Celts win another defensive battle / Road warriors / Green Stats analysis

Deciphering the Celtics

Isaiah Thomas and Avery Bradley led their team to another road victory in a battle between two Top-10 NBA defenses in Charlotte. In the end, it was Boston's edge in turnovers (Celts allowed only 5, while Hornets lost the ball 11 times) and aggressive ball hawking that made the difference.

Charlotte is a tough team. Prior to this game, their record was 14-9, and they stood #2 in the East — plus they're one of only five teams in the league with a Top-10 offense and defense. (The others are: Spurs, Pacers, Warriors, Cavs.)

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


Cs' Off. & Def. Efficiency Ratings vs. Charlotte – December 12 2015:


Cs’ Offensive Rating for this game = 100.1 (pts scored per 100 possessions) — equivalent to the #28 offense in the NBA this season. CHA's D kept the Cs working hard to get points.
  • Prior to this game, CHA's defense was rated #7 in the league (Def.Rtg. = 101.2) — very good.
  • In their last 15 games (before this one), the Hornets' Defensive Rating has been significantly better than their full-season rating, at ~99.7, equivalent to #4 in the NBA.
  • Versus the Cs, CHA's D performed like the #2 defense in the league (97.7 DefRtg) — and that was reflected in the Green's weak Off.Rtg.
Cs’ Defensive Rating for this game = 95.0 (pts allowed per 100 possessions) — equivalent to the league's #2 defense this season. The Cs' defense kept them in this one with timely forced turnovers, blocks, and solid overall D.
  • Coming into this game, the Hornets' offense was rated #6 in the league (Off.Rtg. = 106.6) — very good.
  • In their last 15 games (before this one), the Hornets' Offensive Rating was just slightly better than their full-season record, at 106.9.
  • The Cs' D held CHA's O to a level equivalent to the league's #29 offense (95.0 OffRtg). Another EXCELLENT showing against a very good offense.
Pace: Each team had 98 possessions – almost equal to the Cs' average for the season to date (98.6 – #5 in NBA). League average = 96.2/game.

Referees: Grade: B+. Observations: There were no egregiously bad calls noted, and few fouls called altogether. Both sides suffered from a lot of missed calls, but those happen in every game; and besides — that's a pleasure compared to the opposite alternative. (And after the night before... this was a relief.)


Where do the Cs stand now?


  • After the Hornets game, the Cs' full-season Defensive Rating = 99.4#3 in the league, as of 12/12. Pre-game it was 99.6: #3.
  • The Cs' defensive record over their last 15 games is now a little worse than their full-season record — Def.Rtg. ~100.7, equivalent to ~#5 in the NBA.
  • [League best full season Def.Rtg.= Spurs (94.5) | Worst= NOL (111.2) | NBA avg. = 104.0.]
  • After the Hornets game, the Cs' full-season Offensive Rating = 104.3 (pts/100-possessions) — #15 in the league, as of 12/12. Pre-game it was ~104.5, #14.
  • The Cs' offensive record over their last 15 games is now somewhat better than their full-season record, with Off.Rtg. ~105.1, equivalent to ~#13 in the NBA.
  • [League best full season Off.Rtg.= Warriors (116.4) | Worst = PHI (93.4) | NBA avg. = 104.0.]
  • After this game, Cs' full-season Net Rating = +4.9, #5 in the NBA (as of 12/12) — about the same as pre-game.
  • [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"), and it is the single best measure we have for gauging overall performance.]
  • The numbers say that the defense is going very strong as usual, and the offense, which had been improving, seems now in limbo, awaiting direction. Right now, the Cs stand at: #3 on D, #15 on O, and #5 overall, for the full season.
  • NEW (last-15 recap) =>> In their last 15 games (including CHA), the Celts have registered a Defensive Rating equivalent to #5 in the NBA (100.7), an Offensive Rating equivalent to ~#13 (105.1), and a Net Rating of +4.4 — a little lower than their full-season mark (equivalent to #7 in the NBA). A team's record over its most recent 10-15 games, compared to its full season, usually provides a good indication of the club's general direction. We can see that the Cs in their last 15 contests were in the NBA's Top-5 on defense (#5 Def.Rtg.) — about the same as their full-season record. But they only managed a #13 Offensive Rating in the last-15 — not much better than their full-season mark (#15). The last-15 Net Rating is just a little lower than their full-season record.
  • These numbers could be marking an inflection point to a downward trend, or just a blip in an overall upward movement. But another interpretation is that the team is plateauing now, having reached an elite level with their defense, and a mediocre #14-#16 level on offense. If so, their Net Rating is likely to stay in the #4 to #8 range from now on — unless, of course, something changes. (And something probably will....)
  • The general direction of the OARs (Opponent-Adjusted Ratings) remains positive, indicating that the Cs are, on average, beating league-average expectations (based on opponents' strengths). The slope of the OARs' trend line still indicates that they're continuing to improve overall — but that indicator tends to lag somewhat, by definition. I.e., they could be plateauing. We'll see, pretty soon.

Notes & Ruminations:

  • It was good to see Isaiah bounce back from his miserable night vs. Golden State. He had a double-double on the night, with 21 points and 13 assists.
  • When did Spencer Hawes — a Clippers reject — become so good?
  • Sully continues to break basic NBA rules, like offensive 3 seconds, and, in other recent games, obvious traveling. C'mon Sully!
  • Cs have the league's 5th best road record (7-5), and the 5th best Offensive Rating for road games. On the other hand, they have the 3rd best Defensive Rating in the league for home games, but only the #24 Offensive Rating at home.

    Seems the Cs like their D at home, and really like their O on the road. Go figure.
  • See y'all Tuesday at the Garden, when James and his Cavs come to town for a battle royale. Should be fun. (When Uncle Drew gets all the way back, CLE will become another superteam; Shumpert's already back, and kicking butt. Very tough to beat, in any case.)
  • P.S. Nice going, Milwaukee, and you're welcome. Cs softened em up for you nicely. Truth be told — shoulda beat em in Boston (and they did... but they didn't).

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. (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.)

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

Photo: Matt York/AP

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