Below are some statistical observations that you might not have seen yet from the C’s opener last night (big thanks to HOOPDATA):
* – Miami shot just .365 from the floor. Only six times last regular season did an opponent shoot .365 or worse and the Celtics went 6-0 in those games. In fact, they’ve won each of the last 17 times that an opponent has shot that poorly at Boston, dating back to November, 2007.
* – Boston was much more effective on the offensive boards as the Celtics were credited with eight offensive rebounds and 11 “second chance” points (1.4 per offensive board). Miami actually had more offensive rebounds than Boston (11) but managed just five second chance points (0.5 points per).
* – Boston got to the rim more often, taking 38 percent of their shots from point blank, compared to Miami’s 30 percent. What’s more, Boston converted on 61 percent of those chances while Miami came in at just 55 percent. For the Celtics, Davis and Daniels combined for a 7-for-7 performance at the rim. The rest of the team combined to hit 9-for-19 (47 percent).
* – Miami was a collective 1-for-12 on jumpers from 15 feet and in, while Boston wasn’t a whole lot better (5-for-16, 31 percent). Note that it’s jumpers, outside of “at rim”.
* – If we look at all shots taken from more than 10 feet out, it’s probably best to compare the teams and players using “points per shot taken”, since three-pointers are more valuable when made (thanks, Captain Obvious).
Anyway, Boston took 33 of their 69 total shots from outside 10 feet (48 percent) and averaged a solid 1.03 points per shot. Meanwhile, a whopping 62 percent of Miami’s shots were from outside and their points per shot was a much less-solid 0.83. That comes out to 0.54 pps on two pointers outside of 10 feet and 1.20 pps on threes.
* – Boston drained 8-of-16 threes, the 32nd time (including playoffs) that they’ve hit 50 percent or better while attempting 15 or more treys since the start of the 2008-09 season. They’re 29-3 in those games. It was just the 10th time since the start of last season (including playoffs) that the Celtics and their opponent each made at least eight three-pointers. The C’s went 5-4 in those last season.
* – The 69 shots taken by the Celtics was quite a low total. Last season (again, including playoffs) they managed 69 or fewer shots at the Garden just twice. It was Boston’s lowest shooting percentage (.464) in a game where they took 69 or fewer shots since May 6, 2008, when they shot .426 on 68 shots in a 76-72 playoff win against… Lebron James and the Cavaliers.
Finally, I thought I’d pass along this tidbit that I saw on twitter (via @JonCouture): The over/under for the Heat’s lowest single game point total of the season was set at 81.5 points. So if you took the under, you’ve already won your bet after just one game!
Tuesday night’s Celtics-Heat game scored a 5.6 overnight rating for TNT, a 75 percent improvement from last season’s opening game between the Celtics and Cavaliers. The second half of the TNT doubleheader featuring the Lakers and Rockets also had a solid boost from 2009, drawing 40 percent more viewers to register a 3.5. Overall, TNT averaged a 4.5 for the doubleheader, making it by far the most-watched NBA opening night in TNT history.
Click here, or on the image below, to launch a slide show of photos from Celtics Opening Night. Ray Allen led the offense with 20 points and drilled a clutch jumper late while Rajon Rondo dished out 17 assists as the Celtics played smothering defense to spoil the highly anticipated debut of LeBron James with the Heat. The Celtics won, 88-80, Tuesday night at TD Garden in the NBA season-opener.
Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee …
In the first NBA game since 1969 to feature 13 former All-Stars, it was the most recent player to join that list whose star shone brightest.
In his fourth year in the league, Rajon Rondo emerged as an Eastern Conference All-Star, so what’s in store for the Celtics point guard’s fifth season — and beyond?
“He’s got a good chance of being a Hall of Fame-type player,” Jermaine O’Neal said after last night’s 88-80 opening-night victory against the Miami Heat.
High praise? Sure. But Jermaine isn’t the only O’Neal heaping praise upon Rondo after playing just one regular-season game alongside him.
“It’s a lot of fun,” Shaq said of playing with Rondo, who finished with 17 assists last night. “He’s the perfect point guard. He knows where all his guys are. He led us out there, and he didn’t let us panic on the floor. Great player.”
Since entering the league, Rondo’s point, assist and steal averages have risen each season, culminating in last year’s 13.7 points, 9.8 assists and 2.3 steals per game. His rebounding numbers had also risen each season until a slight dip in 2009-10 put him at 4.4 per.
Is it ridiculous to assume Rondo could average 15 points, 11 assists, five rebounds and two-and-a-half steals per contest in 2010-11?
Those statistical averages would compare favorably with the fifth-season numbers of the four most recent point guard greats (all either HOFers or HOF locks) — Steve Nash (15.6 points, 7.3 assists, 3.2 rebounds, 1.0 steals), Jason Kidd (11.6, 9.0, 4.8, 2.4), Gary Payton (20.6, 7.1, 3.4, 2.5) and John Stockton (17.1, 13.6, 3.0, 3.2).
And Shaq agrees, especially after Rondo found him with a couple floating assists around the rim last night. “The last six or seven years I really haven’t had a point guard like that,” said Shaq, “but I’m just getting back to what I’m used to. I’m by the basket, and when he comes by the basket I just gotta be ready.”
If you’ll recall, just two years ago, Shaq played one-and-a-half seasons with Nash himself.
Obviously, the most glaring weakness in Rondo’s game is his shooting. Defenders point to the .500 field goal percentage in each of his last two seasons, but it’s his 3-point (24.4 percent in his career) and free throw shooting (63.0) that need improvement.
During the preseason, Rondo demonstrated a new-found knack to knock down the mid-range jumper, but he didn’t have that touch in the opener, finishing 2-of-9 from the field last night.
Nobody’s asking Rondo to have Nash’s 3-point (40.0 percent in his 5th season) and free-throw shooting (89.5 percent in Year 5) ability, but how about Payton’s (30.2 3-point FG and 71.6 FT in Y5)?
Kidd also started his career as a sub-.300 3-point and sub-.700 free-throw shooter. Since then, he made himself into a .425 3-point and .808 free-throw shooter last year in Dallas. All I’m saying is, there’s hope.
And if indeed Rondo emerges as a Hall of Fame-type player as J.O. alluded, that would mean the C’s current starting five would feature a full lineup of HOFers.
Not bad for a guy that joked in the video accompanying this blog that he might not still be in the NBA in 2012.
Rajon Rondo helped Shaquille O'Neal get off on the right foot in his Celtics debut. (AP)
SHAQ’S CELTICS DEBUT
The Celtics got exactly what they hope for out of Shaq last night: nine points, seven rebounds and a block in 18 minutes. So, how did The Big Shamrock feel about his first night as a Celtic?
“I just wanted to come out and just play,” said Shaq. “I had a couple early-game jitters. I missed a couple chippies, but Rondo … gave it back to me. We’re all gonna get better, and I’m gonna get better. It’s gonna be a great year.”
Shaq talked to the media for about five minutes after the game. Here are a few highlights:
On the opening-night hype: “We just wanted to come out and win our first game, and that’s what we did. We let y’all worry about all the hoopla and all that. We knew that we wanted to come play a solid game, and we knew if we did what we wanted to do then we could get a win. This game is over. We’ve got a game tomorrow, and we just want to be 2-0.”
On Ray Allen’s clutch 3-point shot in the final minute: “Ray is one of the greatest players ever to play the game — a great shooter. Doc (Rivers) drew up a play. It’s a play we practice all the time. We had many options, and that was one of our options. Ray Allen just did what he does — shoot the ball and make it.”
On Paul Pierce: “He’s a great player. I don’t think you guys give him enough media attention that all the other guys get, but he’s up there with the other two players over there (LeBron James and Dwyane Wade). He’s a great player, a great scorer, and his name should be mentioned more.”
On the Boston crowd: “Excellent. Electrifying. Magnetic. … It was great. It’s a great town. People here are anxious to get No. 18. It’s going to be like that all year, and we want to remain a dominant team at home.”
On starting 2-for-2 from the free-throw line: “I was leading the league? A thousand percent? That record got messed up pretty quick.”
REACTION FROM MIAMI
The fallout from the Miami media appears unanimous: Last night’s loss was the exception, not the rule. In fact, the Heat hype consensus is that they’re still the team to beat …
It’s reasonable to call this the most difficult regular-season test the Heat will experience all season.
And, yet, with less than a minute left, after playing as miserable a duration of basketball as this team might ever play all season, the Heat trailed by just three points and oh-so-close to ripping out the hearts of Celtics fans on opening night.
With all that in mind, it might be time to translate Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez‘s quote from several weeks ago into the language of basketball: There’s nothing wrong with going 81-1.
In their first quarter together, the Heat’s Dream Team scored fewer points (nine) than in any Heat quarter last year. Where have you gone, Quentin Richardson?
That’s why the Heat’s loss to Boston 88-80 actually was worse news for the rest of the NBA. Go ahead and laugh a little more at that one, if you want.
But let me go further: This game was the very worst news the rest of the league could have received. There’s really no other way to assemble what happened in this Heat opener in another context.
Similarly, after the game, LeBron James tweeted, “Rome wasn’t built in a day! Work in progress. On to the next one.” The funny thing is — as Rondo points out in the video accompanying this blog — this Celtics team literally built itself in Rome, during a trip to Italy during the 2007 preseason.
No, one game won’t mean much in the standings come April, but last night’s game was about more than just the one day. It was about preparation, unity, familiarity — Ubuntu.
After all, “The Decision” happened more than four months ago. What have the Heat been doing since July? Perhaps spending one too many days checking out the talents on South Beach.
(Have a question, concern or conception for tomorrow’s Irish Coffee? Send a message to @brohrbach on Twitter.)
ESPN’s Tim Legler joined the Dennis & Callahan show Wednesday morning to dissect the Celtics’ season-opening victory over the Heat on Tuesday night at TD Garden. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.
Legler said the debut of the Heat’s Big Three was a clear failure.
“The Miami Heat, I just think they’re a team that’s probably 20 percent maybe of what they can be,” he said. “Because offensively last night, that wasn’t just bad for an opening night game, that was inept, period, for an NBA team offensively, the way they played, especially the in the first half. I think that Erik Spoelstra‘s got a very challenging task to try to figure out a way to get ball movement on a team with a lot of guys that want to catch the ball and break you down individually.”
While the Cavaliers completed each other and fit into well-defined roles with LeBron James leading the way, the Heat look out of sync in James’ debut for his new team.
“I saw a bunch of guys that didn’t look like they fit well together,” Legler said. “I saw LeBron James go back into the mode in the second half where he basically said, ‘I have to become a scorer now to win this game.’ And that’s exactly what he was in Cleveland night in and night out. And it’s a big reason why he went to Miami, to avoid that situation, to let other guys make plays, to let him be more of a facilitator in that situation.”
As for James’ comments after the game that the team was too unselfish, Legler said he charted the game, and the stats don’t back up that claim.
“I thought that last night saying that we were too unselfish was a complete cop-out,” Legler said. “I didn’t see that at all. … Seventy percent of what they got offensively was someone basically saying, ‘I’m going to go one-on-one right now.’ That’s not an unselfish approach, that’s a selfish approach. The lack of ball movement makes them look selfish, but the problem is No. 1, they don’t have enough guys on the floor that can spread the floor and be consistent 3-point shooters.”
The Heat played right into the hands of the Celtics all night long — and right into the teeth of their defense.
LeBron James finished with a game-high 31 points, but he, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh combined to make only 17-of-48 shots.
And Ray Allen, who defended Wade much of the night and held him to 4-of-16 shooting, explained exactly how the Celtics were able to defend Miami in an 88-80 win in the season-opener at TD Garden.
The Celtics knew coming in that with James and Wade, the Heat were going to run isolation plays all night to try and get their two scoring stars going.
“We had a great swarm,” Allen said. “Everybody was in position. We talked on defense. We knew every play they were running so when they ran it, [Rajon] Rondo was right there, there was no gap. There was nowhere for LeBron to go and then we were coming back out for the shooters. There was one stretch where we were letting those corner 3s [be taken] and we have to do a better job of letting them have those shots.”
Then there was this from Glen Davis, who along with Shaquille O’Neal was making life miserable in the paint for the Heat all night.
“We had seen every thing they run. and they run a lot of iso,” Davis said of isolation plays for James and Wade. “And the one thing about iso is you can guard that by throwing two or three guys at them.”
Miami, which made just 11-of-41 shots in the first half, finished the game shooting a measly 36.5 percent, connecting on 27-of-74 attempts. The two players primarily responsible for guarding James were Paul Pierce and Marquis Daniels. Allen was on Wade and Garnett drew Bosh.
“I thought we’re a defensive team that can score the basketball,” Kevin Garnett said. “Paul has his hands full, I have my hands full, Ray Allen had his hands full. Those three are going to be a force to be reckoned with. With know that. Very talented guys, but it’s not one, two, three individuals that make a team. It definitely sets the foundation.
“But for the most part every time we touch the floor it’s about getting better. I thought tonight we did just that. We’ve got a lot of room to improve, but it’s the first night, a lot of expectations on tonight. But for the most part I thought we were solid enough to win, and we want to be better at home. What a way to start the year, with a win at home.”
The Celtics will try to continue their “swarm” when they play their first road game of the year on Wednesday night in Cleveland, serving as the opposition in the Cavaliers’ first game without LeBron James.
The Celtics held the Heat to nine first-quarter points, and Ray Allen nailed a clutch 3-point shot to snap a late 10-0 Miami run and push the Celtics’ lead back to six in the final minute. Allen’s shot from the corner ended any Heat visions of a comeback from a 19-point deficit, and allowed Boston to claim an 88-80 opening-night win.
THREE THINGS THAT WENT RIGHT
1. Rondo to Shaq: Just four minutes into Tuesday night’s game, Rajon Rondo drove, drew three defenders and lobbed the ball to Shaquille O’Neal, who threw it down with ease. It was more than just two points.
Obviously, Shaq takes up a ton of space around the basket, which means Rondo has a larger area to which he can toss the ball without fearing interference. That’s could translate into a heckuva lot more assists for Rondo and a heckuva lot of easy buckets for Shaq this season.
In almost 12 first-half minutes, the Big Shamrock finished with six points but would have had 10 if not for a pair of missed bunnies.
The Rondo-to-Shaq combo also exposed the Heat’s biggest weaknesses: the point guard and center spots. The two Celtics simply owned Heat starters Carlos Arroyo and Joel Anthony. Many critics had serious concerns about “The Others” in Miami, and, for now, those apprehensions appear legit.
2. Interior Defense: The Celtics held the Heat to 12 first-half points in the paint on just 6-of-16 shooting. What’s more, the C’s grabbed 21 first-half defensive rebounds, allowing only two second-chance points en route to a 45-30 lead at the half.
The Celtics’ Big Three of Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett held the Heat’s Big Three of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh to just 7-of-27 shooting in the first half.
Shaq and Rondo’s dominance of Arroyo and Anthony extended beyond the offensive end. Not worried about their defensive assignments (Arroyo/Anthony combined for two first-half shots), the Celtics duo could sag off and help out on Miami’s trio of stars.
3. Ray Allen: With all the talk about how Garnett looks as healthy as he’s been since arriving in Boston and how Pierce showed up in terrific shape, it was easy to forget to mention Allen.
Maybe it’s because Allen always looks as though he’s in top shape, but the C’s shooting guard looked like he was in midseason form on Tuesday, scoring 20 points on 7-of-13 shooting (including 5-of-8 from downtown). His final 3-pointer of the night came with 50 seconds remaining. It snapped a 10-point Heat run that had cut the lead to 83-80 in the waning minutes.
Allen also did a nice job keeping up with Wade on the defensive end, limiting the Heat guard to 13 points on 4-of-16 shooting.
THREE THINGS THAT WENT WRONG
1. Apparently, Standing in the Way of LeBron James: Twice — once in each half — Pierce appeared to draw a charge on LeBron, who was barreling down the lane, shoulder lowered, towards the basket. And twice referees called Pierce for the blocking foul.
On the second foul, Pierce came down hard on his lower back. He limped to the sideline as the Celtics called timeout, and then went to the locker room clutching his side behind trainer Ed Lacerte.
A report came down that Pierce was out of the game with back spasms — return unknown. But he did return, finishing the night with 19 points.
Celtics head coach Doc Rivers was none too happy with both blocking calls and let the refs know his frustration.
2. Lacking a Killers’ Mentality: The Celtics led, 63-50, with two minutes remaining in the third quarter. The C’s had their chances to end the game then and there, but instead saw their lead dwindle as they settled for jump shots. Meanwhile, the Heat closed the quarter on a 7-0 run (thanks to four points from LeBron), cutting the gap to a manageable 63-57 deficit heading into the fourth quarter.
Likewise, in the fourth quarter, the Celtics held an 83-70 advantage with four minutes remaining. A few ill-advised shots taken too early in the shot clock led to a 10-point Heat run over the next three minutes that would’ve been 13 if not for a missed wide-open 3-pointer by LeBron.
3. Perimeter Defense: While the Celtics’ inability to get out on the wings defensively didn’t hurt them in the first half, the Heat got plenty of wide-open looks. Eddie House and James Jones missed a string of 3-point attempts in the first quarter. But Celtics fans likely understood that House wasn’t going to keep missing those.
In the second half, House and Jones — along with LeBron — finished 5-of-11 from beyond the arc.