Digital Diagnostics for Danny’s Do-over, Week 1

Year Five of the Brad Stevens Era with our Celtics figured to get off to a herky-jerky start, what with a 70+% turnover in personnel – on multiple levels – and an accelerated opening to the season. Add in a legal kerfuffle, a back-to-back start, irritating injury to three rotation players, and the gruesome set-back that befell Gordon Hayward on his first night in Celtic green … Sheesh!

The Coach and the Boss weren’t angling for all that – nor should they be too pleased that their New Kid on the Block could be so easily enticed into the gutter.

Through three games, Stevens has already utilized 14 players, and projected starter Marcus Morris has yet to suit up. Minutes have ranged from Jaylen Brown’s opening night 40 to Guerschon Yabusle’s three in Friday night’s win.

What has stood out most in the C’s initial on-court performances has been the shooting – it’s been god-awful, particularly from the foul line (.667). It’s also quite apparent that these Celtics will live or die with the three-ball, which they HAVE shot more accurately than their foes in all three encounters thus far (.326 - .293, overall). Half their fourth-quarter field-goal attempts against Cleveland were treys.

Despite being outshot overall .442 - .418, the Stevens Crew has converted just one fewer FG (110 - 111) and scored but one fewer point (301 - 302).

Boston was among the worst rebounding teams (No. 25 OR%, No. 27 DR%) last season. But these new-look Celtics are averaging over 11 Offensive Rebounds per game – they’ve already stolen three extra chances on missed free throws (while surrendering only one).

Actually, Brad’s boys left no doubt from the outset that no malady or misfortune would compromise their grit. They certainly were in shock for a good minute when No. 20 was carted off – they’d go on to convert but five of their next 24 possessions while Cleveland was clicking on 13 and building the comfortable, double-digit lead it carried into the intermission.

But it was a different band of brothers that emerged from the visitors’ locker room for Tuesday’s third quarter. While converting eight of their first nine possessions (17 for 26 for the quarter), Boston’s defense recorded one string of five consecutive “stops” along with FOUR other stretches of three in a row – in all, the Cavs managed just eight conversions in 27 possessions. If not for their 5 – 11 FT shooting, our boys may well have entered the home stretch in front and ridden that emotion to an upset.

Alas, the defensive stops were tougher to come by in crunch time, as LBJ et al converted on seven of their final nine possessions to close out their victory.

Fourth-quarter D was the Achilles heel in Wednesday’s home opener as well. The Celts got consecutive stops (actually, three in a row) against the Bucks only once during the final 12 minutes. For the night, Milwaukee drained 38 FG’s and earned 13 trips to the foul line – 51 conversions (to Boston’s 48) in their 99 possessions.

As for the Sixer game – in their combined 195 possessions, the teams managed to miss 106 FG’s and commit 36 TO’s. For good measure, Brad’s bombers added ten clanks from the foul line – for the second consecutive game. Thank goodness for Shane Larkin.

The Algebra of the Game

In all three contests this week, the winners have posted a higher overall FG% and recorded more Total Rebounds – also committed more Turnovers.

The “2-out-of-3 Rule” (so dubbed by a clever commenter a while back) asserts that a team holding a statistical edge in two of those three categories is pretty much a lock to win that game.

Here’s another simple method to “measure” the difference in a game – take a team’s missed FG’s (FGA’s minus FG’s), subtract its Offensive Rebounds, then add its turnovers. That totals up to a team’s Empty Possessions. (EP’s equate to the opponent’s “stops.”)

In the opener, the C’s compiled 55 EP’s to Cleveland’s 53 in a three-point loss. The next night it was Boston 54, Milwaukee 47 in the EP column of a 108-100 game. And the Celtics were +6 vs. Philly (54, 60) while winning by 10.

[Side-note: The sum of Team A’s TO’s and Team B’s defensive rebounds yields similar “measurement” to Team A’s Empty Possessions – I’ve only just begun playing around with that “linear equation.”]

No Charity at the Stripe

The 2016-17 Celtics misfired on 367 free throws, 4.48 per game, fifth lowest in the league; their .807 accuracy was No. 3. Those misses were more than balanced by 985 successful treys.

Indeed, they were [985-367] 618 points to the good – second only to Houston’s +671.

At their current pace, the 2017-18 squad will finish at +82, well below the Suns’ league-worst +132 last season.