Celtics approach perfection in DC / Green Trends

In their last 10 games, the Celtics' offense has operated at a level equivalent to 3rd best in the NBA, with an Offensive Rating of 111.4.

Wait... aren't the Celtics supposed to be offensively challenged? Well, they were. But things have changed. Ten games exactly encompasses the Cs' recent offensive explosion — a major change that began on January 10, in Memphis.

Now... in these last 10 games Boston's defense actually broke down 5 times — they had bottom-of-the-league defensive numbers versus MEM, NYK, WAS, DAL and TOR — and yet they still managed to earn a Net Rating of 6.0 in that span, equivalent to #4 in the NBA this season.

How is that possible? By generating league-leading defensive numbers in the other 5 games, and by maintaining their newfound high-octane offense throughout.

Case in point: Monday's game in DC — in which Boston's defense held Washington's scoring to a level much worse than the league's worst offense this season, while the Cs put points on the scoreboard at a rate equivalent to the NBA's 2nd-best offense.

So the Celts approached perfection... and blew out (116-91) a pretty-good, league-average team. This should bode well for their chances against the league's elite.

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


Cs' Off. & Def. Efficiency Ratings vs. Washington – Jan 25 2016:


Cs’ Offensive Rating for this game = 114.2 (pts scored per 100 possessions) — equivalent to the #2 offense in the NBA this season.
  • Prior to this contest, WAS' defense was rated #18 in the league (Def.Rtg. = 106.6) — mediocre.
  • Versus the Cs, WAS' D performed like the worst defense in the league (Def.Rtg. = 114.2).
Cs’ Defensive Rating for this game = 89.6 (pts allowed per 100 possessions) — equivalent to the league's #1 defense this season.
  • Coming into this game, the Wizards' offense was rated #18 in the league (Off.Rtg. = 104.9) — mediocre.
  • The Cs' D held WAS' O to an Off.Rtg. of 89.6 — well below the NBA's current-season worst offense.
Pace: Each team had 102 possessions – faster than the Cs' season average (98.3 – #4 in NBA). League average = 95.5/game.

Referees: Grade: A. Observations: The officiating crew of Pat Fraher (#26), Curtis Blair (#74) and Mark Lindsay (#29) did an excellent job in the game, with 0 bad calls and just 1 serious missed call noted (deep in garbage time).
  • At ~0:35 of the 4th quarter, James Young drove to the basket for a layup (which he made) and was blatantly pushed hard, in the back, while he was in the air, by Kelly Oubre. No call. Now — I realize Young wasn't hurt, the game was almost over, and yada, yada, yada — but you just CANNOT let that kind of thing go uncalled. It was a hard, dangerous and wholly unnecessary foul (in the last minute of a blowout) that could have seriously injured Young. Now Oubre (a rookie) might think it's OK to do that in the NBA, and the next guy he does it to could be toast. The foul should have been called. Game clock's got nothing to do with it. Here's the online video clip.
Isaiah did this a lot


Where do the Celtics stand now?


After the Wizards game...
  • Offensive Rating* = 105.5 — ~#14 in NBA. (Range: #12–#17 in a very tight group.)
  • Defensive Rating = 101.5 — #2 in NBA.
  • Net Rating = +4.0 — #6 in NBA. (Up from +3.5, #7.)
*This Offensive Rating is, of course, a season average. If we focus on the 10 games since the offensive rocket took off (Jan 10/Memphis), we see that the Off.Rtg. then = 111.4 — which, if it were a season average, would be #3 in the NBA.

And so the Celtics' recent trend of dramatically-improving offense continues apace. Meanwhile, the defense in their last 3 games has returned to form, so that right now Boston is playing great basketball on both ends of the floor.
  • Note: The positive trend of the offense is a key component of the Cs' fate this season. Boston's defense has been in the league's top-5 for months, while the offense lagged badly — until January 10. With their current offensive renaissance, the Celts aim to get their O into the NBA's top-10, thus becoming true contenders. Within their last 10 games, that goal has been accomplished. Now they just gotta keep it all going.

Notes & Ruminations:

  • This Washington game was particularly impressive because there were no true standout performances for the Green. (Well... Isaiah did do his IT-type things, pretty much like he always does. Oh, and he torched John Wall, btw.) Everybody contributed, nobody stood out more than usual — and it was a blowout. Sounds like a recipe to me.
  • We're seeing some great numbers from the Cs lately. Time for a real test? The next elite team Boston faces is Cleveland, on February 5. It's gonna be fun to see how that goes.
  • It's been brought to my attention that when Isaiah Thomas pulls up for a three with ~21 seconds left on the shot-clock and with every other Celtic still in the backcourt (so no rebound is possible) — the team recognizes this and hangs back for an instantly-ready defense, thus increasing the probability of an opponent miss and a Cs rebound. OK — makes sense: there's a silver lining to the shot.

    In the end, though, the decision on whether it's a good idea or not comes down to how often IT actually hits that shot. Here are some of Isaiah's season stats relevant to that question, from NBA.com:
    • 3Pt% on pull-up shots (3s taken after dribbling) = 30.3%
    • 3Pt% on shots taken when there are between 22 and 18 seconds left on the shot clock = 31.9%
    • 3Pt% when the closest defender is far away (wide open shots) = 35.8%
    • 3Pt% when he's touched the ball for 2-6 seconds = 30.8%
    • Note that IT shoots the three best (by far) when he catches and shoots — almost 40% (versus 30.3% off-the-dribble). Also, Isaiah hits his 3s at a rate of 52% (!) when there are between 18 and 15 seconds left on the shot clock.
    The numbers suggest that it would be better to drop those early-transition threes from Isaiah's repertoire, and go with what works best.
  • Next up is Denver in the Garden, on Wednesday. (The Nuggets are #20-offense, #27-defense.) Cya.

Green Trends is where we analyze the Celtics & identify emerging new trends — before they become obvious. Posts generally run within ~1-20 hours after Cs games.
Efficiency ratings source for comps: Basketball-reference.com. Misc: RealGM.com. (Note: Our formulas for pace and efficiency ratings are similar to those used by these sites, and most others — just a tad more accurate because we don't ignore team turnovers. NBA.com's numbers will differ, as they use different formulas.)

For an intro to the advanced stats used in Green Trends (née Green Stats), see: Green Stats: Intro to advanced stats +...

Photo: Brad Mills / USA Today Sports

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