Sports enthusiasts – from players and coaches, to historians and students of the game, to the mere serious fan – always talk about “intangibles” … their crucial value; a team or player’s lack thereof; maybe even their very existence?
The adjective intangible is used to describe things that are incapable of being perceived. In a competitive environment, an intangible contribution might turn out to be something that you DON’T do.
Take Monday night’s hard-fought OT win in Dallas, for example.
After shooting the lights out in the first period (65%) and establishing a 14-point cushion that seemed to bode a relatively routine victory, they couldn’t buy a bucket (35%) in Q2.
On top of that cock-eyed FG work, Brad’s stormtroopers managed to rack up three team fouls in Q2’s first minute. When “Bruiser” Baynes added a fourth with just under seven minutes to halftime, it appeared that the Mavs’ comeback effort would be aided and abetted by a parade to the foul line.
But you know what happens when we ASS-U-ME?
While Rick Carlisle’s crew did indeed craft a very effective second period of play to cut that big lead down to a more manageable four points, they did it with the benefit of but four FT attempts – despite executing 15 offensive possessions while in the Penalty Situation.
Did the stars in the basketball heavens abruptly realign to favor the C’s – or did the Men in Green abruptly impose more discipline on their play?
Whatever it was, it kept partially in-check a Dallas run that would continue into the second half and construct a double-digit lead.
Had Dallas been better able to exploit the “Penalty” – as have the Celts through this lengthy stretch of winning ways – that hole out of which Boston climbed to force the OT might just have been a trifle too deep.
Team Rebound, or Not Team Rebound?
And that’s not the only kind of intangible, disciplined basketball being displayed by Brad Stevens’s marvelously coached squad.
Boston’s vastly improved rebounding ranking has drawn a fair bit of notice – particularly their effort on the offensive glass, where they’re averaging better than ten a game and hold an overall advantage of almost three dozen over their foes.
But the “tangible,” digital evidence again doesn’t tell the whole story. There’s the matter of Team Rebounds (which, like Team Turnovers, no longer seem to be included in a standard box-score).
Allow me to introduce to this discussion a new piece of basketball terminology – Significant Team Rebound (STR).
There are only two ways in which an STR can be awarded – (a) a missed shot (FG or “live” FT) goes out-of-bounds before any player has established possession, or (b) a Loose Ball Foul is whistled during the rebounding scrum.
Through 18 games, the Celtics have earned 50 Offensive STR’s, compared to 39 for their opponents. In their last seven games (while shooting a less-than-mediocre .409 from the floor), our boys hold a 24-9 edge in OSTR’s – and that’s on top of being +15 in box-score OR’s as well.
Through 18 games, the Celtics have outscored their opposition in "follow-up points" (i.e. points scored on a possession extended by an OR) 208-190. The Mavericks were only the sixth team to post more follow-up points (11-5) than Brad's Battlin' Beantowners.
To gain such an edge in second chances – just like dodging that second-quarter bullet in Dallas this week – requires sound (if not statistically significant) and disciplined performance.
Abacus Revelation for the Road
During a first-half time-out in the GSW game last week, in the midst of a Warrior run, Coach Stevens calmly sent his troops back into the fray with these words:
We’re OK. Just play the next possession the right way.