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Deciphering the Celtics

You had to have some inkling that the Celtics were going to beat the Pels, given that the Cs have had a Top-5 defense virtually all season, while New Orleans' D is dead last in the NBA. So yeah, the Green wiped out the Pels... and in the process, reached #3 in the NBA in Net Rating** and #2 in Defensive Rating*.

The Celtics' bench had a hard time (again) — but it hardly mattered. Boston's D, along with Isaiah Thomas' O and Sully's R (rebounding) and D on Anthony Davis — all combined to ultimately turn this contest into a cakewalk.

Here are details on the game, and where the club stands now...

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Cs' Off. & Def. Efficiency Ratings vs. New Orleans – Dec 7 2015:

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Cs’ Offensive Rating for this game = 115.0 (pts scored per 100 possessions) — equivalent to the #2 offense in the NBA this season. Another excellent outing for the offense.
  • Prior to this game, NOL's defense was rated #30 in the league (DefRtg = 110.9) — The Worst. Watching the Pelicans play confirmed it: they really are a bad defensive team.
  • Versus the Cs, NOL's D performed worse than they usually perform (115.0 DefRtg this game). Cs' offense has been improving in almost every game lately.
Cs’ Defensive Rating for this game = 96.3 (pts allowed per 100 possessions) — equivalent to the league's #2 defense this season.
But note: with just under 11 seconds left in the game, Ish Smith dashed off to get himself an uncontested layup while everyone else on the court was done playing (which is the accepted way to act when the game is completely out of reach and only seconds left to the end). That was, effectively, a "stolen" basket. Removing that single score from the results gives the Celtics a true Defensive Rating of 94.3 — equivalent to #1 in the NBA (compared to season ratings).
  • Coming into this game, the Pelicans' offense was rated #15 in the league (104.1 Off.Rtg.) — mediocre.
  • The Celtics' defense held NOL's offense to a level equivalent to the league's #29 offense (96.3 OffRtg). Cs' D made this win happen.
  • The Cs' starters shined brightly in this one. The bench was mostly awful (until late in the game). See Notes & Ruminations below for more details on this (pretty amazing) disparity.
Pace: Each team had 97 possessions – a little slower than the Cs' average for the season to date (98.4 – #5 in NBA). League average = 96.4/game.
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Refs: Grade: A. Observations: No egregious mistakes; almost no mistakes at all.... just some missed calls (which happens in every game, many times) and one missed flop-that-fooled-em:
  • At 5:30 of the 3rd quarter, Sully was backing down Ryan Anderson, and after two steps backward, Anderson FLOPPED BACKWARD very dramatically in an obvious flop, extracting an offensive foul call from the official, David Guthrie (#16). It's bad enough when floppers don't get fined for flopping — but to ALSO give them a possession is a shame. (But truth is: this is a tough call without video playback.)
  • Note: There were 4 offensive 3-second violation in this game, between both teams. Weird, but they were all correctly called.

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Where do the Cs stand now?

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DEFENSE:
  • *After the Pelicans game, the Cs' season Defensive Rating = 99.4 — #2 (!) in the league, as of 12/7-8. Pre-game it was 99.6: #4.
  • [League best Def.Rtg.= Spurs @ 93.9 | Worst= Pelicans @ 111.1 | League average= 103.9.]
OFFENSE:
  • After the Pelicans game, the Cs' season Offensive Rating = 104.9 (pts/100-possessions) — #12 in the league, as of 12/7. Pre-game it was 104.4: ~#14.
  • [League best Off.Rtg.= Warriors @ 116.0 | Worst = Philly @ 93.2 | League average = 103.9.]
HOW ARE THEY DOING OVERALL, AND WHAT'S THE TREND?
  • **After this game, Cs' Net Rating = +5.5, #3 (!) in the NBA (as of 12/7) — up from +4.8 (#5).
  • [Stat Note: Net Rating (aka "Net Efficiency Rating") is a measure of how many more (or fewer) points the Cs scored than their opponents, per 100 possessions (thus eliminating any effect of pace). It's derived by subtracting the Defensive Rating ("DefRtg") from the Offensive Rating ("OffRtg"), and it is the single best measure we have for gauging overall performance.]
  • The numbers say that the defense is elite now, and the offense is clearly improving game-after-game. (Though not the bench, tonight.) Right now, the Cs stand at: #2 on D, #12 on O, #3 overall.
  • The general direction of the OARs (Opponent-Adjusted Ratings) remains positive, indicating that the Cs are, on average, beating expectations (based on opponents' strengths), and continuing to improve. They're almost at elite status now; they need only to continue to improve the offense a bit more.(Especially the bench!)
#7 - Davis stopper
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Notes & Ruminations:

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  • Sully had himself a double-double and 20 rebounds. Oh, and he also kept MVP candidate Unibrow under complete control most of the night. Wow, Sully.
  • Amir's been doing great work lately, game in game out, on both ends of the court.
  • Isaiah shot ZERO free throws (per the box score). I'm pretty sure that hasn't happened in a VERY long time. He still managed to score more than any other player in the game, on 9-13 shooting, including 4-4 from deep. Isaiah The Great.
  • Evan Turner really can't function as a point guard, can he. Paging Marcus Smart!
  • Kelly Olynyk has gone back to his endless fakes (which are so slow and obvious, one can only assume that Kelly never watches himself on video), followed by tentative drives in the general direction of the basket. It worked out for him about half the time in this game — versus the worst defense in the NBA.
  • The Celtics bench was pathetic in this game, as they have been – at least offensively – for a while now (ever since Isaiah got moved to the 1st team).

    How pathetic? The bench's Offensive Rating was 85.6 pts/100-possessions, as opposed to the starters' Offensive Rating of — get this — 153.5 pts/100-possessions! Just look at those numbers for an extra moment and try to absorb how CRAZY the difference is between them.

    Now the defensive side.....

    The bench's Defensive Rating was 137.8 pts allowed/100-possessions (worst in the league by far, if it were a season number). Meanwhile, the starters allowed only 59.2 pts/100-poss! I.e., the bench allowed more than TWICE as many opposition points as the starters. That's mind-boggling.

    As a caveat, it should be noted that these are estimates of the relative ratings of bench vs. starters. They're derived by isolating the starters' numbers (FGs, FGAs, FTAs, Rebounds, TOs, Points) and plugging them into the Ratings formulas, and then doing the same for the bench (all non-starters). In both cases, the opposition was assumed to be the same relative group — the Pelicans' starters vs. non-starters (so that the Celts' starters' defensive numbers in particular could easily be skewed abnormally low, if the Pels-starters didn't play as much as the Cs-starters did — which, considering the ridiculously low Cs-starters' Def.Rtg., is probably the case). Again: keep in mind that this provides ESTIMATES of the various groups' ratings, NOT precise numbers.
  • Here's hoping the Warriors win in Indiana on Tuesday. We want the Cs to have a crack at that team with their incredible record intact.

    So how can the Celtics beat such a great team? Well, Golden State isn't perfect. They have at least one major weakness — holding on to the ball.

    GSW's 14.3% TOV% (TOs committed per 100 plays) is the 8th worst in the league; they average 16 turnovers/game — also 8th most. And what are the Celtics BEST IN THE LEAGUE at? Generating opponent turnovers. So — if the Cs can get a little lucky hitting shots, they could beat the Warriors by simply doing what they do best.

    On balance, given the Cs' current status of having the 3rd best Net Rating in the association, as well as 2nd-best Defensive Rating and top-rated turnover production (and steals) — it's fair to say that, excluding the Spurs, the Cs probably have as good a shot as any team in the league at stopping the Warriors' insane run.
  • Up next is Chicago, in the Garden. Bulls ain't no cakewalk. But that game should be good prep for Friday's Warriors, whatever happens.

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Green Stats runs after each Celtics game, right here, usually within ~ 1 to 20 hours of the final horn. Note: Some posts will be (much) longer than others.
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Efficiency ratings source for comps: Basketball-reference.com. Misc: RealGM.com. (Note: Our formulas for pace and ratings are similar to those used by these sites, and most others. NBA.com's numbers will differ somewhat, as they use different formulas.)

For an intro to the advanced stats used here in Green Stats, see: Green Stats: Intro to advanced stats +...

Photo: Brian Babineau/NBAE/Getty Images


Follow DRJ on Twitter @DRJ_CsNStats

DRJ 12/08/2015 01:40:00 AM Edit
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