Irish Coffee: Celtics passing the test
|12.13.10 at 12:43 pm ET|
Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee …
Yes, the Celtics allow the fewest points in the NBA. That’s obviously one reason for their success this season. But they’re also the best passing team — and, as a result — the best shooting team in the league.
And that’s why this Celtics team is riding a 10-game winning streak and ranked No. 1 in most power rankings. During the win streak, the C’s have knocked down 51.7 percent of their field goals, shooting at least 50 percent eight times.
For the season, the Celtics are shooting better than any other team in the last 10 years, making 50.9 percent of their shots. The next-best team (Phoenix) is shooting 47.8 percent.
So, why are the Celtics shooting so well? They’re passing the ball better than everybody. In essence, they give up good shots to get better shots.
The C’s average 25.9 assists per game; only one other team (Utah) averages 24. What’s even more remarkable is that they’re doing that while shooting fewer shots than any other team in the league. The Celtics have averaged just 76.7 field goal attempts per game; no other team shoots fewer than 77.
The Celtics are shooting fewer shots but taking better shots than everybody else in the league. How do you get better shots? By making the extra pass.
The Celtics have recorded an assist on 66.6 percent of their field goals this year. That mark is better than any Celtics team of the last 20 years. In fact, the NBA’s best all-time passing team — the 1984-85 Los Angeles Lakers — averaged 31.4 assists a game but assisted on just 65.2 percent of their field goals.
Obviously, Rajon Rondo is the main reason. He’s averaging 13.7 assists per game – a 40 percent improvement from last year – and threatening to break John Stockton‘s 1989-90 NBA single-season record (14.5 per game).
But just how big a role has Rondo played in the C’s passing success? The team is averaging 10 percent more assists per game this season than last — all while Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Shaquille O’Neal, Nate Robinson and Marquis Daniels are averaging fewer assists than they did last season. In fact, only Ray Allen and Glen Davis are averaging more assists than they did in 2009-10.
During their current 10-game winning streak, the Celtics have committed more turnovers than their opponents four times and have been out-rebounded three times, but they owned the assist advantage in all 10 games.
In fact, the Celtics have not been out-assisted once this season. Through 23 games, they’ve recorded 168 (39.2 percent) more assists despite shooting 11 (1 percent) fewer shots than their opponents.
So, what do all these numbers mean? Essentially, game in and game out, the Celtics’ superb passing ability can make up for deficiencies in other areas.
KOBE BRYANT VS. JOHN HAVLICEK
As Kobe Bryant approaced John Havlicek‘s career scoring mark (he surpassed it Friday), NBA.com caught up with Hondo to talk Lakers and Celtics.
Here are a few of the highlights from the interview:
NBA.com: What are your thoughts on Kobe being on the cusp of passing you for the 11th spot on the all-time scoring list?
Havlicek: Actually, I thought he already surpassed me and that is was a foregone conclusion that he would eclipse me because he’s been playing a number of years.
He came right out of high school and with the career that he’s had and the teams that he’s played with — he’s been surrounded by good players and championship-caliber coaches — it’s not surprising.
Who knows how far he’s going to go? How long he’s going to play? He could end up second or third. I don’t know if he can reach Kareem. He’s been a fantastic player.
Kobe came in with a little bit of an attitude early on and a lot of people thought that it was a little bit too much for a high school player to have that type of attitude. But he certainly made people realize that he wanted to be one of the best and comparing him to Michael is something that people have done, so it puts him in a class above most people.
NBA.com: When he retires, where will Kobe rank among the all-time great Lakers?
Havlicek: Well, Jerry West said Kobe is the all-time Laker as he sees it, but I never played against Kobe, so Jerry West is my all-time Laker.
If Jerry West says Kobe is the all-time great Laker, I’ll go along with him, but Jerry’s my favorite all-time Laker.
NBA.com: Do you wish you played with the 3-point line?
Havlicek: I’m just as happy to get an old fashioned three I guess. It would have added a few more points to my career and it would have probably changed the way I played but I can’t really say how much it would have changed my game because I never played under that ruling.
NBA.com: One record that appears to be safe is your Celtics all-time scoring mark. At 33 years old, Pierce would need to score 6,000 points just to tie you.
Havlicek: Well, I don’t know how long Paul is going to play but I think he’s probably the best 1-on-1 Celtic player of all time because the game that he has is much different than the game other people play. His ability to score and create shots is something that he’s done better than any other Celtic. If he plays long enough, he’ll break the record. I don’t know if that’s something he has on his mind or not.
NBA.com: Talk about Rajon Rondo’s emergence into an elite point guard.
Havlicek: He’s unlike any point that I’ve ever seen. He rebounds. He doesn’t shoot the ball that well. He’s not a great free-throw shooter. But his ability to create situations on the floor is uncanny. He’s not like a Chris Paul who breaks down defenses and that type of thing. He’s totally a different kind of point guard.
I don’t know how you can compare him to anyone. He can play defense. He’s one of the great steals leaders of the league. His quickness is probably the thing that separates him from most players. He doesn’t appear to be that quick but he sort of leaves people in the dust.
He’s a surprising type of point guard that’s unlike any I’ve ever seen. He gets the job done.
DOC RIVERS VS. PHIL JACKSON
Speaking of Celtics vs. Lakers, Shaquille O’Neal knows the rivalry fairly well at this point. So, the Boston Herald asked him to compare C’s head coach Doc Rivers and Lakers head coach Phil Jackson. Here’s what he said:
“I’m going to call Doc an ebonic Phil Jackson. And what I mean by that is Phil Jackson has his Buddha ways, but Doc got his homeboy ways because he was once one of us and he really relates to us very well. I think the guys respect him for that. You know, he treats us like men. He only expects one thing from us: Do what he says and play hard. If you could substitute a better word than ‘ebonic Phil Jackson,’ I’d like you guys to put your degrees to work. But it’s sort of like that, on that level.”
As a player, Rivers averaged 10.9 points and 5.7 assists, making one All-Star Game and never winning a title in 13 seasons. Jackson averaged 6.7 points and 4.3 rebounds, never making an All-Star team and winning the 1973 NBA title.
As a coach, Rivers has won 55.0 percent of his games, one Coach of the Year honor and the 2008 NBA championship in 12 seasons. Jackson has won 70.5 percent of his games, one Coach of the Year award and 11 NBA titles in 20 years.
WHO IS THE BEST RIVERS?
Gatorsports.com caught up with University of Florida volleyball standout Callie Rivers — Doc’s daughter — who broke down the family basketball dynamics:
Q: If there was a Rivers family 1-on-1 basketball tournament, who would win?
A: (Younger brother and the nation’s top high school recruit) Austin. Maybe (Indiana University senior) Jeremiah. Maybe my dad, actually.
Q: You think your brothers can beat your dad?
A: I don’t know. My dad doesn’t take to losing very well. He’s got some weight on all of my brothers, so he’d probably find some way to pull it out. He’s a better shooter now than what he was when he was playing, which is weird. Maybe there’s no pressure now.
(Have a question, concern or conception for tomorrow’s Irish Coffee? Send a message to @brohrbach on Twitter.)