Celtics on a rampage / Green Trends analysis

Ever since the January 10 game in Memphis, Boston's offense has experienced a dramatic turnaround, to the point now where the old system is barely detectable. Gone are the long scoring droughts, the hesitation, the reliance on the squad's sole All-Star to score the ball in crunch time, etc. It's a new day for the Green, and they're reveling in it.

We'll look at Friday's game vs. ORL, and check on where the club stands now. But first, a word about Green Trends:
  • As noted in the description under each post, Green Trends seeks to uncover new trends in the Celtics' record BEFORE THEY BECOME OBVIOUS.
  • So when one of these posts states that the Celtics are playing "like contenders" now — that's information directed at people who want to see where the team is heading before they actually get there.
  • If we wait until the Cs conquer all or most of the "good" teams, then there would be no need for Green Trends. You could just look up Boston in the standings and know exactly how they're doing.
  • In this context, arguments about how the team "hasn't beaten enough 'good' teams yet" don't fit. The whole point of Green Trends is to identify Celtics trends before they are upon us and obvious to everyone. Before they beat many good teams and declare to the world how great they are (if they get there). We're looking ahead here, using trends found in the record to help us see what this team is going to do, in the future. To argue that "they haven't done it yet" is to completely miss the point. OF COURSE they haven't done it yet. That is the premise here. (If they'd done it already, we wouldn't be talking about it. We'd go on to find other non-obvious subjects, other trends to uncover, etc.)

Cs' Off. & Def. Efficiency Ratings vs. Orlando – Jan 29 2016:


Cs’ Offensive Rating for this game = 115.6 (pts scored per 100 possessions) — equivalent to the #1 offense in the NBA this season. Rampage.
  • Prior to this game, ORL's defense was rated #12 in the league (Def.Rtg. = 104.3) — good.
  • Versus the Cs, ORL's D performed like the #30 defense in the league (Def.Rtg. = 115.6) — much worse than ORL's season average.
Cs’ Defensive Rating for this game = 96.1 (pts allowed per 100 possessions) — equivalent to the league's #1 defense this season. Rampage.
  • Coming into this game, the Magic' offense was rated #25 in the league (Off.Rtg. = 103.5) — not good.
  • The Cs' D held ORL's O to a level equivalent to the league's #30 offense (Off.Rtg. = 96.1).
Pace: Each team had 98 possessions – ~equal to the Cs' season average (98.4 – #3 in NBA). League average = 95.5/game.

Referees: Grade: C. Observations: The crew of Eric Lewis (#42), Dedric Taylor (#21), and David Jones (#36) did a poor job of officiating this game — too much random refereeing, allowing some hard fouls to go uncalled while whistling other phantom/feather fouls. Here are just a few examples:
  • At ~0:28 of the 1st quarter, Jae Crowder drove to the rim and hit a layup during which he was shoved hard to the ground by Mario Hezonja (#23). No call. Why? — Why no call when there were so many other calls whistled for much less violent contact? Random refereeing. Here's the video clip.
  • Here's an example of a ridiculous, random foul call where no foul existed: At ~4:42 of the 3rd quarter, Avery Bradley was called for a foul when he squeezed over a pick and the pick-setter pushed him into the ball handler (who also pushed Avery with his forearm). Here's the video clip (with a great slow-motion replay). Just a completely ridiculous call. Random refereeing.
  • At ~7:24 of the 4th quarter, Evan Turner was fouled hard from behind by Nikola Vucevic (#9) while jumping for a rebound. Usually an automatic call. No whistle. Here's the video clip. How do you not call that?
  • At ~4:48 of the 4th quarter, Tyler Zeller was fouled while attempting a shot in the paint by Dewayne Dedmon (#3). No call. Here's the video clip. Wth??
  • Just a strangely incompetent officiating crew this time, practicing random refereeing, messing up the game for both sides.
Three for three threes

Where do the Celtics stand now?


After the Magic game...
  • Offensive Rating = 105.8 — ~#11 in NBA. (Almost in the top-10 for the whole season.)
  • Defensive Rating = 101.4 — #2 in NBA.
  • Net Rating = +4.4 — #6 in NBA.
The Celtics' run continues. Since January 10, the offense has exploded. The team is putting up great, contender-level numbers — not just in terms of standard ratings (where the argument could be made that they did it against weak and mediocre teams) but, more importantly, in terms of the Opponent-Adjusted Ratings, which tell us how well the Cs are doing relative to the strengths of their opponents.

This is a key concept in the analysis: By gauging the team's performance relative to the known quality of each opponent (on offense and defense), we gather valuable, heretofore-hidden information about how well they're doing overall. It's "overall" because we can extrapolate from the Cs performances against ANY set of teams to their projected performance against any other team(s) — including the league's best. All we need are sufficient data points — which we certainly have at this point of the season. (Of course, extrapolation is not fact, it's projection; they'll have to actually do the things we project them to do before they become reality.)
  • For the record, we define "contender" as any team that has a reasonable shot at getting to its conference finals.

Notable numbers:

In their last 10 games, the Cs' average Offensive Rating = 111.5 — equivalent to #3 in the NBA, while the avg Defensive Rating = 101.9, equivalent to #4 in the league.
  • The defensive numbers include the Cs' January 16-20 road trip to WAS, DAL and TOR in which the defense put up league-worst numbers in all three contests — possibly caused by Marcus Smart still working his way back.
For the season to date, the Cs' average Offensive OAR (Opponent-Adjusted Rating) = 108.0, while the Defensive OAR = 100.2. These numbers project Boston's offense at #6 in the NBA, and their defense at #2.
  • These are projected estimates of the team's performance level after adjusting their standard Off. and Def. Ratings for the quality of each opponent they've faced. This is NOT where they actually are now. Theoretically, these ratings should approximate where the team is headed, if all things were to remain equal (which they rarely do, of course). Also note: These are full-season numbers; the average Offensive OAR for their more-recent games is through the roof.

Here's a look at the Cs' overall season trend, via the Net Opponent-Adjusted Ratings chart (which measures overall performance, offense-defense):

Note the yellow trend line, which is a 5-game moving average. You can see where it starts to make its strongest and longest move upward right around game #37 — January 10 in Memphis. The green trend line is the season-long overall trend, which is also positive now (indicating the team is continuing to improve overall).

The Offensive Opponent-Adjusted Ratings charts are even more dramatic. The season-to-date graph shows a clear upward trend (you can see it here), while this last-15-games chart is remarkably/amazingly positive:

Bottom line:

Boston's defense has been elite — in the league's top-3 — pretty much all season long. The offense has been the big question mark. Now we see trends indicating that the offense may have entered elite status too.

And so the Celtics continue to strengthen their case for contender status.


Notes & Ruminations:

  • Once again, nobody carried the team in Friday's game. Everyone contributed. E.g., seven guys scored 10 or more points. 
  • Particularly great was Jerebko's breakout performance — 4-4 shooting overall including 3 threes, and a double-double of 13 pts and 10 rebounds — in just ~21.5 minutes. If Jonas gets back to last season's form (or better) then the Cs will be firing on just about all cylinders. Uh oh.
  • The Celts have now entered a groove, a comfort level with each other that's hard to achieve for most teams. It's showing in every aspect of their game.
  • The contest I'm looking forward to most now is Cleveland, on Feb 5. A real test against one of the league's best teams. It'll be fascinating to see how that turns out.
  • Next up are the Magic again, in Orlando. 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: Winslow Townson / USA Today Sports

Follow DRJ on Twitter @DRJ_CsNStats