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As Mr. Russell was putting the wraps on his 13-year dynasty in the spring of 1969, the Boston Celtics’ 35-year-old player-coach trudged through 46 minutes of duty per game in an 18-game playoff run to a championship – his captain’s post-season playing time measured a smidgeon higher.

This approach to the distribution of labor reflects the traditional mindset of basketball folk – when it matters most, you want your studs on the court. DNP’s rise as coaches tighten their playing rotations.

In a long season such as the NBA’s – and while teams are expected to “play to win the game” every night – an organization’s brain trust must juggle its need/responsibility to compete with longer term goals like the development (in game situations) of its more inexperienced players and the grooming of the squad for a potentially lengthy playoff challenge.

What frequently occurs in the second quarter of an NBA game is that the court is transformed into a laboratory in which second-stringers get some OJT. Numerous youngsters have raised the hopes of a fan base with eye-popping performances during these sessions, only to discover that success on a basketball court doesn’t come quite so easily during the home-stretch of a ballgame.

During last year’s playoffs, current Celtic mentor Brad Stevens showed himself to be cut from a different, more “modern” cloth when it comes to the use of his roster when things matter most – he’ll pick his spot to start a rook like Jaylen Brown, then turn to an old-head like Gerald Greene when a little more savvy seems required.

Based on the first couple of weeks of this season, Coach continues to utilize his roster – even his “starters” – less rigidly and more situationally. To date, 14 players have seen action, eight have gotten a starting nod. Nine different players – 10 if we count Shane Larkins’s rounded-up PT in the Philly win – have logged 20+ minutes in a ballgame, six at least 30 (a handful of whom can lay claim to a 35-minute effort).

Even with a new cast of characters, the C’s wily young mentor seems to be grooming a deep and diverse rotation of role players to mix and match in this chase for a championship. It remains to be seen how many can be true “closers” when Week 26 rolls around.

Trends of a Fortnight

The Celts and their foes commit just about the same number of Turnovers in each of the first three quarters, but the bad guys waste about one more Q4 possession per game than we do.

Turnovers (inc. Team TO’s) thru 7 games 
Bos – Q1: 26 / Q2 30 / Q3 29 / Q4 19 
Opp – Q1: 26 / Q2 31 / Q3 28 / Q4 25 

Both the C’s and the opposition (94-74) take more three-point shots in the second half than in the first. But Boston’s rate of accuracy for treys rises in the second half while their defense induces poorer marksmanship from distance. In third quarters alone, Boston is 22 for 47 (.468) to a paltry 11 for 50 (.220).

Three-point Shooting thru 7 games
Bos – First Half 26-94, .277 / Second Half 45-108, .417 
Opp – First Half 28-76, .368 / Second Half 25-94, .266 

Through seven games, the Celtics have misfired on 229 FGA’s while tracking down 87 Offensive Rebounds. The opposition has missed 227 shots and snatched 80 OR’s. While it is said that a tie is like kissing your sister, this virtual deadlock should be viewed as substantial improvement for a team that had been outperformed last season to the tune of 138 caroms off the offensive glass.

Offensive Rebounds thru 7 games
Bos – Q1: 17 + 5 (team) / Q2 20 + 6 (team) / Q3 18 + 2 (team) / Q4 16 + 3 (team)
Opp – Q1: 19 + 5 (team) / Q2 13 + 2 (team) / Q3 11 + 7 (team) / Q4 16 + 7 (team) 

Field goal shooting – Boston .438, Opponents .435 – has been slightly below the league average of .451. And thankfully, the Celtics horrid opening-week FT performance (52 for 78, .667) soared to a more respectable .835 (76 for 91) during Weeks 2’s four victories.

The Algebra of the Game

1st Quarter
FG: C’s – 69-154, .448 / Opp – 66-157, .420
3FG: C’s – 11-39, .282 / Opp – 14-41, .341
FT: C’s – 29-34, .853 [12] / Opp – 20-28, .714 [10]
TO: C’s – 26 / Opp – 26
OR: C’s – 17 + 5 (team) / Opp – 19 + 5 (team)
Poss: C’s – 169 / Opp – 169
CV%: C’s – 81 / 169, .479 / Opp – 76 / 169, .450

2nd Quarter
FG: C’s – 60-154, .390 / Opp – 62-139, .446
3FG: C’s – 15-55, .273 / Opp – 14-35, .400
FT: C’s – 22-34, .647 [14] / Opp – 29-39, .744 [17]
TO: C’s – 30 / Opp – 31
OR: C’s – 20 + 6 (team) / Opp – 13 + 2 (team)
Poss: C’s – 172 / Opp – 172
CV%: C’s – 74 / 172, .430 / Opp – 79 / 172, .439

Baynes and Theis moonlighting?
3rd Quarter
FG: C’s – 66-138, .478 / Opp – 56-143, .392
3FG: C’s – 22-47, .468 / Opp – 11-50, .220
FT: C’s – 34-48, .708 [20] / Opp – 23-35, .657 [14]
TO: C’s – 29 / Opp – 28
OR: C’s – 18 + 2 (team) / Opp – 11 + 7 (team)
Poss: C’s – 167 / Opp – 167
CV%: C’s – 86 / 167, .515 / Opp – 70 / 167, .419

4th Quarter
FG: C’s – 61-139, .439 / Opp – 68-140, .486
3FG: C’s – 23-61, .377 / Opp – 14-44, .318
FT: C’s – 43-53, .811 [24] / Opp – 35-44, .795 [20]
TO: C’s – 19 / Opp – 25
OR: C’s – 16 + 3 (team) / Opp – 16 + 7 (team)
Poss: C’s – 162 / Opp – 162
CV%: C’s – 85 / 162, .525 / Opp – 88 / 162, .543

Full Game
FG: C’s – 256-585, .438 / Opp – 252-579, .435
3FG: C’s – 71-202, .351 / Opp – 53-169, .314
FT: C’s – 128-169, .762 [70] / Opp – 107-146, .733 [61]
TO: C’s – 104 / Opp – 110
OR: C’s – 71 + 16 (team) / Opp – 59 + 21 (team)
Poss: C’s – 670 / Opp – 670
CV%: C’s – 326 / 670, .487 / Opp – 313 / 670, .467

Note re Calculations:
The number of “possessions” is an accurate count, not a formula-based estimated value.

For purposes of clarity, the bracketed digit following the FT% is the exact count of “conversions” represented by those FTA’s.

“Possessions” calculation: FGA’s + FT conversions + TO’s – OR’s (including Team OR’s)
“Conversions” calculation: FG’s + FT conversions

Abacus Revelation for the Road 

I genuinely appreciate the encouragement and especially the constructive criticism that’s been offered in the Comment sections of these “Algebra” pieces. I’m trying to conjure up ways to make this notion a bit more user-friendly. Suggestions quite welcome!

How ‘bout some opinion on this relatively common basketball situation?

When the offensive team rebounds a missed free throw, has the prior possession been extended – or should the subsequent “play” (whether it be a “stop” or another conversion) be considered a separate Possession? (Except for the ending of a Quarter, does the opposing team have to acquire possession of the ball in order for a “Possession” to officially conclude?)

Abacus Reveals 11/03/2017 07:19:00 PM Edit
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