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Deciphering the Celtics

The Celtics turned a run-of-the-mill Wednesday game in Charlotte into a pivotal moment in their struggle for relevancy in the NBA East. Why pivotal? The Cs closed the holes that had recently cracked wide open in their interior defense and won in convincing fashion with overall-excellent D and average (even kinda low) shooting stats.

I.e., Boston's victory came NOT because of unsustainably hot shooting (as in their last game, vs. MIN) — they won with decent, unspectacular shooting and effective execution of solid, steady defense. More specifically, the Cs dropped the quasi-zone defensive stance that had proven so disastrous in recent games (ATL, DET, even MIN) and went back to reliable 1-on-1 D with rotating help. And it worked like it's supposed to work, as the Green did a much-improved job.of controlling CHA's points in the paint.

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

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Cs' Off. & Def. Efficiency Ratings vs. Charlotte – Dec 23 2015:

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Cs’ Offensive Rating for this game = 106.2 (pts scored per 100 possessions) — equivalent to the #5 offense in the league.
  • BOS' overall FG% was only 42.4% and the 3pt% was a lousy 24.1%. But that's GOOD news for the Cs — because it means that this relatively easy win was achieved mostly with great defense, which has been notably absent in recent games. Defense is sustainable; hot shooting is not.
  • Prior to this game, CHA's defense was rated #10 in the league (Def.Rtg. = 102.2) — solid D.
  • Versus the Cs, CHA's D performed like the #21 defense in the league (106.2 Def.Rtg.) — substantially worse than their season average.
Cs’ Defensive Rating for this game = 92.7 (pts allowed per 100 possessions) — equivalent to the league's #1 (!!) defense this season.
  • It's not easy to beat the Spurs' extremely stingy average Def.Rtg. this season, but the Cs did it in this one, against a team that's top-10 on both offense and defense — one of only five teams in the NBA who can currently boast that kind of record. (The 5 teams are: GSW, SAS, CLE, IND, CHA.)
  • Coming into this game, the Hornets' offense was rated #9 in the league (Off.Rtg. = 105.5) — very good.
  • The Cs' D held CHA's O to a level equivalent to the league's #30 (!!) offense (92.7 Off.Rtg.) — much, much worse than their season average. Boston took a top-10 NBA offense and made em look like the worst O in the league. There's something to write home about.
Pace: Each team had 96 possessions – somewhat lower than the Cs' season average (98.5 – #4 in NBA). League average = 96.0/game.
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Referees: Grade: A. Observations: There was only 1 bad call noted — and several excellent tough calls. Monty McCutchen (#13), Courtney Kirkland (#61) and Eli Roe (#44) did a great job.
  • At ~10:23 of the 2nd quarter, Monty McCutchen (#13) called a traveling violation on Jeremy Lamb, in error. Lamb took two steps after gathering the ball post-dribble, then jumped off one leg and passed while in the air. Perfectly legal. It may sound repetitive because we report so many wrong travel calls — but we write what happens, and what too-often happens, in almost every NBA game, is that referees simply CANNOT SEE the details of plays happening at the real-time speed of most potential traveling violations. I.e., humans cannot do this job. It remains a mystery why the NBA continues to pretend that they can, when all evidence says they can't — certainly not well enough. The solution is clear and obvious: make all travel calls reviewable via the remote video system already in place in every NBA arena. Let's stop getting these calls so wrong so often.
  • We gotta give the refs credit when it's due: on multiple occasions, they correctly called plays where verticality was an issue inside the restricted area. Very impressive! (Also, we loved the way they didn't fall for Lin's flop at ~4:04 of the 3rd quarter. Note: Monty McCutchen was right on top of that play. Kudos.)
  • There was one egregious no-call when Tyler Zeller got hammered under the rim in the middle of the 4th quarter — which, together with the missed travel call, is why there's no A+ grade on this altogether excellently-officiated game.
  • Note: The Charlotte crowd loudly complained about several foul calls. They were wrong every time.

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Where do the Celtics stand now?

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After the Hornets game...
  • The Cs' full-season Defensive Rating = 100.0 — #2 in the league as of 12/23. Pre-game it was 100.3: #3. (League best = Spurs @ 94.7. League avg = 104.5)
  • The Cs' full-season Offensive Rating = 104.3 (pts/100-possessions) — #17 in the league as of 12/23. Pre-game it was 104.2: #17. (League best = Warriors @ 115.0. League avg = 104.5)
  • The Cs' full-season Net Rating = +4.2, #5 in the NBA (as of 12/23) — up from 3.9, #5.
[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.]
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Future direction...
  • LAST 10-15 GAMES =>> 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:
    • In the last 15 games, the Offensive Rating declined (to 102.9—#25 in NBA); the Defensive Rating improved slightly (to 99.2—#2); and the overall Net Rating dropped a little to +3.7 (equivalent to #7 in the league) in that span.
    • In the last 10 games, the Offensive Rating declined (to 102.9—#25); the Defensive Rating worsened somewhat (to 101.2—#5); and the overall Net Rating dropped significantly to +1.7 (equivalent to #12 in the league) in that span.
    • All in all, these numbers suggest that the Celtics' defense is getting steadier, the offense is still in a bit of a downturn, and overall the Cs appear to be at a turning point. We'll soon see which way they go, but they have already succeeded in turning a corner away from the negative flow of the last 1-2 weeks.
  • The main OARs (Opponent-Adjusted Ratings) are now roughly flat. The slope of the raw Net OARs trend line is approximately 0, indicating that the Cs' overall performance is no longer declining relative to league averages. (This would be consistent with a turning point.)
  • The Cs' season average OARs are: Offensive OAR = 105.8 (better than the Cs' standard Offensive Rating average of 104.3); Defensive OAR = 97.3 (better than the standard Defensive Rating average of 100.0); Net OAR = +8.5 (better than the current standard Net Rating of +4.2 for the season so far). These season-average OAR numbers only indicate that the Celtics are beating league averages — something we already know (but still good to see corroborated in the OARs). The key aspect of the OARs is the slope of the trend line (green line in graph) because that tells us whether or not the Cs are improving over time, relative to league averages. That line had a negative slope recently, and just turned ~flat. Progress.

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Notes & Ruminations:

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  • The Hornets scored 34 points in the paint — 38% of their total — a significant improvement over the Celts' recent results (MIN = 57%, ATL = 62%, CLE = 49%). The Cs' interior D can get better, but there's no denying the improvement over their recent in-the-paint defensive debacles.
  • David Lee's bunnies went in!
  • Kelly Olynyk's 1-handed monster dunk! — sure to make every highlight reel. Watch the bench as it goes down — everyone there looks like some monster shock wave hit em at the same time.
  • Notwithstanding that terrific KO dunk, our fav play came after the ball bounced out of bounds at ~11:38 of the 3rd quarter, and it was Celtics' ball. Immediately after play stopped for the out-of-bounds, both Jae Crowder and Kelly Olynyk could be seen looking intently in the direction of Brad Stevens on the bench. (Brad was not visible.) When play resumed a few seconds later, Kelly executed a PERFECT back-screen on Batum, freeing Jae under the rim for an easy layup. The quick and easy communication with the bench and the simple perfection of that play — plus the fact that it's exactly the kind of thing that can be repeated as needed going forward — made it #1 in my book.
  • Evan Turner thoroughly SUCKED in the first half of this game, throwing the ball away twice and taking another of his hopeless threes. Stevens mercifully took him out soon after his various embarrassments — and when he returned in the second half he was all better. No more TOs. No dribbling behind his back in traffic. (We are grateful for all favors, however small.)
  • Detroit's next, on Saturday. It should be a good test — especially for the defense, which went AWOL ~a week ago in the same city.

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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, and some games may be skipped altogether.
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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 +...


Follow DRJ on Twitter @DRJ_CsNStats

DRJ 12/24/2015 01:18:00 AM Edit
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