Celtics reach Top-10 on BOTH offense (#9) & defense (#2) / Fun times / Green Stats analysis

Amazingly, the Celtics' offense has today reached Top-10 status in the NBA. Their defense has long been in the top 10, of course — it reached #2 in the league today, behind only the Spurs.

Here's what the Cs did in Friday's Nets game, and the details of their overall status right now....


Cs' Off. & Def. Efficiency Ratings vs. BKN – Nov 20 2015:


Cs’ Offensive Rating for this game = 119.1 (pts scored per 100 possessions) — equivalent to #1 in the NBA this season (or any season). This is the 5th game in a row in which the Cs' O has outperformed their season record, and expectations based on opponent strength. This now qualifies as a bona fide move up. It's real.
  • Prior to this game, BKN's defense was rated #25 in the league (DefRtg = 107.4) — pretty bad. The Cs' offense made the Nets' D look like the worst in the league. 'Nuf said.

Cs’ Defensive Rating for this game = 94.3 (pts allowed per 100 possessions) — equivalent to the league's #1 defense this season, and last season (and most other seasons).
  • Coming into this game, the Nets' offense was rated #29 in the league (99.4 Off.Rtg.). Their offensive performance was held to that same #29 level by the Cs. I.e. — Nets' O sucks, and it sucked again.
  • Note: Cs had 10 steals, and generated 20 turnovers in this game. They lead the league in both.

Pace: Each team had 101 possessions – a little faster than the Celtics' average of 98.9 prior to the game. [Cs now average 99 possessions/game, ~5th in the league. The league average is currently ~96.8.]

Refs: Grade: A-. Observations: There were only 3 somewhat egregious bad calls in this game, and a wonderfully low total number of fouls.
  • In the 2nd quarter, a goaltend was called on the Nets' T. Young when he batted away a Bradley layup attempt; replay showed it was a good block. These are extremely difficult calls for any human to make in real time. Unfortunately, the league allows video reviews of goaltending calls only in the last 2 minutes of a game and overtime. Since the refs are statistically only a little better than guessing on most of these, it's clear that they should ALL be video reviewable, at any point in a game. (Reviews can now be done in less than 15 seconds with the NBA's remote video review facility.)
  • At about 3:34 of the 4th quarter, Mike Callahan (#24) whistled Olynyk for supposedly fouling T. Robinson on the block. Didn't happen per review (but the angle shown was not perfect).
  • Finally, the crew (Callahan, Bennie Adams and Tyler Ford) called a tech on the Nets' M. Brown for... umm.... apparently for falling down and being part of a small, harmless pileup. Refs: please think "No Call" whenever possible.
Otherwise, this was a pleasantly-officiated game in which one didn't notice the refs very often at all. That's the way it should be, every time.

Where do we stand?

Where do the Cs stand now?


  • Celts' pre-game Def.Rtg. was 97.9 (pts allowed/100-possessions) — #4 in the NBA on 11/18 (rising to #2 on 11/19).
  • After the Nets game, Def.Rtg. = 97.6 — ~#2 in the league (as of 11/20). (The Spurs are #1 at 97.0 – just 0.6 away).
  • Note: Boston is averaging 19.6 opponent-turnovers per game, #1 in the NBA. Cs are also #1 in Defensive-TOV% (17.4%), and steals/game (11.7).
  • [The Spurs have the league's best Def.Rtg. right now @ 97.0, while the Bucks' D is at the bottom @ 111.4. League average = 103.9. Note: At this stage of the season, positions can still change substantially every night.]

  • Right now, after the Nets game, the Cs' Offensive Rating = 104.9 (pts/100-possessions) — ~#9 in the league (as of 11/20). Note: It may be #10 by 11/21, depending on the results of various games. [Pre-game it was 103.6: #15.*]
  • The offense has shown substantial (sometimes dramatic) improvement in the past 5 games. It's clear now that Boston's O has made a real and significant move upward. The Cs have now reached the Top-10 of NBA offenses — to go with their elite defense.
  • [Golden State leads the league in Off.Rtg. @ 114.2; PHI is at the bottom with 92.6. League average = 103.9. *Note: At this stage of the season, positions can still change substantially every night.]

  • After this game, Net Rating is now = +7.3, #3 in the NBA (as of 11/20) — up from +5.7 (#4). Note: This stat is the single best one in existence for measuring overall team performance. I.e., the Celtics are statistically the 3rd best team in the NBA. Only the Warriors (14.5) and Spurs (9.2) are ahead of them. Note: Cleveland's Net Rating is +7.2, just a hair lower than the Cs; these standings can be expected to bounce around a lot as the teams play on, this early in the season.
  • [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").] 
  • The numbers say that the defense is definitely elite (2nd best in NBA) AND still improving, while the offense is in the midst of a clear move upward, reaching ~#9 in the league (as of 11/20).
  • Any team with a 9th-best offense, 2nd-best defense, and 3rd-best Net Rating overall is by definition a contender in this league. Period.


Quick Notes:

  • Everybody had a good or great game in this one. Jae Crowder and Avery Bradley stood out with 19 and 21 points respectively, with Crowder adding 3 steals, and Bradley 2 steals. Isaiah had 18 pts and 9 assists. Amir shot 4-6 and added 4 assists. And on and on. Fun game.
  • Even Marcus Smart eked out a 40% FG%, plus 4 assists. Whew. Hopefully this is the beginning of a slump-ending move for his offense. Hope #2: that's just a minor knee tweak.
  • The Celtics clearly love playing with each other, and for their coach (and us, of course). That's a special thing that not many teams have — I can think of only two right now: Golden State and San Antonio. (Pretty good company.... I suppose.)
  • Who woulda thought the Cs would reach Top-10 status on both O and D, including the league's #2 defense? Who woulda believed Boston would be the statistical #3 team in the NBA? Of course, this is all gonna change — probably soon. Things could move up or down or both. But it sure is fun right now!
One more thing:
  • If you're wondering what is the point of all these numbers when all we really care about are W/L records and league standings — here it is: These are the stats that most accurately predict win-loss records and league standings. When we say: "Team X is statistically the 3rd best team in the league" — what we're actually saying is that (assuming the stats stay as they are) we can expect Team X to end up with the league's 3rd best record.... when all the dust has settled at season's end. [Of course, the stats will change, a lot. But at every point in time (after the very beginning), they're the best predictors we have.]

P.S. NBA.com – which uses different formulas for calculating possessions and Ratings – has the Celtics at #1 in Defensive Rating (95.0 – same as SA), and #14 in Offensive Rating (101.6 – within 0.7 of #9). We use the more-standard formulas that most independent sites use, because we think they're more accurate. But — it's six or one-half-dozen or the other at this point: Cs' offense is either at #9 or very close to it, depending on where you look, while the D is #2 (or tied for #1). Main thing is: the Celtics are doing very well and continually improving on both ends of the floor.

Green Stats runs an analysis 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.
Efficiency ratings source for comps: Basketball-reference.com. Misc: RealGM.com

For a brief intro to the advanced stats used here in Green Stats, see: Green Stats: Intro to advanced stats +...

Photo: Mark L. Baer/USA TODAY Sports

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