Celtics look great vs. improving Philly team / Green Trends

The Sixers are a young, rapidly improving NBA team, but right now they're still finding their way — and that's how the Celtics found them in Sunday night's snow-delayed game in Philadelphia. The Cs were able to score at a blistering, league-leading rate in the first 3 quarters, before garbage time took over. (Note: The Cs' offensive rating dropped precipitously — almost halved — in the 4th quarter's extended garbage time, which significantly reduced the rating for the entire game.)

Meanwhile, Boston's defense operated at its usual high level, holding the Sixers to a league-worst scoring rate. All in all, an excellent showing for the Green (excluding the extended joke that was the 4th).

Note: Philly is not yet what you would call a "good" NBA team, but they're certainly on their way. In the 10 prior January games since the arrival of Mike D'Antoni and Ish Smith — to coach and PG the struggling Sixers offense — PHI's on-court performance has improved dramatically on BOTH offense and defense. They went from the league's worst offense (by far) to a much more respectable #23 offensive rate in their January games (prior to the Celtics game) — over less than a month. In that time frame their D also improved: from #21 to #17 in the NBA. Philly's days as the league's perpetual tank appear to be over. They're making their move now, and we shouldn't be surprised if they're a .500+ team next season.

Here are details on the game, and where the Celtics stand now...


Cs' Off. & Def. Efficiency Ratings vs. Philadelphia – Jan 24 2016:


Cs’ Offensive Rating for this full game = 106.9 (pts scored per 100 possessions) — equivalent to the #7 offense in the NBA this season. But that includes the 4th quarter's long garbage time.
  • In the first 3 quarters of this game, the Cs averaged an Offensive Rating of 119.2 — higher than the league's current leading offense (Warriors: season Off.Rtg. = 114.5).
  • In the 4th quarter — get this now — the Cs' managed only a 69.7 Offensive Rating: almost HALF the rate of the first 3 quarters. (Some of those rookies haven't seen an NBA floor in a longgg time.)
  • Prior to this game, PHI's defense was rated #21 in the league (Def.Rtg. = 107.0) — mediocre. But note: In their prior 10 (January) games, PHI has averaged a Def.Rtg. of ~105.7, equivalent to #17 in the NBA.
  • Versus the Cs, PHI's D performed like the #20 defense in the league (Def.Rtg. = 106.9) — about equal to their season average.
Cs’ Defensive Rating for this game = 87.8 (pts allowed per 100 possessions) — equivalent to the league's #1 defense this season, by far.
  • Coming into this game, the Sixers' offense was rated #30 in the league (Off.Rtg. = 96.3) — obviously bad for the season as a whole. But...
  • But in their 10 prior January games (not including the Celtics) — after the arrivals of Mike D'Antoni and Ish Smith — they've averaged an Off.Rtg of ~103.5, equivalent to #23 in the NBA. Much, much better (though still below league average).
  • The Cs' D held PHI's O to a level equivalent to well below the NBA's #30 offense (Off.Rtg. = 87.8) — which is also much worse than PHI's season average.
    • Note: This excellent work on D is reflected in the Cs' Defensive Opponent-Adjusted Rating (OAR) of 80.0 for this game: The Opponent-Adjusted Rating is better than the standard Defensive Rating because the Cs held Philly to a rate well below their average season scoring rate.
Pace: Each team had 105 possessions – faster than the Cs' season average (98.2 – #4 in NBA). League average = 95.5/game.(Note: Pace is usually high when there are a lot of turnovers, naturally.)

Referees: Grade: A. Observations: The officiating crew of Brian Forte (#45), Matt Boland (#18) and Kevin Scott (#28) did a good job in the game, with only 1 bad call (on a tough play) and 1 serious missed call noted.
  • At ~7:58 of the 1st quarter, Okafor was guarding Bradley on the perimeter (yeah, he can do that) when AB rose to shoot a three. Unfortunately, Avery landed on Okafor's foot, causing AB to fall. This is a potentially very dangerous event which should be called a foul every time — and in fact, the NBA has been good about making these calls this season. Just not this time. Here's the online clip (but without the slow-mo replay).
  • At ~2:36 of the 3rd quarter, Isaiah Canaan drove into Marcus Smart near the rim and was called for an offensive foul. Replay showed that Smart's foot was on the line of the restricted area (just a little) — so it should have been a blocking foul. Here's the online clip (but without the tighter slow-mo replay).
Celtics' newest 3-point marksman

Where do the Celtics stand now?


After the Sixers game...
  • Offensive Rating* = 105.3 — ~#15 in NBA. (Range: #12–#18 in a very tight group.)
  • Defensive Rating = 101.8 — #2 in NBA. (Range: #2–#3.)
  • Net Rating = +3.5 — #7 in NBA.
*This Offensive Rating is, of course, a season average. If we look at just the games the Cs have played since the offensive rocket began taking off — a total of 9 contests since the January 10 tilt in Memphis — we see an average Offensive Rating of 111.1 in that span — which, if it were a season average, would be #3 in the NBA: just a little ahead of the San Antonio Spurs. Not a bad rocket ship...

The recent trend of rapidly-improving offense continues apace. Meanwhile, the defense in the Cs' last couple of games has returned to form, after slipping badly in 5 of the prior 7 games.
  • 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 has lagged badly until recently. With their current offensive renaissance, the Celts aim to get their O into the NBA's top-10, thus becoming true contenders. (That assumes the defense will hold up, of course — as it did in this PHI game, and versus CHI before that.)

Notes & Ruminations:

  • Philly has some very promising players. The Cs would probably jump at the chance of getting a guy like Jahlil Okafor. Already a great defender, the kid can also score in bunches (though not from deep, yet).
  • Speaking of deep — that Robert Covington sure is impressive. He shot 6-13 from deep, attacked the rim aggressively, and defended tenaciously. In his last 15 games, he's shot the 3-ball at >40%. Another guy the Celtics could use.
  • Marcus Smart's been having trouble hitting his threes, right? So he used the extra snow-caused day off to practice his shooting. Result? He hit his first 3 threes in a row, including one from ~28 feet. Like they were layups. Smh. ONE practice day? That's all he needed??
    • Don't be fooled by the 3-6 official tally of Smart's threes for the game. Two of those 'attempts' were clock-forced prayers. He actually shot 3-4 from deep 'for real' — pretty cool.
  • At ~2:06 of the 2nd quarter, Isaiah Thomas took off after a steal, stopped at the 3pt line and took his shot with 21 seconds on the shot clock. Yes, I know he can make those. But really, it's a ridiculous shot for him to be taking — not per se, but because there was NO ONE else up the court when he took it. No one to rebound. IT needs to tone down those super-early heaves and just wait for his team to get into some kind of reasonable position first.
  • Next up are the Wizards (again), Monday in DC.
    • Brad Stevens said after the Sixers game that he thought the Celts were lucky to win their last Wizards showdown (January 16), and he's right. Boston defended worse than the league's worst team in that contest, and that just can't happen. The Cs are definitely in the middle of an offensive renewal right now, and it's very impressive — but they can't forget who they are. They're a defense-first team — and that's got to stay that way.

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: Russ Isabella/USA Today Sports

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