Deciphering the Celtics

It was an absurd game on a balmy Wednesday night in which nothing much made sense, least of all the defense (on both sides) and the officiating.

How absurd was it? The Celtics and Pistons both have great defenses. Cs are #3 in the league, Ps are #6. So of course, it had to be a major defensive battle, right? Nope. BOTH teams' Defensive Ratings came in WORSE THAN THE WORST DEFENSE IN THE NBA. Lol. Nuts.

And the officiating made it even nuttier.

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


Cs' Off. & Def. Efficiency Ratings vs. Detroit – Dec 16 2015:


Cs’ Offensive Rating for this game = 113.8 (pts scored per 100 possessions) — equivalent to the #2 offense in the NBA this season. We are naturally tempted to think that the Celtics' O bounced back after hitting a rough patch lately. Gotta resist that temptation. This was not a game to learn much from. Too nuts.
  • Prior to this game, DET's defense was rated #6 in the league (Def.Rtg. = 101.0) — very good.
  • In their last 15 games (before this one), the Pistons' Defensive Rating was almost identical to their full-season rating, at ~101.5, equivalent to #9 in the NBA.
  • Versus the Cs, Pistons' D performed like the #30 defense in the league (113.8 Def.Rtg.) — worse than the worst. But the Celtics' D was just as putrid (more so, actually). So what can you say? It was nuts. That's all.
Cs’ Defensive Rating for this game = 116.7 (pts allowed per 100 possessions) — equivalent to the league's #30 defense this season. Told ya. Two great defensive teams meet — and nobody played defense. Go figure.
  • Coming into this game, the Pistons' offense was rated #22 in the league (Off.Rtg. = 102.7) — pretty poor. Yes, a poor offense... until they met the Celtics on this balmy night. Miraculously, DET turned into the best offense in the league!! Amazing!!!
  • In their last 15 games (before this one), the Pistons' Offensive Rating was somewhat better than their full-season record (Off.Rtg ~104.0).
  • The Cs' D "held" DET's O to a level equivalent to the league's #1 offense (116.7 OffRtg)! Good thing the Celts worked so hard to forge such an EXCELLENT defense, eh? Oh, I'm just kiddin. This wasn't a real game. It was nuts.
Pace: Each team had 102 possessions – faster than the Cs' season average to date (98.1 – #6 in NBA). League average = 96.1/game.

Referees: Grade: F. Observations: We were tempted to give them a D, because they were, at times, more pathetic than malevolent. But no. These three referees — Courtney Kirkland (#61), Eric Lewis (#42), and Lauren Holtkamp (#7) — didn't know the rules, couldn't see the plays, and they blew their whistles almost randomly at times, making umpteen mistakes that had a major impact on the game.
  • At 11:15 of the 1st quarter, referee Courtney Kirkland (#61) whistled an offensive foul on Amir Johnson for — nothing. Amir just rolled out of the pick-and-roll a little early. Didn't hit anyone. Just an early roll. According to Scal, that's an "automatic" foul in the NBA these days. Huh? In what universe? Don't you have to foul someone for it to be a foul? Bad call.
  • At 6:28 of the 1st quarter, one of the three refs (couldn't see which one) called a traveling violation on Sully for jumping to a stop landing on both feet, then jumping up to throw a pass. (This same bad call was made on Lebron just the other day.) Let's get this straight — it is LEGAL to land on 2 feet and then do WHATEVER you wanna do so long as you do not take another step. Jumping up and passing in the air is PERFECTLY LEGAL in that situation. Don't believe me? Here's what the rulebook says:
    If a player jumps off one foot on the count of one he may land with both feet simultaneously for count two. In this situation, the player may not pivot with either foot and if one or both feet leave the floor the ball must be released before either return to the floor. (sic)
  • At 7:23 of the 3rd quarter, Jae Crowder was called for "fouling" Ilyasova (one of the dirtiest players we've seen) as Ilyasova dribbled by. This foul was whistled by Eric Lewis (#42), who was standing across the court where he COULD NOT SEE the play. Which explains why he didn't see that Jae hit all ball/hand (both legal), and didn't foul anyone, at all. Here is a case of a ref who was ACTUALLY BLIND to a play, and yet saw fit to blow his whistle because.... who knows?
  • At 3:37 of the 3rd quarter, Stanley Johnson did the following on a play under the Cs basket: He dribbled and then jumped to a 2-footed jump stop, then let go of the ball and caught it again while jumping in the air (i.e., he pass to himself as he jumped out of the jump stop), then landed with the ball back in this possession, then took 3 steps (without any dribbling) and jumped again to throw up a hook shot (which somehow went in). So Johnson: traveled when he passed to himself, traveled again when he landed after jumping out of a jump stop, then traveled a third time when he took 3 steps to take his shot. No whistle.
    • We normally don't list no-calls, but we do list them when they are one-sided, as they were in parts of this game. Late in this contest, ALL the dubious and bad calls went against the Celtics, with none going against the Piston as counterbalance.
  • At 2:00 of the 3rd quarter, Ilyasova — the aforementioned dirty player — shoved Zeller HARD under the rim while going for a rebound. He shoved Zeller right into Baynes, causing Zeller's arm to hit Baynes in the nose, causing it to bleed. BAD OFFICIATING LEADS TO PLAYER INJURY. These refs were bad, and sometimes it was funny bad. But at some point, it stops being funny and people bleed.
  • At 9:31 of the 4th quarter, Drummond clearly goaltended a tip-in (per replay), which went unwhistled despite much protestation by Brad Stevens.
  • At 7:11 of the 4th quarter, Sully jumped high in the air and dunked a rebound (great!!) — while Drummond jumped behind him and SLAMMED Sully's head with his arm. This is usually an AUTOMATIC foul call. Not this time.
  • At 2:54 of the 4th quarter — with the game on the line and the score very close — Courtney Kirkland (#61) called a ridiculous 3-shot foul on Isaiah Thomas, because his body was in Reggie Jackson's way when Reggie LUNGED forward while pretending to shoot a three. The contact was minimal, and the foul call was patently wrong. That call gave the Pistons 3 unearned points at a critical point in the game. (Btw, the margin of victory? 3 points.)
  • At 2:10 of the 4th quarter, Courtney Kirkland (#61) called a "Delay of Game" violation on Detroit when a player entered the court with his shirt untucked. I've never seen that before, but looked it up and yes, it is an actual rule. Kudos to Kirkland for knowing it. Too bad he messed up on the rules that actually matter.


Where do they stand now?


  • After the Pistons game, the Cs' full-season Defensive Rating = 100.1 — #5 in the league as of 12/16. Pre-game it was 99.4, #3.
  • The Cs' defensive record over their last 15 games is now moderately worse than their full-season record — with Def.Rtg. ~101.7, equivalent to ~#10 in the NBA.
  • [League best full season Def.Rtg.= Spurs (93.7) | Worst= NOL (110.6) | NBA avg. = 104.1.]
  • After the Pistons game, the Cs' full-season Offensive Rating = 104.1 (pts/100-possessions) — #16 in the league as of 12/16. Pre-game it was ~103.6: #18.
  • The Cs' offensive record over their last 15 games is now almost identical to their full-season record, with Off.Rtg. ~104.4, equivalent to ~#16 in the NBA.
  • [League best full season Off.Rtg.= Warriors (114.7) | Worst = PHI (93.4) | NBA avg. = 104.1.]
  • After this game, Cs' full-season Net Rating = +4.0, #8 in the NBA (as of 12/16) — down from 4.2, #7.
  • [Stat Note: Net Rating (aka "Net Efficiency Rating") is a measure of how many more (or fewer) points the Cs have scored than their opponents, per 100 possessions (thus eliminating any effect of pace). It's derived by subtracting the Defensive Rating ("Def.Rtg.") from the Offensive Rating ("Off.Rtg."), and it is the single best measure we have for gauging overall performance.]
  • The numbers say that the defense is still doing well (despite this one very-bad-and-very-weird game), and the offense, which has been struggling, is treading water. Right now, the Cs stand at: #5 on D, #16 on O, #8 overall, for the full season.
  • LAST 15 GAMES REVIEW =>> A team's record over its most recent 10-15 games, compared to its full season, can give us a good indication of the club's overall direction: Are they improving, regressing, or treading water?

    Comparing the Cs' most-recent results to their full season record, we see:
    • The defense in recent games has declined moderately relative to the full season (from 100.1/#5 to 101.7/#10).
    • The offense has remained almost unchanged recently (104.1-104.4).
    • Overall performance as measured by the Net Rating dropped moderately in the last 15 games (from +4.0/#8 to +2.7/#9).
    Bottom line: The offense is mired in the league's bottom half, and unchanged recently. The defense is OK at #5 for the season — but in the last 15 games it dropped to a #10 level. The overall Net Rating also dropped in recent games, from #8 in the full season to #9 in the last-15. I.e., all signs are either pointing down, or flat. It's not looking very sanguine for the Green these days.
  • The main OARs (Opponent-Adjusted Ratings) have also turned south. The slope of the raw Net OARs graph's trend line (in green, below) is now clearly negative, indicating that the Cs are no longer improving. They may still be beating league averages, but by less now than in the past. (Obviously, if this continues they'll eventually stop beating the averages.)


Notes & Ruminations:

  • It's hard to know what to make of this game, given the insanity of it all — not only bad officiating, but also a complete topsy-turvy of the two teams' normal modus operandi. Two solid defensive teams played a weird, no-defense, hi-scoring game. Strange
  • It's probably best to just forget this game, not try to learn much from it. It was just too nutty.
  • But seeing Boston's D go so completely AWOL was disconcerting. Defense makes this team go. Without it... well, there's not much left. So we assume this was an aberration and move on... but keep one semi-worried eye on the D.
  • All the stat indicators are pointing down now. Looks like the Celtics have reached a critical turning point. They'll either right the ship and sail onward and upward, or head to Davy Jones' locker. (Cue Hans Zimmer...)
  • Good to see Jerebko finally hit a couple. Still far from last season, but maybe it's a start....
  • Zeller! Where ya been, big guy? Zell did great in this one. Scored smoothly and easily and held his ground on D too (sorta).
      • At one point (4:10 in Q4) Jared Sullinger fouled a guy and put his arm up immediately — before the whistle sounded. Sully! These refs were missing calls left and right. DON'T DO THEIR JOBS FOR THEM. As it happened, the whistle came late — so there was a pretty fair chance that there would have been no whistle had Sully's arm not gone up.
      • Next up: Atlanta on Friday, at the Garden. No more nuttiness, please.

      CHANGES TO GREEN STATS: We're making some changes to Green Stats going forward. The full treatment — which includes the complete "Where Do They Stand Now?" section — will no longer be included in each Green Stats post after every game. It will instead run about once every 5 posts. In between, Green Stats will include the usual stats and results for the current game, plus Notes. Ref grades will vary. (Note: Posts with the complete status analysis will have "complete analysis" in their titles.)

      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.
      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: M. Moore/USATSI

      Follow DRJ on Twitter @DRJ_CsNStats

      DRJ 12/17/2015 03:14:00 AM Edit
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