Celtics douse Heat in timely, important win / Green Stats analysis

The Celtics in Miami came back from the disappointment of the night before to answer some of the questions that had begun to shadow the team. They won with solid defense (that often fed the offense — the hallmark of Green wins, if there is one) and aggressive-but-patient offense in the face of one of the league's toughest defenses.

This was an important win for Boston, against a major conference rival (and on the second night of a back-to-back). It comes at a critical juncture for the team. After several ups and downs, questions were forming about whether or not the Cs had it in them to maintain elite-level performance in this league.

A game like this offers some real answers — because this was not a lucky win on the back of some crazy-good shooting; it was, rather, exactly the kind of solid, defense-based performance that contenders use to win more games than the other guys.

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


Cs' Off. & Def. Efficiency Ratings vs. MIA – Nov 30, 2015:


Cs’ Offensive Rating for this game = 114.1 (pts scored per 100 possessions) — equivalent to the #2 offense in the NBA this season. Great work by an offense that has needed to prove itself all season.
  • Prior to this game, MIA's defense was rated #3 in the league (DefRtg = 97.9 ) — one of the league's best (a little ahead of the Cs, actually, before the game). Versus the Cs, MIA's much-vaunted D performed like the #30 (!) defense in the league. So there...

Cs’ Defensive Rating for this game = 103.3 (pts allowed per 100 possessions) — equivalent to the league's #14 defense this season. DWade alone prevented these defensive numbers from being much better — but it was a very solid effort on D nonetheless, with 15 steals helping to feed the offense into monsterhood.
  • Coming into this game, the Heat's offense was rated #20 in the league (102.8 Off.Rtg.): mediocre. The Cs' D let MIA perform like the #16 offense in the league, as the numbers lay. Yeoman work, nevertheless.

Pace: Each team had 92 possessions – quite a bit slower that the Cs' average for the season (98.7 – #5 in NBA). League average = 96.4 .

Refs: Grade: A. Observations: James Capers (#19), Steve Anderson (#35), and James Williams (#60) refereed this game — and for the first time in a longgg time, it looked like we were going to have a "perfect game" from the refs, as there were NO bad calls of any kind through ~47 minutes! Do you know how rare that is? They had many challenges, many tough calls (travels, off/def fouls, out-of-bounds, etc.) — and got every one of them right. Amazing.
  • But then, at 1:08 of the 4th quarter, referee Steve Anderson called a foul on Amir Johnson as he and Chris Bosh fought for a rebound with the outcome of the game still in question. We don't normally point out apparent judgment calls like this, but this one was egregious, as there was no way to rationally call a foul on Amir as opposed to Bosh, or vice versa. (If anything, Bosh reached over Amir to get to the ball, forcing Amir to the floor — but there was a lot of jostling all around.) So either swallow your whistle and see who comes up with the ball, or call a jump ball. The foul call on Amir was ridiculous.
  • This was the FIFTH game in a row with good officiating. It's getting more and more amazing. (Of course, we will continue to closely track the officiating in every game, because gee — it seems like that could be helping to keep them in line.)
Thanks and allegiance


Where do the Cs stand now?


  • Celts' pre-game Defensive Rating was 98.9 (pts allowed/100-possessions) — #4 in the NBA.
  • After the Heat game, the Cs' Defensive Rating = 99.2 — still #4 in the league (as of 11/30). Cs' D remains in elite territory.
  • [The Spurs have the league's best Def.Rtg. right now @ 94.9, while the Bucks' D is at the bottom @ 112.4. League average = 103.8.]

  • After the Heat game, the Cs' Offensive Rating = 103.7 (pts/100-possessions) — #15 in the league as of 11/30. Pre-game it was 103.2: ~#18. (Note: #14 thru #22 are tightly packed, all within 1 point of each other.)
  • [Golden State leads the league in Off.Rtg. @ 115.6; PHI is at the bottom with 93.0. League average = 103.8.]

  • After this game, Cs' Net Rating = +4.6, #6 in the NBA (as of 11/30) — up from +4.2 (#7).
  • [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 going strong as usual, while the offense just took a turn to the upside. A couple more games like MIA, and the O could be back in the Top-10. Right now, the Cs are: #4 on D, #15 on O, #6 overall.
  • The general direction of the OARs (Opponent-Adjusted Ratings) is positive, indicating that the Cs are still, on average, beating expectations (based on opponents' strengths). To reach full "elite" status, the Cs need ~2-3 more games like MIA.
Here is the latest graph of the Celtics' Running Net OARs. It shows how their season average Net Opponent-Adjusted Rating has fared game after game (from 10/30-TOR). The positive slope of the (green) trend line indicates that the Cs are generally continuing to improve in their outperformance of league averages.


Notes & Ruminations:

  • We saw no missed layups in this game. Huge relief for the Cs, who were having an epidemic of missed bunnies heretofore.
  • With 15 steals and 19 opponent turnovers in the game, the Cs further extended their league-leading steal rate of 11.3 steals/game and STL% of 11.5% (percentage of opponent possessions that end in a steal), as well as their league-leading opponent turnover rate of 19.2 TOs/game and TOV% of 17.1% (percentage of opponent possessions that end in a TO). If anyone suspects that the Celtics aren't really for real — just take a good look at these numbers. The Cs aren't just leading the league, they're leading by far.
  • Cs generated 24 points from MIA's 19 turnovers. This is one of the keys to the Celtics being able to field a good offense: points fed by the defense. (Note: MIA scored 17 points off the Green's 16 TOs.)
  • It's mystifying why Evan Turner from time to time continues to hang around in corners offensively, waiting for an open three. EVAN: YOU CAN'T HIT THE THREE! YOU'RE 4-29 – 13.8%! We suggest practice. A lot of it. When you can hit 75% of your practice threes, you can try again in a game. Till then: NO THREES FOR YOU! (But yes, you did have the play of the night.*)
  • *The play of the night goes to Evan Turner, who, with the Celtics nursing a 6-point lead and less than 40 seconds left in the game, faced off mano a mano against Dwayne Wade near the top of the key. As Evan dribbled the shot clock down, you could just hear The Good, The Bad And The Ugly theme swelling in the background. And then, with just ~6 seconds left on the shot clock, ET drove right past his defender with the greatest of ease for a beautiful reverse layup — that just about sealed the Heat's fate. Evan Turner in the open field, determined to get to the rim, is as dangerous as anyone in the league (not named James). When a guy can do things like this, I suppose a few missed threes is a small price to pay.
  • Avery Bradley is on an incredible tear lately, on offense. Right before our eyes, he's turning into an uber-reliable go-to guy when the team needs points. Though his handle is still sometimes shaky, AB's shot is truly dead-eye lately. Just for kicks, here are his shooting numbers for this game: FG%=60%!, eFG%=70%!, TS%=74.6%! If those were season numbers, they'd be historic.
  • This was a great win against a tough contender. Next time we see the boys, they'll be in Mexico City of all places, on Thursday, facing Rajon Rondo and his band of marginally-crazed Kings. Welp....'What do we live for but to make sport for our neighbors, and laugh with them in our turn?'

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.
Efficiency ratings source for comps: Basketball-reference.com. Misc: RealGM.com

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

Photo: Joe Skipper/AP

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