Deciphering the Celtics

The first 2.5 minutes of the Cs home game vs Atlanta was comedy — no one could make a shot. The next 45.5 minutes was a procession of Celtics turnovers (forced and unforced) and missed defensive assignments, which led to easy scoring for the Hawks. ATL's simple pick-&-rolls and backdoor cuts tore giant holes in the Celts' quasi-zone D, and Atlanta's veteran team walked right through to the win.

After three losses in a row, the Celtics' predictive stats are all pointing downward now.

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


Cs' Off. & Def. Efficiency Ratings vs. Atlanta – Dec 18 2015:


Cs’ Offensive Rating for this game = 97.5 (pts scored per 100 possessions) — equivalent to the # 29 offense in the league. I.e., the offense sucked (again).
  • Prior to this contest, ATL's defense was rated #15 in the league (Def.Rtg. = 104.1) — mediocre.
  • Versus the Cs, ATL's D performed like the #2 defense in the league (104.1 Def.Rtg.) — way better than their season average.
Cs’ Defensive Rating for this game = 105.3 (pts allowed per 100 possessions) — equivalent to the league's #17 defense this season.
  • Coming into this game, the Hawks' offense was rated #12 in the league (Off.Rtg. = 104.9) — decent, not great.
  • The Cs' D "held" ATL's O to a level equivalent to the league's #10 offense (104.1 Off.Rtg.) — better than their season average.
Pace: Each team had 104 possessions – faster than the Cs' season average to date (98.3 – #5 in NBA). League average = 96.1/game.

Referees: Grade: B-. Observations: There were 2.5 bad calls noted in this game (2-and-one-half wrong traveling calls).
  • At ~6:50 of the 2nd quarter, Lamar Patterson was whistled for a traveling violation as he drove to the rim. The whistle was blown at the end of the drive, as he went up for a layup. Patterson committed NO traveling violation at that point. However, there WAS a clear travel violation at the BEGINNING of his drive, as he shuffled his feet prior to putting the ball on the floor. We call this a "half bad call," because there was a violation, but it was not when the whistle sounded. (It's possible the ref recognized the earlier travel, and just whistled it extremely late.)
  • At ~1:10 of the 2nd quarter, Jae Crowder was called for a traveling violation. Jae received the pass in the middle of a step (that's the "gather" step, which is not counted) then took exactly 2 steps before passing. All legal. (Referees get traveling calls wrong more often than any other. If a player LOOKS funny while dribbling, they'll often blow the whistle. It's such a pandemic, the only way to stop it is to force instant video review of all travel calls; these events are too fast for the human eye to clearly see.)
  • At 6:58 of the 4th quarter, Kelly Olynyk was called for a traveling violation. He received a pass in mid-step, landed, and made his right foot the pivot. He then took one step with his left foot and began dribbling the ball. Once again, the play LOOKED a little funny — but it was definitely NOT a traveling violation.

Marcus Smart
Can this guy help?

Where do the Celtics stand now?

  • After the Hawks game, the Cs' full-season Defensive Rating = 100.3 — #3 in the league as of 12/18. Pre-game it was 100.1, #3. (League best = Spurs @ 93.9. League avg = 104.3.)
  • After the Hawks game, the Cs' full-season Offensive Rating = 103.8 (pts/100-possessions) — #18 in the league as of 12/18. Pre-game it was 104.1: #17. (League best = Warriors @ 114.8. League avg = 104.3.)
  • After the Hawks game, the Cs' full-season Net Rating = +3.5, #8 in the NBA (as of 12/18) — down from 4.0, #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 current numbers tell us that the defense is still OK for the season (though worsening by the game lately), and the offense continues to struggle and decline. Right now, the Cs stand at: #3 on D, #18 on O, #8 overall, for the full season. (But the direction of change of all the numbers is wrong.)

    About future direction....
  • 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? When we compare the Cs' most-recent results to their full season record, we see that:
    • In their last 15 games, the Cs' offense and defense have both declined significantly (O to 102.9/#22 in NBA; D to 102.4/#11) and their overall Net Rating was only +0.4 in that span, equivalent to #15 in the league — much lower than their full-season mark (of +3.5/#8).
    • These numbers imply that the Celtics are smack in the middle of a severe downturn now, on all fronts.
  • The main OARs (Opponent-Adjusted Ratings) are also indicating a downward turn. The slope of the raw Net OARs trend line (green line below) is now clearly negative, indicating that the Cs overall performance compared to league averages is in decline.
[All games included: from #1 PHI thru #27 ATL]

Notes & Ruminations:

  • On O, careless basketball led to 22 turnovers by the Celtics, compared to only 13 by the Hawks.
  • On D, the Hawks waltzed into the paint almost at will, using simple pick-and-rolls and backdoor cuts against which the Cs offered little resistance. Once again, carelessness was the order of the day.
  • Jae Crowder had a great game scoring the ball, and seemed to care (like he always does). He was one of the few.
  • Kelly Olynyk came into the game in the 2nd half and was a fouling and turnover machine. (He's been doing that a lot lately.)
  • David Lee missed a bunch of 0-3-footers AGAIN in this game. He's really, really bad at those.
    • I realize that almost everyone loves and lauds Brad Stevens as a great coach — but this team is one loss away from .500 and is falling apart in game after game before our eyes — not only on offense like before, but just as badly on defense lately. Questions need to be asked about why this is happening, and they should include the coaching. (E.g., the defensive schemes in this ATL game seemed wholly inadequate.)
    • KG and Minny are next, on Monday in the Garden. Stevens has three days to right the ship.

    Green Stats runs after Celtics games, right here, usually within ~ 1 to 20 hours of the final horn. Note: Some posts will be (much) longer than others. Also, some games may be skipped altogether.
    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: Charles Krupa/AP

    Follow DRJ on Twitter @DRJ_CsNStats

    DRJ 12/19/2015 12:45:00 AM Edit
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