Spurs slip past Celts in strange San Antonio game / Green Stats analysis

Deciphering the Celtics

In the first 6 minutes and 3 seconds of this game, the Celtics took San Antonio apart. When Pop finally called a timeout at 5:57 of Q1, the Spurs were behind 18-8.

That timeout was the end of the Celts run. From that point through the end of the 3rd quarter, the Celtics could not make any headway against the Spurs. It looked like they were going to lose by 20. (Heck, in the 3rd quarter they failed to record a SINGLE assist!)

Then the Cs hunkered down in the 4th quarter, and stormed back to almost tie the game near the end.

We'll go through the numbers, but at least one aspect of this game bears special mention: The Spurs and Celtics were the top two defensive teams in the NBA coming into this game — and yet, BOTH defenses earned Defensive Ratings for the game equivalent to the league's worst. The reasons for that are all part of why this particular contest is a good case in point for this principle: If you want to know how any team has performed — it's important to actually WATCH THEM PLAY.

The numbers (see below) give the clear impression that the Cs' defense was awful (and that the offense was terrific). But that impression is wrong, this time. The Cs' D was actually mostly good to excellent. There were some breakdowns — but the coverage and help and overall energy were there all night.

So why the bad Def.Rtg.? Because the Spurs made a lot of tough shots. It happens. And when it does, it wreaks havoc with the ratings (as it should). That's why you have to watch em play if you really want to know how a team is doing. (Wait... Did we just do a commercial for the NBA?)

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


Cs' Off. & Def. Efficiency Ratings vs. San Antonio – December 5 2015:


Cs’ Offensive Rating for this game = 110.0 (pts scored per 100 possessions) — equivalent to the #2 offense in the NBA this season. Another excellent outing for the offense.
  • Prior to this game, SAS's defense was rated #1 in the league (DefRtg = 93.9) — The Best. They were the only team in the NBA with a better-rated defense than the Celtics.
  • Versus the Cs, SAS's D performed like the #29 defense in the league (110.0 DefRtg). Weird, right? Cs made shots too.
Cs’ Defensive Rating for this game = 113.1 (pts allowed per 100 possessions) — equivalent to the league's #30 defense this season. Brutal number...
  • Coming into this game, the Spurs' offense was rated #11 in the league (104.9 Off.Rtg.) — good, but not great (though ahead of the Cs).
  • The Celtics' defense allowed SAS's offense to perform at a level equivalent to the league's #2 offense (113.1 OffRtg). Spurs made shots. Cs made shots. Everybody made shots — making both defenses look bad. But neither played badly.
Pace: Each team had 95 possessions – slower than the Cs' average for the season to date (98.6 – #5 in NBA). League average = 96.4/game.

Refs: Grade: C-. Observations: This was not a crew out to manipulate the game in one direction or another. These guys were just incompetent. One of them made the single stupidest mistake we've ever seen a referee make. And as a crew, they were pathetic.
  • When the officials start calling a game a certain way, it's wrong for them to drastically change in the middle of the game. The refs in this contest were "letting them play" at the start (when the Cs built that 18-8 lead) — until, at the 5:57 first-quarter SA timeout, a few words from Popovich made them completely reverse their officiating style. From then on, they called a tight game, with plenty of ticky-tack foul calls, etc.
  • A little later on, Brad Stevens (reportedly) complained to the officials about how the Spurs had almost no fouls on them, while the Celtics had a bunch. Next thing you knew, 3 quick fouls got whistled on the Spurs. Smh.
  • Three nincompoops officiated this game.
  • At 0:18 of the 2nd quarter, Patty Mills JUMPED ALL OVER EVAN TURNER to get at a ball that was heading out of bounds. He succeeded in throwing that ball off of Evan's leg — but obviously fouled the hell out of Turner in the process. No call. I truly do not know how any non-blind referee could fail to call that foul. A player jumps on top of another player -- and you don't call it? Huh??
  • The piece de resistance for the officiating happened at ~9:34 in the 3rd quarter. Referee Derrick Collins (#11) made a mistake I've literally never seen before. With the Spurs on offense, the ball was deflected in the Spurs front court and bounced into the Spurs' backcourt with several players in pursuit. Avery Bradley got to the ball first, picked it up and drove straight to the rim for an easy layup. Two points off a turnover.... right? Not right. Mr. Collins — king of the nincompoop refs — blew his whistle and motioned a frontcourt-to-backcourt violation! Even though Bradley was THE DEFENDER!! That call was impossible — the most egregious, brainless error I've ever witnessed by a pro referee. They actually pay these people to "officiate" real games, right? Uh huh. Got it.
  • A few seconds after that fiasco, King Nincompoop attempted a makeup call, by whistling a foul on Danny Green. Smh. There are so many things wrong with that; here are the two worst: (a) Green didn't foul anyone — the call was pure phantom BS. (b) It was a meaningless side-out foul call. No free throws. No nothing. I.e., even AS a makeup call — it was pathetically WORTHLESS! Stupid, stupider, stupidest.
  • And then, at ~6:55 of the 4th quarter, referee Gediminas Petraitis (#50) whistled a foul on Crowder when he knocked the ball out of the Spurs' ball handler's hands. Bad call. Jae hit all ball.
  • So now that makes two badly-officiated games in a row. After 5 good ones. Well — at least it wasn't egregiously biased.... hmmm.
  • La di da, la di da. Life in the NBA.

Mr. Perfect!

Where do the Cs stand now?


  • After the Spurs game, the Cs' season Defensive Rating = 99.6 — #4 in the league, as of 12/5. Pre-game it was 98.9: #2.
  • [League best Def.Rtg.= Spurs @ 94.7 | Worst= Pelicans @ 110.9 | League average= 104.0.]
  • After the Spurs game, the Cs' season Offensive Rating = 104.4 (pts/100-possessions) — #14 in the league, as of 12/5. Pre-game it was 104.1: #13.
  • [League best Off.Rtg.= Warriors @ 116.0 | Worst = Philly @ 93.9 | League average = 104.0.]
  • After this game, Cs' Net Rating = +4.8, #5 in the NBA (as of 12/5) — down from +5.2 (#5).
  • [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 still going strong (despite the slight numerical setback in San Antonio), and the offense is improving game-after-game. Right now, the Cs stand at: #4 on D, #14 on O, #5 overall.
  • The general direction of the OARs (Opponent-Adjusted Ratings) remains positive, indicating that the Cs are, on average, beating expectations (based on opponents' strengths), and continuing to improve. The key to elite status remains the offense, which needs to get to Top-10 level.


Notes & Ruminations:

  • With only 9 steals and 15 opponent turnovers, the Cs slightly reduced their league-leading steal rate to 11.3/game and 11.5% STL% (percentage of opponent possessions that end in a steal) — and their league-leading opponent turnover rate to 19.0/game and 17.0% TOV% (percentage of opponent possessions that end in a TO). They're still way ahead of everyone else in both categories.
  • Crowder had himself a perfect shooting night, going 5-5 overall, 3-3 from deep. Avery's shooting was excellent again (4-6 from deep, 7-14 overall) — though his passing skills still need a bit of work. Sully (1-6) and Jerebko (0-3) missed a lot of shots, including several that Sully usually makes.
  • Evan Turner hit a 3! Alert the media!! (This raises his season record for threes to 5-31: 16.1%!)
  • If you're wondering why Zeller only played a few minutes (6:23) and was then pulled for the rest of the game — it was because of this play: At ~6:00 of the 2nd quarter, Duncan got the ball ~16 feet from the rim. Zeller was right in front of him, with plenty of time to close out. But instead of crowding Duncan off his shot, Zeller hung back the way players do to "prevent the drive." Like Duncan's gonna drive, right? Timmy's been hitting that 16-footer for almost as long as Zeller's been alive. It was SUCH a bad defensive play that Stevens must have said to himself: "Get that crap outta here, Zell. And take yourself with it."
  • Olynyk was nicely aggressive going to the rim, right from the start. Unfortunately, his first few shots just didn't fall. Also, KO is a foul magnet — even when he doesn't commit any. That's just the way it is for him with certain officials. I have no idea why.
  • We've noted before how the Celtics tend to lose badly officiated games.
  • Over the next 7 games, the Celtics will face 3 more of the league's best teams: Bulls, Warriors and Cavs. Meanwhile, it's New Orleans next (on Monday), where Unibrow's back and starting to tear up the league again. This is a tough patch the Cs are in now, toughest of the season. They look ready for it.

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 various ratings are similar to those used by these sites. NBA.com's numbers will differ slightly, 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: Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports

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