Even in loss, Celts' offense continues its rampage / Green Trends

The Celtics' defense fell apart in Orlando on Sunday, and Boston lost that unusual game as a direct result of that. But their offense didn't skip a beat — it continued its rocketship ride to elite status, a ride that began on January 10 in Memphis and has shown no sign of faltering.

The defensive breakdown versus ORL was, of course, a team-wide phenomenon (because it always is) — but one player in particular was most off his game this time: Jae Crowder. Jae was two steps slow on defense all game long, and looked tired, distracted and befuddled throughout. Many of the defensive breakdowns that allowed the Magic to score way too easily in the paint were his fault (or mostly so). Coach shoulda sat him early, but didn't. Live and learn.

One game's defensive collapse does not a trend make. But it is something to keep an eye on (lest a pattern emerge).

At any rate, the Cs' defense hasn't been in question all season long. The real key to the Green's chances this season is their offense — and this lost ORL game did not diminish that aspect of their performance record in any way — it actually improved it.

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


Cs' Off. & Def. Efficiency Ratings vs. Orlando – Jan 31 2016:


Cs’ Offensive Rating for this game = 115.1 (pts scored per 100 possessions) — equivalent to the #1 offense in the NBA this season. Both teams' offenses performed at league-leading levels. 
  • Prior to this game, ORL's defense was rated #13 in the league (Def.Rtg. = 104.6) — good.
  • Versus the Cs, ORL's D performed like the #30 defense in the league (Def.Rtg. = 115.1). Both teams' defenses sucked.
Cs’ Defensive Rating for this game = 120.2 (!) (pts allowed per 100 possessions) — equivalent to the league's #30 defense this season (by far). Ugh.
  • Coming into this game, the Magic's offense was rated #25 in the league (Off.Rtg. = 103.3) — not good.
  • The Cs' D allowed ORL's O to score at a level equivalent to the #1 offense in the league (Off.Rtg. = 120.2). Slugfest.
Pace: Each team had 99 possessions – a little faster than the Cs' season average (98.4 – #3 in NBA). League average = 95.5/game.

Referees: Grade: B-. Observations: The crew of Zach Zarba (#15), Sean Corbin (#33) and Derek Richardson (#63) did a mostly-acceptable job of officiating this game, though they allowed too much contact (especially early on), and mangled a number of block-foul calls.
  • At ~2:39 of the 2nd quarter, Nicola Vucevic drove to the rim and into Isaiah Thomas standing in his way. Sean Corbin called it a blocking foul on Isaiah. Now see the video clip for yourself. Slow it down (or click pause a couple times) and you can clearly see Isaiah get into position, outside the restricted area, well in advance of Vucemic's arrival. This was as clear a charge as you will see. Bad call.
  • There were other questionable calls, but none as clear-cut as Isaiah's.
Magic did this a lot, to the Cs' starters

Where do the Celtics stand now?


After the Magic game...
  • Offensive Rating = 106.0 — ~#11 in NBA. (Almost in the top-10 for the whole season to date.)
  • Defensive Rating = 101.8 — #2 in NBA. Range: #2–#3 in a tight group.
  • Net Rating = +4.2 — #6 in NBA.
It's fair to assume that the Cs' defense will bounce back from this unusual breakdown. (After all, it's still rated #2 in the entire NBA.) If so, given that the offense has continued to perform at an elite level in every recent game, the Celtics could enter full contender status — with defense in the top-3 and offense in the top-10 (for the full season-to-date) — sometime soon.

And if the offense finds a new steady state in the loftier environs in which it now finds itself, then the Cs could end up with the league #2 defense and #3–#4 offense when the dust settles. Unquestionable contenders, in that event.
  • For the record, we define "contender" as any team that has a reasonably solid shot at getting to its conference finals.
Of course, this assumes that the defense won't deteriorate like we saw in Sunday's ORL game.

How is the offense trending?

The trend line for the Cs' Offensive Opponent-Adjusted Ratings in their last 15 games remains dramatically positive, with a very positive slope (first chart below). But if we look at just the games since the offense took off on Jan. 10 (second chart below) we see that the trend line is clearly leveling off — at a much higher level than it was prior to the takeoff.

I.e., the Celtics' offensive climb may soon be over, as they reach a steady state at what appears to be an elite level of offensive performance — with a standard average Offensive Rating of ~111.6, equivalent to #3 or #4 in the NBA (compared to their avg Off.Rtg. of 103.9 prior to Jan 10, ~#23 in the league).


Notes & Ruminations:

  • Weird, defense-poor, free-for-all kind of game. The starters allowed ORL to score almost at will in the paint, and that — plus some hot shooting from the Magic, especially in the 4th quarter — eventually led to the loss.
  • As noted, Jae Crowder performed poorly in this one. He seemed out of sorts, almost sickly, especially on defense. He should have been allowed to sit this one out once it became apparent how weakly he was playing.
  • Good to see how the Celts never gave up, right down to the last few seconds of the game when Marcus Smart put up an amazing 3pt shot that became a 4-point play.
  • Speaking of Smart — he shot 5-8 from deep (62.5%) in this game (excluding a ~half-court hail-mary at the end of Q3) and 8-15 overall (excluding the hail-mary), thus continuing his amazing improvement in shooting skill since he took one January snow day off to practice his shooting in a gym. Smh. One day.
  • Winning or losing one game doesn't matter much at this point. What's important is how well the team is playing. The Cs' defense stunk in this one (an aberration? we'll find out...), but the offensive renaissance continues unabated.
  • Next up are the Knicks, on Tuesday in NYC. NYK's offense = #13 in the league right now; their D = #19. They're a tough out, as we saw on Jan 12 (when Boston's defense also broke down). Cs better gird their defensive loins. Gird something, anyway... Cya then.

Update: It's reported now that Crowder injured his leg (shin bruise? they're not sure yet) in the ORL game. Does this explain his poor performance? Maybe — though it seems to open up more questions than it answers. For example: Jae says it happened in the 3rd quarter — but was playing poorly in the first half too. And why did he play in the 4th quarter if he was hurt? Also: he never looked hobbled; he ran normally... but was just slow to react. The story doesn't really add up... could be something else going on here. (The Cs have a history of keeping health-related stories close to their vest.)

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: Reinhold Matay / USA Today Sports

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