The Algebra of R ‘n R: Rest, rust, rhythm … resurgence on the rise?

It’s been some years since the NBA used “byes” in its opening playoff round for the top regular-season finishers. Back when an 82-game slate was being shoe-horned into as few as 22 calendar weeks, a brief respite at the start of a championship run was generally deemed worthy of the effort it took to achieve.

Contrarians would argue, though, that even a short spell of “rest” produces “rust” – or if not rust, at least some diminishment in the collective team “rhythm” that had enabled such effective on-court performance.

The 2017-18 Boston Celtics might be lending some credence to that contrarian opinion.

Consider that they barrel-assed their way through half their games in about 45% of the schedule – the pace so hectic that over a month passed between formal practice sessions. The following nine games (through Saturday’s loss to the reigning-and-defendings) were spread over 24 days.

Unfortunately, this more leg-friendly scheduling pattern appears to have nudged the C’s out of the “Zone of Comfort” that had been producing a 75% rate of success. At the height of their early-season efficiency – through four weeks and 14 games – Brad’s guys held a 653 – 611 edge in conversions, exactly three per game.

… or else they’ve become a little rusty.

Since slipping past the Sixers in the Old Country three weeks ago, Boston has been out-converted in every game, by an average of just over SIX per game … little wonder that they’ve dropped five of them, eh?

In actuality, during the four weeks and 14 games leading to London, the Celtics’ per-game advantage in conversions had dropped to 0.79 – but they were managing to out-“stripe” their opponents to the tune of seven points per game.


Through 50 games, the Celtics have registered 2,328 conversions (in 4,790 total possessions) and allowed 2,298 (out of 4,780). Simultaneously, they’ve earned 343 “stripes” (581 3FG’s “minus” 238 missed FT’s) while yielding 176 (440 – 264).

A +30 in conversions represents 60 points; add in 167 more points for the “stripes. That creates an Expected Advantage of 227 points, or 4.54 per game. In reality, the Celts have outscored their opponents 5,145 – 4,927 – that’s +218, or 4.36 points per game.

Abacus Revelation for the Road

Through six weeks and 22 games, the C’s had earned 223 conversions by getting to the foul line (either by way of a “shooting foul” or “Penalty Situation”), their opponents but 182 such conversions.

Those numbers, unfortunately, flip-flopped during the subsequent six weeks (21 games) – Boston 162, Opponents 212.

This troubling trend has continued through the first seven “post-haste” games, where opponents lead 67 – 42 in conversions via the FT stripe.