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Deciphering the Celtics

When the Celtics eked out a tie after one quarter, you might have reasonably concluded that the Bulls were gonna be toast, as the Cs early on missed almost every non-point-blank shot (and some that were point blank), while allowing Chicago to take WIDE OPEN jumpers from pretty much everywhere. Obviously, the Celts would tighten up and blow these guys away, right?

Didn't happen. This was a tough game, almost to the end. Cs just kept missing shots, and the Bulls just kept coming back. Bar Fight.

One guy, Avery Bradley, dragged the whole team's offense down, as he went 0-6 from deep and contributed 3 turnovers to boot. In the end, the overall offense registered a mediocre performance compared to league averages*, and the Green relied on their elite-level defense to win this game.

Isaiah Thomas came up huge in the second half, after a weak start. You could see why we think he needs to lead the Cs against the Warriors on Friday. He's such a critical linchpin. (See the special post — How the Celtics can beat the Warriors: Stats & plans — on Thursday, for the full story.)

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

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Cs' Off. & Def. Efficiency Ratings vs. Chicago – December 9 2015:

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Cs’ Offensive Rating for this game = 105.0 (pts scored per 100 possessions) — equivalent to the #14 offense in the NBA this season. *This is mediocre compared to league averages. But when you take into account that the Bulls have the 3rd best-rated defense in the league — the Cs' offense in this game appears more impressive.
  • Prior to this game, CHI's defense was rated #3 in the league (DefRtg = 99.5) — excellent. 
  • In their last 15 games**, the Bulls' Def.Rtg. has been a little worse than their full-season rating, at ~100.4, equivalent to #5 in the NBA.
  • Versus the Cs, CHI's D performed like the #20 defense in the league (105.0 DefRtg). Here we can see how relative to the defense they were facing, the Cs' O actually performed quite well. (This is where the OARs (Opponent-Adjusted Ratings) come in handy, btw.)
Cs’ Defensive Rating for this game = 100.0 (pts allowed per 100 possessions) — equivalent to the league's #5 defense this season. But the Bulls' offense is not very strong, so this is a little less impressive than it seems.
  • Coming into this game, the Bulls' offense was rated #26 in the league (100.1 Off.Rtg.) — bad.
  • In their last 15 games**, the Bulls' offense has been almost identical to their full-season record (Off.Rtg ~100.0).
  • The Cs' D held CHI's O to a level equivalent to the league's #27 offense (100.0 OffRtg). A very good, if not great performance on D.
  • Note: There's no question that the ability to force opponent turnovers is the most potent aspect of Boston's defense.
Pace: Each team had 100 possessions – a little faster than the Cs' average for the season to date (98.4 – #5 in NBA). League average = 96.4/game.
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Referees: Grade: B+. Observations: There were no egregiously bad calls noted, just some missed/bad calls of the standard kind.
  • At 3:57 of the 1st quarter, referee Curtis Blair (#74) whistled Amir Johnson for fouling Pau Gasol — replay showed that Pau hooked Amir, creating the contact. Bad call.
  • At 0:41.4 of the 2nd quarter, Tony Brown (#6) called another foul on Amir for contact with a rebounding Butler. Didn't happen.
  • At 0:10.6 of the 3rd quarter, Kelly Olynyk was whistled by Scott Foster (#48) for a foul while defending against a Butler layup, even though KO jumped straight up. (Not sure you can blame the refs anymore, though, given the bad/silly/obvious fouls KO legitimately commits.)

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Where do the Cs stand now?

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**Note: We've added last-15-games data to the analyses of the Celtics and their opponents. Reason: to catch new trends well before they can be seen in full-season stats.

DEFENSE:
  • After the Bulls game, the Cs' full-season Defensive Rating = 99.47 — #2 in the league, as of 12/9-10. Pre-game it was 99.44: #2.
  • The Cs' defensive record over their last 15 games is a little worse than their full-season record — Def.Rtg. ~100.2, equivalent to ~#5 in the NBA.
  • [League best full season Def.Rtg.= Spurs @ 93.9 | Worst= Pelicans @ 111.1 | League avg. = 104.1.]
OFFENSE:
  • After the Bulls game, the Cs' full-season Offensive Rating = 104.9 (pts/100-possessions) — #14 in the league, as of 12/9. Pre-game it was the same: 104.9.
  • The Cs' offensive record over their last 15 games is significantly better than their full-season record, with Off.Rtg. ~106.7, equivalent to ~#5 (!) in the NBA.
  • [League best full season Off.Rtg.= Warriors @ 116.4 | Worst = Philly @ 93.2 | League avg. = 104.1.]
HOW ARE THEY DOING OVERALL, AND WHAT'S THE TREND?
  • After this game, Cs' full-season Net Rating = +5.5, #4 in the NBA (as of 12/9) — unchanged from pre-game.
  • [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 going strong as usual, and the offense is steadily (if not spectacularly) improving game after game. Right now, the Cs stand at: #2 on D, #14 on O, #4 overall, for the full season.
  • THIS IS NEW/SPECIAL =>> In their last 15 games, the Cs have registered a Defensive Rating equivalent to #5 in the NBA (100.2), an Offensive Rating equivalent to ~#5 (106.7),and a Net Rating of +6.6, equivalent to #4 in the NBA. I.e., when we look at Boston's most recent 15 games — typically a good indication of the direction in which the club is heading — we see that the Celtics were, in those contests, SOLIDLY IN ELITE TERRITORY on both offense (#5) and defense (#5) — and they earned an overall Net Rating (for those 15 games) that is significantly higher than their full-season mark, equivalent to the 4th best in the league (same relative position as their full-season mark), behind only: Warriors (+14.6), Spurs (+12.6) and OKC (+7.0).
  • All this indicates that the Cs are currently playing at an elite level (over their last 15 games), and are improving over time.
  • The general direction of the OARs (Opponent-Adjusted Ratings) remains positive, indicating that the Cs are, on average, beating league-average expectations (based on opponents' strengths). The slope of the OARs' trend line indicates that they're continuing to improve.
No daylight for you, Steph!
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Notes & Ruminations:

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  • This game was the definition of "winning ugly." It was annoying, torturous.... and great.
  • With 10 steals and 18 opponent turnovers in this game, the Cs continued their league-leading steal rate of 11.1/game and 11.0% STL% (percentage of opponent possessions that end in a steal) — as well as their league-leading opponent turnover rate of 18.8/game and 18.5% TOV% (percentage of opponent possessions that end in a TO). They're still way ahead of the rest of the league in both areas.
  • Celts had a rough shooting night, averaging 41.3% (38-92) overall and a miserable 21.7% (5-23) from deep — but a lot of that was due to Avery Bradley, who shot 0-6 from deep, 5-15 overall.
  • Sure hope Avery got all the bad shooting out of his system in this game. Don't you be doing that on Friday, AB!
  • We noticed a number of vexing vexations from the Celtics in this game, and thought it might be helpful to list some of them:
    • Olynyk pushed Noah hard at ~0:47 of the first quarter for no apparent reason, before the ball was inbounded (automatic 2 FTs): Why, Kelly? Don't you get enough fouls?
    • Why was Pau Gasol left WIDE OPEN for (at least) 3 baskets in a row in the first quarter? Don't the Cs know that he can make those 12-14 footers in his sleep?
    • Sully's been pretty loose with the rules lately — traveling multiple times, planting himself in the paint over and over for way longer than 3 seconds, etc. C'mon Sully, you know better than that.
    • How many times does Mirotic have to make his WIDE OPEN 3s before the Cs start guarding him? After all, the guy hits 36.4% of his wide open threes... ya know.
    • Cs missed a total of NINE easy shots ~0 feet from the rim. WHY?
    • Two Avery Bradley-related turnovers in a row at the end of the first half led to the Cs going into halftime with a 3-point deficit. Truth is: AB's been playing great (though not so much in this game) — but his ball handling skills have not evolved much. Cs need to let the team's true ball-handlers handle the ball.
  • Evan Turner loves to show off. That's what makes him lovable. How'd you like his 360-dunk move (Q2~7:35)? On the other hand, he also tried to dribble the ball behind his back while covered like glue by two defenders. Smh. Control thyself, Evan.
  • I've grown to love Coach Stevens' timeouts in the middle of possessions — usually with a guy dribbling on the perimeter. Cs always seem to come out with a great post-timeout play when he does that. (This time, though, with ~0:43 left in the game, the after-timeout play turned into a turnover. Can't win em all.)
  • Golden State is next! Klay Thompson is a near-certain sit-out for the game (they'd be nuts to let him play 3 days later). Are Cs gonna stop those guys?!? Look for the How the Celtics can beat the Warriors: Stats & plans article late Thursday. Are we having fun yet? Ha!

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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: Winslow Townson


Follow DRJ on Twitter @DRJ_CsNStats

DRJ 12/10/2015 01:44:00 AM Edit
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