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The Cs reportedly had a tough/energetic practice before their match vs. the young and talented Milwaukee Bucks Thursday night. It paid off. The defense was solid like 'in the old days' (though Greg Monroe still had it too easy too often in the paint), Amir Johnson got back to his beastly ways, every starter played well, and Isaiah Thomas was the star of the show at the end.

I.e., order has been restored to the Universe.

Even the refs were much improved this time — though Isaiah is still mysteriously not getting the foul calls he clearly deserves, no matter how hard he's hit. (At this rate, how long can he survive?)

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

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Cs' Off. & Def. Efficiency Ratings vs. Milwaukee – Feb 25 2016:

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Cs’ Offensive Rating for this game = 109.0 (pts scored per 100 possessions) — equivalent to the #6 offense in the NBA this season. The ball moved crisply most of the time — though less so when the bench was on.
  • Prior to this game, MIL's defense was rated #24 in the league (Def.Rtg. = 108.3) — not very good.
  • Versus the Cs, MIL's D performed like the #27 defense in the league (Def.Rtg. = 109.0).
Cs’ Defensive Rating for this game = 104.1 (pts allowed per 100 possessions) — equivalent to the league's #9 defense this season. Monroe was still too tough. Hey, here's a Big Idea: Make him a Celtic already.
  • Coming into this game, the Bucks' offense was rated #25 in the league (Off.Rtg. = 103.8) — weak.
  • The Cs' D held MIL's O to a level equivalent to the league's #25 offense (Off.Rtg. = 104.1) — ~MIL's season average.
Pace: Each team had 103 possessions – faster than the Cs' season average (98.7 – #3 in NBA). League average = 95.7/game.
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Referees: Grade: B-. Observations: The crew of John Goble (#30), Pat Fraher (#26) and J.T. Orr (#72), while not particularly consistent in their calls, were reasonably even-handed and made few actual errors. Their biggest problem were the no-calls, especially the many times Isaiah Thomas got HAMMERED on his drives with no whistle sounding. But — if no-calls are the biggest problem with an officiating crew, I call that a win for the fans. Gotta count your blessings (however small)...

Whereas we usually ignore most no-calls (unless we're doing a full-on indictment), some of the worst instances will be listed here. Reason: a pattern MAY be forming in the NBA of allowing Isaiah Thomas to be physically abused on the court. Let's just hope that's not happening.

First things first....
  • At ~8:31 of the 1st quarter, John Goble (#30) called a traveling violation on Isaiah Thomas, in error. The funny thing about it was that both Mike Gorman AND Tommy Heinsohn agreed with the call — AFTER VIEWING THE SLOW-MOTION REPLAY! Lol. These things are really, really hard to see in real time. Even in slow-motion, they'll fool you if you're not careful. The only way to see the truth is to look at individual frames of the event, one after the other. So let's do that, because this is actually very interesting, instructive, and fun...

    Here is the official video clip of the play as it happened, per NBA.com. (They don't provide the slow-motion replay, or anything else on the play.)

    It looks like IT took 3 steps, right? But actually, he did not travel according to NBA rules. What appears to be Isaiah's first step should NOT be counted in the post-dribble step count, because he is still gathering the ball as he takes that step. This is the key piece of information that Mike and Tommy and the refs all missed, as it happened so quickly.

    Below is the critical frame of the video which shows exactly where the ball was as Isaiah took his putative "first step." As you can see in the pic, he's already well into that step while he is literally "gathering the ball" into his post-dribble possession. His fingers are still spread open, and the ball is bouncing off his forearm. In the next few hundredths of a second, the ball becomes fully "gathered" — as Isaiah completes his step. This is the classic "gather" step which is NOT counted when determining whether or not a traveling violation occurred.

    Early gather step
    A "gather step" is considered part of the dribble in the NBA. A dribbling player is allowed to take 2 full steps AFTER THE GATHER. Isaiah did exactly that, and this was therefore not a travel.

    In this next frame, IT finishes his gather step, onto his right foot:
    Gather step ends
    Then he takes his first post-dribble step, onto his left foot:
    First post-dribble step
    Next is his 2nd post-dribble step, landing on his right foot:
    Second post-dribble step ends
    Finally, IT goes up for the scoring attempt off that last right-foot step:
    Final scoring attempt after 2 post-dribble steps
    All legal.

    The lesson? These calls cannot be accurately made by human beings in real time. To get them right, the NBA must institute a video review of all such off-the-dribble calls. (Travel calls on plays from the stationary position are much easier to make.) They certainly have the technology in place to do that.

  • At the very end of the 2nd quarter, Isaiah Thomas drove for a layup after a steal and was HAMMERED HARD TO THE GROUND by the defense — but no whistle. Here's the video clip. Question: Is Isaiah really becoming the NBA's pinata, to slam and abuse at will with no consequences? Because this is ridiculous.

  • At ~8:45 of the 3rd quarter, referee Pat Fraher (#26) incorrectly whistled a foul on Jae Crowder. The foul was called after Jae swiped down to try to knock the ball loose from Greg Monroe. Monroe moved his head and body as if he'd been hit, but slow-motion replay (not shown in the NBA.com clip) made it clear that the Jae's swipe did not touch Monroe at all. It was, effectively, a flop that worked. (Note: Jae also got a tech related to this play, apparently for forcefully throwing down a towel in frustration.) Here's the NBA's video clip (FWIW).

  • At ~7:49 of Q3, Isaiah got hammered again on a drive, with no call. Wth is going on?

  • At ~4:44 of Q3, Greg Monroe violently threw Sullinger to the ground as they both went for a rebound. Unbelievable, really. No call. Smh. Here's the video clip.

  • At ~2:42 of Q3, Jonas Jerebko was body-fouled hard while attempting a dunk — no call. Here's the video clip.

  • At ~0:22 of Q3, this play was ruled Boston ball; the video seemed to show Isaiah Thomas was last to touch the ball.
Note: The clips linked to here are provided by the NBA. They are not always optimal for viewing the errors referees made. You may need to see the original broadcast — usually Boston's is best — to get the best views.
Tech Note: NBA clips are finicky and don't work in all browsers. Chrome should work okay. Javascript must be enabled, ad blockers turned off, etc.
So there were only 3 actual referee errors noted (not counting no-calls) — one of which was shared by Mike and Tommy. This counts as good officiating these days.
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Where do the Celtics stand now?

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After the Bucks game...
  • Offensive Rating = 106.9 — # 9 in NBA. (Range: #9–#10 in a tight group.)
  • Defensive Rating = 102.9 — # 4 in NBA. (Range: #3–#8 in a tight group.)
  • Net Rating = +4.0 — # 7 in NBA.
Note: Ranges are given when the rankings of teams are so close, exact placement is effectively a tossup that can change with every game played.

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Notes & Ruminations:

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  • Though Greg Monroe was still hard to stop on the inside, overall the Cs' defense stepped up from their recent performances. This bodes well, because let's not forget that the D was actually quite aggressive and pretty-good in the Timberwolves game — though the numbers didn't reflect that. All in all, there's reason to believe that the Celtics can recapture their early-season defensive glory in time for the playoffs.
  • Meanwhile, the offense is sizzling — as it's been since the January 10 Memphis game when it took a quantum leap to its current new and much-improved level.
    • In the 23 games the Celts have played since January 10, their Offensive Ratings has averaged 111.5 — ~equivalent to 3rd best in the league. Howdoya like dem apples?!
  • I like this Bucks team. They've got some exciting, effective players. I'm not really in love with their coach... But it would sure be great to see some (or one) of those players in green.
  • All the Cs starters shined in this game. The bench — not so much. Evan Turner in particular looked tired. Oh well… it happens. You never know who's gonna step up for the Green.
    • Miami's next, Saturday afternoon in the Garden. Cya!

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    Green Trends is where we analyze the Celtics & identify emerging new trends — before they become obvious. Posts generally run within ~1-20 hours after Cs games.
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    Efficiency ratings source for comps: Basketball-reference.com. Misc: RealGM.com. (Note: Our formulas for pace and efficiency ratings are similar to those used by these sites, and most others — just a tad more accurate because we don't ignore team turnovers. NBA.com's numbers will differ, as they use different formulas.)

    For an intro to the advanced stats used in Green Trends (née Green Stats), see: Green Stats: Intro to advanced stats +...


    Follow Green Trends/DRJ on Twitter @DRJ_CsNStats

    DRJ 2/26/2016 03:32:00 AM Edit
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