Celtics' offense sputters in schizoid game vs. feckless Nets / Green Stats

Deciphering the Celtics

The first half of Saturday's Nets game at the Garden was all offense, no defense. Both teams defended worse the league's worst D in those first two quarters, allowing both teams to score at rates equivalent to top-3 offenses.

The 2nd half was the exact opposite. No one could score much on either side (except Lopez) with both teams' offenses performing worse than the NBA's worst offense in quarters 3 and 4.

Meanwhile, the refs practiced random, sometimes-irrational officiating, adding to the woeful theme of the night.

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


Cs' Off. & Def. Efficiency Ratings vs. Brooklyn Nets – Jan 2 2016:


Cs’ Offensive Rating for this game = 99.8 (pts scored per 100 possessions) — equivalent to the #29 offense in the NBA this season. Obviously, the second half prevailed overall, as the full-game offensive performance of both teams sucked. Cs were worst.
  • Prior to this game, BKN's defense was rated #25 in the league (Def.Rtg. = 107.4) — pretty bad.
  • Versus the Cs, BKN's D performed like the #2 defense in the league (Def.Rtg. = 99.8) — a ridiculous "improvement" for them. That's what the numbers say, but we know it wasn't their D so much as the Cs' lousy O.
Cs’ Defensive Rating for this game = 102.9 (pts allowed per 100 possessions) — equivalent to the league's #11 defense this season. Mediocre D, at best.
  • Coming into this game, the Nets' offense was rated #28 in the league (Off.Rtg. = 100.8) — very bad. So a #11–rated defense against them is not good.
  • The Cs' D allowed BKN's O to score at a level equivalent to the league's #26 offense (Off.Rtg. = 102.9) — better than their season average.
Pace: Each team had 97 possessions – a little slower than the Cs' season average (98.3 – #4 in NBA). League average = 95.8/game.

Referees: Grade: D. Observations: There were 3 significant referee errors noted. The officiating crew of Zach Zarba (#15), Kane Fitzgerald (#5) and Ben Taylor (#46) did a generally bad job in this one, as their whistles too often blew randomly, with no discernible rhyme or reason or, at times, relationship to reality. Touch fouls were called from time to time, while hard hits were ignored at other times — random refereeing. No wonder there was so much complaining (not normally a Celtics habit). The officiating sucked.

In addition to their inconsistency, the refs also made the following errors:
  • At ~6:38 of the 2nd quarter, Zach Zarba (#15) called an offensive foul on Jared Sullinger on a scoring attempt. Replay showed that Thaddeus Young obviously flopped on the play. It was actually pretty egregious and a very bad call.
  • At ~5:56 of the 2nd quarter, Marcus Smart was tripped by Lopez sticking his knee out into Marcus' path as Marcus was chasing Wayne Ellington. Rather than call the correct offensive foul on Lopez, Zach Zarba called a foul on Smart, presumably because Ellington fell as he took his shot. Bad, blind-eyes call. (And when Marcus tried to talk to the ref, he was given a technical foul.)
  • At ~0:36 of the 2nd quarter, Ben Taylor (#46) whistled a foul on Jae Crowder as he was guarding Ellington's shot. Replay showed no contact. Bad call.
  • Note: The 3rd-quarter flagrant-1 on Sully was a correct call. The double-techs on Crowder and Jack were unnecessary, but understandable.
  • Special Interest: At ~4:53 of the 1st quarter, Jae Crowder cut to the rim, received a pass from Isaiah inside the "lower defensive box" (an unmarked rectangle around the rim) and drove right in for a layup. He was met by Lopez, both of whose feet were well inside the restricted area when contact occurred. Kane Fitzgerald (#5) whistled an offensive foul on Crowder — which, btw, never made it into the official record. (The official game book has that play as a simple miss by Crowder. Video clearly shows the offensive foul call. I guess these things happen... it's rare, though.)

    It was legal for Lopez to be inside the restricted area because Jae had received the ball inside the lower defensive box. (Yes, these rules are arcane and weird.) The rules also state: "A defensive player is permitted to establish a legal guarding position in the path of an offensive player who receives a pass inside the lower defensive box regardless of his speed and distance." Bottom line: This looked like a bad call — but it was not.

Where do the Celtics stand now?


After the Nets game...
  • Offensive Rating = 103.9 — #19 in NBA. (Range: #18-#21 in a very tight field.)
  • Defensive Rating = 100.1 — #2 in NBA. (Barely holding on now. This could go as low as #5–#6 with just one more bad game.)
  • Net Rating = +3.85 — #6 in NBA. (Down from +4.1–#5 prior to this Nets game.)
A full analysis of the Celtics' current situation (as of Jan 1) appears here.
  • The Net OARs' trend line is still pointing down, and the Offensive OARs' trend line is now flat — for the full season and for the last 10 games — as a result of this Nets game. (The latter change is most significant, as it indicates that the Cs' offense may no longer be improving. If the offense doesn't improve the Celtics have no chance in the playoffs.)

Notes & Ruminations:

  • Strange schizoid game in which almost everybody (not named Lopez) sucked. Isaiah Thomas had his usual decent game — he always works hard. Ditto for Marcus Smart. Amir Johnson had a decent game, but fouled too much. Most Cs were meh.
  • Feel better, Avery. This team needs you healthy.
  • Looks like Jarrett Jack could be out for the season. If so, the Nets will suffer as a result. (Cs own BKN's unprotected 2016 pick — which is part of why losing to the Nets is so... ridiculous.)
  • Sometimes we can see that Brad Stevens is still learning. Olynyk shot well in this game, but saw only limited playing time (12:25), even though Lopez dominated the paint — which happened partly because there were no big shooters to draw him out. Olynyk could have done that for the Cs, and he also has the size to guard a guy like Lopez. Net result: Lopez dominated both ends, Cs add an L.
  • Brad Stevens after the game:
    I just need to do a better job. This is more on me. We’ve had multiple times where we're just not playing to a standard we need to play to. We've had multiple practices where, you know, certain guys have really looked good and stood out because others haven't, and that's just bad coaching. So I'll get myself straightened out and I'll work on what needs to be changed.
  • Isaiah said it best:
    We're definitely not one of the best teams in the NBA, so I don’t get how we can possibly think it's OK to play down to anybody. When we don't play hard and we're not the aggressive team, we're one of the worst teams in the NBA. But when we bring that aggressiveness and we're having fun and we're defending, we're one of the top teams in the NBA. And I think a lot of people see that. So, somehow, some way, we've gotta become more consistent.

    Well — that's it, right there in a nutshell.
  • Brooklyn, NY is next. Will the Cs rise to the challenge? Or go down for the count?

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.)

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

Photo: Barry Chin/Globe

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