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Celtics by the numbers

05.23.10 at 12:09 pm ET
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As we all know by now, the Celtics have become a different team than the one they were in the regular season and the numbers bare that out.

Fair warning: This post uses non-traditional metrics to look for statistical trends. They are taken straight from the Celtics page on basketballreference.com and are by no means the end all and be all of analysis. As the guru of advanced basketball stats Dean Oliver once told me, numbers are useless if they don’t help tell a story, so we’ll use these to help paint a picture of how the Celtics have turned things around.

The important thing to remember is that these stats are adjusted for pace (possessions used during a game), which simply allows us to compare the numbers found in the box score to other players on other teams, regardless of how fast or slow they play. If you’re interested in understanding more, B-R has a very useful glossary page.

As you might expect, some interesting trends have developed with the Celtics over the course of 14 playoff games: Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Celtics, Stat Geekery,

Baby dances all over Magic

05.23.10 at 1:08 am ET
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Even the most optimistic Celtics fan that thought the Green could take Game 3 and go up, 3-0, didn’t expect what happened Saturday night.

The Celtics blew out the Magic, 94-71, in a game not that close to come within one win of a return trip to the NBA Finals.

And certainly no one expect Glen Davis to be dancing all over the Orlando Magic with a game-high 17 points.

But dance Big Baby did when he connected on a lay-up with eight minutes to go in the second quarter and stomped around the baseline as he was also fouled in the process. He might as well have been stomping on the heart and soul of the listless Magic.

“It’s not surprising as far as how well we are playing because we know we are capable of doing that,” Davis said. “We are capable of putting together some good games, its just our turn, I think this year we have had some ups and downs, didn’€™t close out games like we were supposed to, didn’€™t finish games like we were supposed to. Now it’€™s just turning around for us, we are staying focused and we are making sure we are doing our job, everybody has a job and everyone is doing their job, we are just making sure that we do our job.’€

For the record, Davis drilled the free throw as well, giving Boston its first 20-point lead of the game at 39-19.

Davis not only finished with 17 points but six rebounds in 27 minutes off the Celtics bench.

‘€œI think the thing that I figured out being a young player, being on a team that is so loaded, you have to find your role and play your role to the max,” Davis said. “I just bought into what Doc was saying, bought into what the team was saying, and just making sure that I am there for my teammates. That’€™s all that is.

‘€œMy role is just being an energy guy, making sure that I play defense, get rebounds, Doc lets me offensively do what I want to do, hit the open jump shot, play in the post, he lets me do that. But at the same time he makes me still remember my role and what I am capable of doing. I am capable of setting a great pick, you realize if you set a great pick, you are going to be open because your man is going to guard the man that you are guarding and that’€™s your shot. So just playing to my role, doing what I need to do and realizing what I am capable of doing.’€

Davis, sounding confident if not cocky, also said he’s been able to find his rhythm the last three years in the playoffs.

‘€œIt’€™s just the rising of the occasion, that’€™s all it is,” he added. “I just love to play, you realize when I get my opportunity to play, I play. That’€™s all I do, is just play the games, and big games are my specialty for some reason.’€

Davis said the Celtics will not let the Game 3 blowout affect their approach in Game 4, with fans already chanting ‘Beat LA, Beat LA.’ But as Bruins fans will tell you, it takes four wins to close out a series. And Davis is more than aware of this.

“I understand the fans with the ‘Beat LA,'” said Davis. “We have one more game to win and this team is highly capable of winning three in a row, we have been playing great but at the same time we need to realize it is not finished until we win the next game.

“Just staying focused in our game plan, making sure we do what we have to do to win the ballgame. We know what it takes to win, we’€™ve seen it, and we’€™ve done it. Now we just have to keep on doing it, consistency, and that’€™s what we are doing, just trying to play at a high level of consistency throughout the whole year. It wasn’€™t working like that at first, we have ups and downs, come out third quarter not playing well, but we are putting it together at the right time at the right moment and that’€™s what its all about.’€

And winning four games to win a series is all the Celtics care about on Monday night.

Read More: Big Baby Davis, Celtics, Glen Davis, Magic

Five Reasons Why The Celtics Won Game 3

05.22.10 at 11:19 pm ET
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The Celtics are just a win away from the NBA Finals following a 94-71 win over the Magic on Saturday night, a victory that was exactly as close as the score revealed. The Magic never led in the contest, and the Celtics held a double-digit lead during the final 39 minutes of the game. Glen Davis led the Celtics with 17 points off the bench and Paul Pierce added 15. Rajon Rondo had 11 points and 12 assists for the winners. The defense has been the calling card of this team and it continued in Game 3, as the C’s held the Magic to 36.9 percent shooting.

Five Reasons

GREAT START:

Before tipoff, the formula for a Celtics victory on Saturday seemed simple. Hang in during the inevitable fast start from a Magic team that was playing for its postseason life and eventually wear down Orlando with defense and toughness. Turns out the group that played with desperation right from the start was the team up 2-0, and the defense and toughness never slowed down.

The Celtics led 27-12 after the first quarter, holding the Magic to just 23.5 percent shooting. The Magic’s three stars — Dwight Howard, Vince Carter and Rashard Lewis — scored a total of three points on 1-of-11 shooting in the quarter. The Celtics jumped out to a 7-0 lead and never looked back, taking a 21-6 lead (following a 14-0 run) to, incredibly, basically put this game away. The opening 12 minutes told you all you need to know about both teams. One played with heart, urgency and smarts and the other played as if they were finishing up a home-and-home series with Memphis in February.

RONDO DOES HIS BEST LARRY LEGEND:

THE play of the series, without question, came in the second quarter when Rondo dove for a loose ball at the Magic foul line, taking the ball from Jason Williams (who, it appeared, didn’t feel much like hitting the floor). Rondo then got up, put a wicked cross-over on Williams and banked in a layup. Williams, it should be noted, put exactly the same amount of effort trying to defend Rondo as he did trying to get the loose ball. That kind of play by Rondo works perfectly when you need an example to show why one team is totally dominating the other in a series where the talent level doesn’t seem that different (though that can now be debated).

GLEN DAVIS:

Through three games in this series, Rashard Lewis ($110 million) has scored a total of 15 points in 111 minutes played. That is two fewer points than Big Baby (two years, $6.3 million) scored in his 23:15 on the floor in Game 3. Davis also took nine free throw attempts in Game 3, one more than the entire Orlando starting five combined. And unlike Game 2, where he had trouble matching up with Howard physically, Davis did an expert job on the post defensively.

DWIGHT HOWARD: NON-FACTOR

Howard’s line in the most important game of his season: 3-of-10 from the floor, 1-of-4 from the free throw line, a plus/minus rating of -29 (worst of any player on the Magic in a game they lost by 23 points). Credit Perkins, Davis, Rasheed Wallace and the game plan but Howard has to take a hit. If you are going to be thought of as a truly great player that kind of effort cannot happen in a must win. Shades of LeBron in Game 5.

TAKING CARE OF THE BALL:

This stat will probably be lost in all the postgame “What’s wrong with the Magic?/Are the Celtics better than 2008?” stuff, but maybe the biggest reason this was never a competitive game was the assist-to-turnover ratios of the teams. The Celtics finished with 23 assists and just eight turnovers, compared to a ghastly 10-17 mark for the Magic. Rondo, in fact, finished with two more assists than the Magic team.

Read More: Dwight Howard, Glen Davis, Orlando Magic, Paul Pierce

Three things that went well and three things that didn’t in first half of Game 3

05.22.10 at 10:30 pm ET
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A look at the first half of the Celtics‘ domination over the Magic in Game 3 …

Three things that the Celtics did well

Making (nearly) every possession count on both sides of the floor

From the time Paul Pierce hit a contested jumper on the opening possession, it was evident. The Celtics were not going to sit back and allow the Magic steal a game at the TD Garden. They attacked when they could attack, hit the open three when it was there, passed it to the open man effectively. In total, The C’€™s shot an astounding 51.2% in the first half. At the other end, the Magic rarely took a shot that wasn’€™t contested in some form. The C’€™s held Dwight Howard in particular to just 2-for-7 from the field, and the Magic as a team hit only 23.5% of their shots in the first quarter before raising that to 38.7%, still a low number by most standards.

Rondo being Rondo

Rondo’€™s 10 points, five assists and one rebound don’€™t immediately leap off the page like some of his previous stat lines, but it was the highlight reel that he alone created that this first half will be remembered for. His rebound and consequent head fake of Marcin Gortat and easy layup excited the crowd. The hustle and scrap he showed by diving to grab a ball at the feet of Jason Williams in the second quarter proved again why the Celtics are well on their way to a 3-0 lead in this series. The Celtics have Rajon Rondo. The Magic don’€™t.

Big Baby’€™s off the bench

Glen Davis has performed admirably in these playoffs, but he’€™s only hit double-digits in points twice before tonight. He already has 10 points in just 11 minutes and has been an absolute spark off the bench. His acrobatic layup with the foul and the little diddy he did afterwards gave the team a jump in the second quarter. Then, the C’€™s defense barely skipped a beat when he took over for Kendrick Perkins and Kevin Garnett in the post coverage of Dwight Howard.

Three things that the Celtics did not do well

Sitting on leads

After jumping out to a quick 7-0 lead, the Celtics appeared to sit back just a little, and before anyone knew it, it was a one-point game again at 7-6. Later, the Magic turned a 43-19 C’€™s lead into a 43-27 lead in the second quarter. Although the Celtics undoubtedly outperformed the Magic in the first, they can’€™t allow the Magic to keep pecking away for fear that perhaps the dam will break as it nearly did in Game 1.

Too often trying to make the ‘€œbig’€ play

When you have a 20-point lead in the first half, it’€™s easy for any team to start trying to show off, especially at home. That happened to the Celtics at points in the first half. They tried to blow the roof off the Garden with showboat plays that lead to turnovers. They can’€™t allow that to happen in the second half or those turnovers could turn costly quickly.

Letdown once Rondo and other starters left floor

As good as Davis and his fellow bench players were, there was a slight letdown in the C’€™s play once they hit the floor. The C’€™s actually allowed one more point than they scored when Davis was on the floor. Tony Allen had a much more difficult time covering Jameer Nelson than Rondo did. The bench players need to maintain the intensity of the starters when they’€™re on the floor if the Celtics are going to put the Magic to bed in the second half.

Doc keeping it all in the family

05.22.10 at 10:04 pm ET
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How good things were going for Doc Rivers on Saturday?

His team was up 2-0 in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference finals against the Orlando Magic. His 24-year-old point guard Rajon Rondo is playing his best basketball of the season. His team raced out to a 24-point lead in Game 3 and making the Orlando Magic look silly.

But what makes him most proud – as it would any father – is what his youngest son has accomplished.

Austin Rivers stands 6’3″, plays shooting guard for Winter Park High School and just led his team to its first state title in school history.

“That was awesome. That was one of the better experiences I’ve had as a parent, as a fan,” Rivers beamed when asked about his son before the game.

“Watching your kid win a state title when the school had never won in their history, it was an amazing feeling. I don’t know if you can get that feeling unless your kids do something like that. It was special.”

How good is his son?

“I can’t say how good he is because he’s my son,” Rivers said. “For me, I don’t know. I saw him at least 11 times. I got home a lot, games just worked out. They actually played a game here in Springfield, Mass., which was great for me because I got to see that, as well. I got home to see him a lot and that was great to do.”

Austin Rivers is considered a top 10 basketball prospect in the class of 2011.

Helping his son get into a basketball school would not, of course, be new territory for the Celtics coach. His oldest son Jeremiah played basketball for Georgetown before transferring to Indiana University, while his daughter Callie plays volleyball for the University of Florida, where she dates Patriots draft pick and linebacker Brandon Spikes.

Read More: Austin Rivers, Celtics, Conference Call, Doc Rivers

Howard: ‘We’re not done’

05.22.10 at 8:16 pm ET
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In spite of being down 2-0 to the Celtics, Dwight Howard is optimistic about the Magic’€™s future in the Eastern Conference Finals.

‘€œWe’€™re not done,’€ he told WEEI.com prior to Game 3.

Howard was loose and said the team is not getting down about their deficit, noting, ‘€œWe feel like a million bucks. It’€™s a new day.’€

The Magic have used the three-day break between Games 2 and 3 to mentally refocus. They have watched game tape and honed in on getting back to the fundamentals of Magic basketball.

Rashard Lewis noted they are zoned in on improving their ball movement and getting into an offensive rhythm early, something he said they have not done yet in this series.

“Boston was in a better rhythm than us playing, and hopefully they won’t be tonight,” Lewis told WEEI.com, adding, “We’ve got to come in with a lot of energy and a lot of effort in order to beat this team.”

Read More: Boston Celtics, Dwight Howard, Orlando Magic, Rashard Lewis

Shelden Williams expected to be back in lineup

05.22.10 at 7:43 pm ET
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Shelden Williams said that his back is “feeling much better” and that he expects to be among the 12 active Celtics for tonight’s Game 3. Williams was a late scratch from Game 2 with back spasms.

Brian Scalabrine took his place on the active roster but didn’t play. It was the first time in the playoffs that the Celtics had a lineup shift. Williams last saw action in Game 5 of the Cleveland series, but it is possible the Celtics could need him if any of their big men get in foul trouble.

Read More: Brian Scalabrine, Shelden Williams,
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