Celtics' offense rocketing upward, defense holds / Green Trends analysis

After a couple of strange games (DAL, TOR) in which opponents shot unnaturally well (and officials erred unusually often), the Celtics on Friday night won convincingly with excellent performance on both offense and defense versus the Chicago Bulls in TD Garden.

The Cs won despite solid contributions from both J. Butler and D. Rose, who ended up as #1 and #2 game-high scorers on ~50% shooting each. One reason for the Celts' victory was the turnover disparity: CHI had 20 leading to 26 Boston points, while the Cs had just 12 TOs, leading to 14 Chicago points.

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


Cs' Off. & Def. Efficiency Ratings vs. Chicago – Jan 22 2016:


Cs’ Offensive Rating for this game = 110.4 (pts scored per 100 possessions) — equivalent to the #4 offense in the NBA this season. 
  • Prior to this game, CHI's defense was rated #9 in the league (Def.Rtg. = 103.2) — solid.
  • Versus the Cs, CHI's D performed like the #30 defense in the league (Def.Rtg. = 110.1) — much worse than their season average.
Cs’ Defensive Rating for this game = 101.1 (pts allowed per 100 possessions) — equivalent to the league's #2 defense this season.
  • Coming into this game, the Bulls' offense was rated #22 in the league (Off.Rtg. = 103.8) — weak-mediocre.
  • The Cs' D held CHI's O to a level equivalent to the league's #30 offense (Off.Rtg. = 101.1) — much worse than CHI's season average.
Pace: Each team had 100 possessions – faster than the Cs' season average (98.1 – #4 in NBA). League average = 95.5/game.

Referees: Grade: B+. Observations: The crew of John Goble (#30), Lauren Holtkamp (#7) and Gary Zielinski (#59) did a reasonably good job, with only 1 egregiously bad call.
  • At ~11:12 of the 2nd quarter, Marcus Smart traveled with the ball in a very obvious way that was left unwhistled by the refs. He needs to watch some tape and stop doing this. Or just look at the online replay.
  • At ~7:43 of the 3rd quarter, Taj Gibson body slammed into Kelly Olynyk as KO shot the ball from beyond the 3pt line in the left corner. For some reason, referee John Goble (#30) called it a non-shooting foul. Must have had a mini-stroke at that moment. See for yourself.
Isaiah Thomas doing his thing vs. Bulls


Where do the Celtics stand now?


After the Bulls game...
  • Offensive Rating = 105.3 — ~#15 in NBA. (Range: #15–#19 in a very tight group.)
  • Defensive Rating = 102.2 — #3 in NBA. (Range: #3–#5 in a tight group near the top.)
  • Net Rating = +3.1 — #7 in NBA.
The recent trend of dramatically-improving offense is gaining even more steam. One look at a graph (1st below) of recent offensive ratings (opponent-adjusted) makes that obvious. Even the full-season graph (2nd below) has a trend line (green) showing a very clear upward trajectory for the offense.

  • 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 — which apparently began with the January 10 Memphis game, and is therefore ~8 games old now — the Celts aim to get their O into the NBA's top-10, thus becoming true contenders.

Notes & Ruminations:

  • After two straight games in which (a) the opposing team shot lights out when it counted most, and (b) the officiating was distorted by many egregious referee errors — the Celtics offense and defense both performed well versus Chicago. This is the endpoint the Celtics are seeking. If they can achieve and then maintain this level of play before the regular season ends, they can expect to do very well in the playoffs.
  • Some vexing vexations from this game:
    • That travel by Smart that wasn't called (~11:12 Q2) — he's gotta work on that, because it will eventually be called.
    • Evan Turner ONCE AGAIN — for the gazzilionth time — dribbled straight into heavy defensive traffic and proceeded to throw/dribble the ball behind his back (at ~8:32 of the 4th quarter). Is ET out of his mind? How else do you explain the inexplicable. Does he NEVER watch video of himself? How crazed do you have to be to literally THROW THE BALL TO WHERE YOU CAN'T EITHER SEE IT OR CONTROL IT, ON PURPOSE — while driving to the rim directly through heavy opponent traffic? And he's done this exact same thing many times before, to the point where we all know that it's going to be a near-certain turnover. Smh. Enough's enough. STOP IT ALREADY, EVAN. Ya nut.
    • Marcus Smart's shooting was off in this one. He went 3-12 overall, and missed all 5 of his threes. Back to drawing board, I guess.
  • The Philly game is postponed from Saturday to Sunday 7pm, due to weather. Note: Things may change again, depending on that giant storm slamming the area now. So cya Sunday. Maybe.

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 Stats, see: Green Stats: Intro to advanced stats +...

Photo: Brian Babineau

Follow DRJ on Twitter @DRJ_CsNStats