Celtics take small step forward / BOS 113 – MIN 99 / Green Stats analysis
Celtics fans must have felt a little uneasy about the 7-point lead their team held at halftime — given that BOS had hit 8 threes by then (on 14 attempts: 57%) and shot 52% overall. The focus of that uneasiness might well have been the Wolves' extremely easy penetration of, and scoring in the paint — MIN had 26 paint-points at halftime, 56 total for the game (on 28/49 shooting).
I.e., though the Celtics ended up with a good-looking Defensive Rating for this game, they did little to shore up their recent interior vulnerability. Minny scored more than half their points inside, and with relative ease. It's a problem the Cs must address.
Here are details on the game, and where the club stands now...
Cs' Off. & Def. Efficiency Ratings vs. Minnesota – December 21 2015:
Cs’ Offensive Rating for this game = 114.3 (pts scored per 100 possessions) — equivalent to the #2 offense in the league. Hot shooting + weak opposing defense => great-looking Off.Rtg.
Prior to this game, MIN's defense was rated #18 in the league (Def.Rtg. = 105.6) — mediocre or slightly worse.
Versus the Cs, MIN's D performed like the #30 defense in the league (114.3 Def.Rtg.) — much worse than their season average.
Cs’ Defensive Rating for this game = 100.1 (pts allowed per 100 possessions) — equivalent to the league's #3 defense this season.
Coming into this game, the Timberwolves' offense was rated #15 in the league (Off.Rtg. = 104.7) — mediocre.
The Celts' D held MIN's O to a level equivalent to the league's #28 offense (100.1 OffRtg) — much worse than their season average.
Pace: Each team had 99 possessions – almost identical to the Cs' season average to date (98.5 – #4 in NBA). League average = 96.0/game.
Referees:Grade:B-. Observations: There were 3 bad calls noted...
At ~3:50 of the 1st quarter, David Guthrie (#16) whistled a foul on Kelly Olynyk on a play of which Guthrie's vision was clearly blocked, and in which there was no significant contact of any kind. As Gorman said at the time — he guessed, and guessed wrong. This business of guessing when you haven't seen the play should not be tolerated from pro refs.
At ~7:12 of the 2nd quarter, RJ Hunter shot a jumper as the shot-clock was winding down, and slammed into his defender's body in the most obvious foul you can imagine — and all three refs swallowed their whistles. We don't usually mention no-calls (because they're so ubiquitous), but this was too egregious to overlook. Unbelievable, actually.
At ~1:52 of the 2nd quarter, Tony Brothers (#25) called a traveling violation on Isaiah Thomas in error. As usual with travel calls, the play LOOKED funny, but replay showed that Thomas' pivot foot hit the ground after the ball left his hand for a pass. There was no traveling on that play, and Brothers — who should know better — just added to the epidemic of bad travel calls in the NBA. It is impossible for the human eye to discern events happening at the speed of this kind of play, where the difference between a violation and a legal play is literally 1/10 of a second or less. Why does the NBA continue to pretend that its referees can do this? They obviously can't. No human can. The obvious solution is to stop the charade and make all travel calls subject to instant review by the remote camera facility that's already in place.
Those were the days...
Where do the Celtics stand now?
After the MIN game, the Cs' full-season Defensive Rating = 100.3 — #3 in the league as of 12/21. Pre-game it was the same. (League best = Spurs @ 94.7. League avg = 104.4.)
After the MIN game, the Cs' full-season Offensive Rating = 104.2 (pts/100-possessions) — #17 in the league as of 12/21. Pre-game it was 103.8: #18. (League best = Warriors @ 115.0. League avg = 104.4.)
After the MIN game, the Cs' full-season Net Rating = +3.9, #6 in the NBA (as of 12/21) — up from 3.5, #8.
[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.]
LAST 15 GAMES REVIEW =>> 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 that:
In their last 15 games, the Cs' offense and defense have both declined (O to 103.3/#23 in NBA; D to 101.3/#6) and their overall Net Rating was +2.1 in that span, equivalent to #10 in the league — lower than their full-season mark (of +3.9/#6).
These numbers imply that the Celtics are still in a downturn, on all fronts.
The main OARs (Opponent-Adjusted Ratings)are also still indicating a downward turn. The slope of the raw Net OARs trend line (in green) remains negative, indicating that the Cs overall performance compared to league averages is still in decline — though less so than before the MIN game.
Notes & Ruminations:
RJ Hunter was a minor hero in this one. It wasn't just his great half-court shot right before halftime — it's his hustle on both ends, and his BBIQ that we love. Kid needs a chance to bloom.
Zeller was great again. In his quiet, calm way, Tyler seems every bit as good now as he was last season. PT?
Some vexing vexations noted in this game:
The Cs missed 10 different easy shots at the rim (0-2 feet): Lee x4, Zeller x2, Jerebko x2, Crowder, Hunter. This has become habitual for David Lee, by far the worst offender — but it seemed to stop after he'd been on the court awhile. Is it a question of PT?
Kelly Olynyk's defense was sometimes weirdly apathetic. Minny players literally walked around him at times, for easy layups. What's up with that, Kelly?
Evan Turner remains addicted to dribbling behind his back in the middle of heavy traffic in the paint. This is CRAZINESS — and somebody needs to sit down with him and show him some video. This really has to stop. I'm amazed that Stevens allows him to play as he continues to do this one thing.
The Cs won with 48% 3-point shooting and 52% FG% overall (against some pretty-weak MIN defense). That's great — but it begs the question of sustainability.
Zach Lavine sure is impressive. Haven't seen anybody move that quickly since... Avery Bradley? Nah, Lavine's even faster than AB. And he's a natural scorer. He's not a great defender right now/yet, but he clearly has the tools. Interesting?
Thank you KG, and thank you Gino.
Charlotte's next, on Wednesday, in N. Carolina. Cs'll need better interior D for sure (and a few layup drills for Lee might help).
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.
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.)