Celtics stifle Knicks in NYC / Game marred by awful refereeing / Green Trends

Well, It had to happen sometime. The Celtics' offense — on a rampage for over three weeks now — faltered for a while in NYC; but the Green pulled out the win with tough defense and some latter-game offensive rejuvenation.

Unfortunately for fans, the game was marred by some of the worst officiating we've seen this season, as the refs destroyed the flow of the game with mistake after mistake, leaving both sides completely befuddled. (It was mostly one ref at fault, actually.) 

So how bad did the offense get? Example: The Cs missed every 3-point shot they took in the first half. All 13 of em. Everybody joined the party: Olynyk, Smart, Jerebko, Thomas, Crowder, Bradley — they all struck out.

But this was a tale of two halves, and the Celts' offense came roaring back in the second one. The contrast was marked: their Offensive Rating for the first half was equivalent to league worst, while in the second half it hit league-best levels. (And it kept getting better, reaching a ridiculous high in the 4th quarter. See below.) 

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


Cs' Off. & Def. Efficiency Ratings vs. New York – Feb 2 2016:


Cs’ Offensive Rating for this complete game = 104.7 (pts scored per 100 possessions) — equivalent to the #19 offense in the NBA this season. But the two halves were polar opposites.
  • The Off.Rtg. for the 1st half = 94.3 — equivalent to #30 in the league.
  • The Off.Rtg. for the 2nd half = 115.7 — equivalent to #1 in the league.
  • The Off.Rtg. for the 4th quarter = 131.1 (!)crazy high.
  • Prior to this game, NYK's defense was rated #19 in the league (Def.Rtg. = 107.2) — weak/mediocre.
  • Overall in this game, NYK's D performed like the #14 defense in the league (Def.Rtg. = 104.7). But in the 2nd half, NYK's defense uniformly performed at the level of league worst.
Cs’ Defensive Rating for this complete game = 96.1 (pts allowed per 100 possessions) — equivalent to the league's #1 defense this season.
  • The Def.Rtg. for the 1st half = 98.5 — equivalent to #2 in the league.
  • The Def.Rtg. for the 2nd half = 93.5 — equivalent to #1 in the league.
  • Note: The Def.Rtg. for the 4th quarter worsened to 116.6, as the game settled into a slugfest near the end.
  • Coming into this game, the Knicks' offense was rated #14 in the league (Off.Rtg. = 105.3) — average.
  • For the game as a whole, the Cs' D held NYK's O to a level equivalent to the league's #30 offense (Off.Rtg. = 96.1).
Pace: Each team had 93 possessions – slower than the Cs' season average (98.4 – #3 in NBA). League average = 95.5/game.

Referees: Grade: D-. Observations: The crew of Pat Fraher (#26), Leroy Richardson (#20) and Scott Wall (#31) did a miserable job. "Incompetent" is the official designation (though many observers thought "blind" and "nuts" were more appropriate). There was no consistency whatsoever, and some of their calls were true howlers — the "I can't believe my eyes" kind. These refs certainly earned an F, but are saved by two facts: (1) the outcome of the game was not affected by their shenanigans, and (2) Leroy Richardson made most of the egregious errors; the other two refs weren't nearly as bad as he was.

Here's a sampling of the comedy:
  • At ~7:27 of the 1st quarter, the craziness began with a weird flagrant-1 call on Carmelo Anthony, for swinging his arms around trying to get free to get a shot off and inadvertently hitting Jae Crowder in the jaw. It was certainly a foul — but a flagrant?? There was no "unnecessary contact" (per the rules), because it was perfectly natural for Anthony to swing his arms around in trying to get free. What seemed to happen was that the refs got all confused by the slow-motion replay, forgetting that real life doesn't happen in slow motion. Terrible call. Here's the video clip.
  • To compound their incompetence, the refs then called an EVEN WORSE "make-up flagrant" on Amir Johnson, at ~6:19 of the 3rd quarter. In that play, Melo drove to the rim and right into Amir standing under it. In the confusion, Amir's arm found itself somewhere in the vicinity of Melo's head, though there was no actual significant contact with the head. So the refs studied and studied the slow-motion replay — and once again came up with the wrong conclusion. Truly, this has to stand as the most ridiculous "flagrant" call of the season. Here's the video clip.
  • At ~7:16 of the 3rd quarter, Jared Sullinger was fouled by two different Knicks while taking a shot at the rim. No call. Here's the video clip.
  • At ~6:53 of the 3rd quarter, a foul was called on Amir Johnson by Leroy Richardson. Nobody on Earth could understand why. Perhaps because Amir put his body in Porzingis' elbow's way? Here's the video.
  • At ~3:10 of the 3rd quarter, Arron Afflalo was defending Evan Turner when he grabbed Turner's left arm, and as Evan tried to pull it free, he (Evan) was called for an offensive foul — by the ref whose view of the arms involved was being blocked by the bodies. Which ref was it? Why, Leroy Richardson, of course. Unbelievable. Another terrible call. See the video clip. (Note: the close-up slow-mo replay appeared only on the Boston broadcast.)
  • At ~0:53 of the 3rd quarter, Melo took a jump shot defended by Jae Crowder. As he came down from his jump, Melo kicked his right foot out and hit Jae in the legs, causing both to stumble a little. The call — by Leroy Richardson again, naturally — was a foul ON CROWDER. Everyone knows by now that the leg-kick thing is an OFFENSIVE FOUL in the NBA. (Heck, Jae himself got it called on him by another of the NBA's shining stars, this guy.) But noooo... not in Leroy's world. Another terrible call. Here's the video clip.
  • At ~0:25 of the 3rd quarter, Melo slammed his shoulder into a stationary Marcus Smart, who fell backward. No call. Melo was so sure he'd be hit with a foul, he badly missed the wide open jumper. Yes, Smart exaggerated the fall for effect (like everyone does) — but the hit was obviously real and hard. The point here is: Neither side knew what was and wasn't going to be whistled in this game. Here's the video clip.
  • At ~8:33 of the 4th quarter, Avery Bradley was called for a mysterious "offensive foul" by — can you guess who? — yep, old-friend Leroy Richardson. What did Avery do? He was moving away from the rim (without the ball) when Sasha Vujacic squeezed his body slightly ahead so that Avery had nowhere to go but into him. Both were moving forward furiously at the time. THAT is what was called an "offensive foul." Smh. I'm telling ya, this was one nutty game. Here's the video clip. (Note: Most observers, including the announcers, thought the call was a "moving screen" on Olynyk, but nope — it was on Bradley, officially.)
  • At ~7:37 of the 4th quarter, Robin Lopez set a pick on Evan Turner to free Arron Afflalo for an open 3pt shot. Problem was, it was an obvious illegal screen, as Lopez clearly moved into Evan to impede his chase. No call. Typical. Here's the video clip.
  • Finally, just to make sure he left no rule unabused, Leroy Richardson called a traveling violation on Isaiah Thomas at ~0:28 of the 4th quarter An examination of the video showed that there was in fact no violation. After gathering the ball, Isaiah took one step, established his right foot as the pivot, then swiveled and stepped backward with his left foot without moving his right, and jumped to take his shot. Perfectly legal. Another bad call. Thank you Leroy. You're a champ. Here's the video clip (published by the NBA, like all these clips).
Note: In reviewing Leroy Richardson's actions in this game, it's hard to imagine anyone making this many obvious mistakes naturally. I have to say that it looks like he had some kind of ax to grind in this one… whatever it was.

Melo's gotten much better on D, but nobody can stop Isaiah flying...

Where do the Celtics stand now?


After the Knicks game...
  • Offensive Rating = 106.0 — ~#12 in NBA. Range: #9–#13 in a very tight group.
  • Defensive Rating = 101.7 — #2 in NBA. Range: #2–#3 in a tight group.
  • Net Rating = +4.3 — #6 in NBA.
As we know well by now, the Cs' defense is not in question anymore. Their season destiny hangs on their offense, which has been on a rampage since January 10. This game's Off.Rtg. doesn't meet their recent lofty criteria, but really it was only in the first half that the offense stumbled. In the 2nd half, it galloped along at a rate equivalent to #1 in the NBA.

I.e., the Celtics' offensive rampage took a step back for ~24 minutes. Not enough to justify calling an end to the rampage — not yet, anyway.

The offense's trend line has not changed appreciably from the last time we looked. The rapid climb is leveling off, and appears to be reaching a steady state around an Offensive Rating between ~111 and ~112 — equivalent to ~#3 in the NBA at this time. (Note: This refers to their average Off.Rtg. since the offense took off on January 10, not the whole season.)


Notes & Ruminations:

  • In a game practically ruined by the referees, the Celtics managed to show their tenacity by hanging in through a terrible first half of shooting (0-13 on threes, 17-44 overall) with tough defense — then bursting through with a dramatic offensive bounce-back in the second half (especially in the 4th quarter).
  • Great to see both Kelly Olynyk and Tyler Zeller fight for their own offensive rebounds and score, in the 4th quarter. Zeller in particular was great in this game, earning a double-double (16 pts, 10 rebs) and wreaking havoc everywhere. Olynyk was no slouch either, shooting 5-8 (including 1-3 from deep — the best 3pt percentage on the team in this game!) and grabbing 5 rebounds.
  • For the game, the Cs hit only 3 of their 19 three-point attempts. Ugh.
  • It happens. And yet they won... threes and Leroy notwithstanding.
  • Next up is Detroit on Wednesday, in TD Garden. For the season to date, DET's offense = #13 in the league, and their D = #11. But in their last 15 games, the Pistons' offense has ranked ~#7, while their D has dropped to ~#21. Should be an interesting contest. (Of course, Friday's appointment in Cleveland will REALLY be interesting.... I think.) -- 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: Julie Jacobson / AP

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