO THE LINE, CAN EVERYONE ELSE?

Thomas has been the engine that drives the Celtics offense. He’s also been responsible for a majority of their free throw attempts. 44 percent to be exact, according to Taylor C. Snow on NBA.com:

IT entered Friday night having accounted for 44.0 percent of Boston’s total free throw attempts on the season. He had 62 attempts through his first seven games, while no other Celtic had taken more than 11.

But the great thing about the performance against the Knicks was that Thomas wasn’t the only one in attack mode. Rozier earned 8 free throws. Tyler Zeller earned 7. Olynyk and Bradley both earned 4 a piece.

When you show aggressiveness on both ends of the court good things happen. You can draw charges and loose ball fouls that give you possession of the basketball. You can attack the rim for easy buckets and trips to the free throw line. And you can get your opponent in the bonus, and frustrate them. Carmelo Anthony and Brandon Jennings were both ejected from the game Friday night because they argued with officials for too long.

The Celtics need to continue to play this way. Smart, and aggressive, on both ends of the court.