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Irish Coffee: Solving Celtics points in paint riddle

02.01.12 at 1:20 pm ET

Simply watching the Celtics this season, you might guess they get outscored by 20 points a night in the paint. They seemingly settle for jump shots at an alarming rate while opponents like Anderson Varejao own them in the key.

So, it might be surprising to learn the Cavaliers only outscored the Celtics by two in the paint on Tuesday. Or that the Celtics allow fewer points in the paint (31.2) than any other team in the NBA, according to Not only that, but opposing teams are shooting a league-worst 43.8 percent in the key against the Celtics.

There’s a clear discrepancy between what we see and what we know. So, what gives?

While opposing teams may be shooting poorly from the paint, they attempt 6.3 more shots and make 2.8 more field goals than the Celtics within 15 feet. The majority of fouls obviously occur within 15 feet of the basket, and opponents also get to the free throw line 2.1 more times per game and make 2.4 more foul shots.

That’s an eight-point differential per contest. So, where are those extra attempts coming from?

The Celtics rank dead last in offensive rebounds per game (8.8) and offensive rebounding rate (22.5%). Celtics head coach Doc Rivers has often argued the benefit of getting back on defense over vying for offensive rebounds. That’s fine, except when you rank 19th in defensive rebound rate (72.8%) and 25th in total rebound rate (48.1%).

As a result, opponents are grabbing 11.0 offensive boards at a 27.2 percent rate — both among the top half of the league. So, who’s responsible for the failure to corral defensive rebounds?

It’s definitely not Kevin Garnett and the C’s power forwards, who hold their counterparts to fewer rebounds per game (9.3) and the second-fewest offensive boards (2.5) in the league. It’s certainly not Ray Allen and the two guards, whose opponents rank 26th in offensive boards per game (0.8) and 28th in total rebounds (4.5). And it’s not Avery Bradley and the Celtics point guards, who are the best offensive rebounding group at their position and rank seventh in total rebounds — without Rajon Rondo, one of the best rebounding floor generals in the game.

The Celtics are getting out-rebounded at two positions: Small forward and center. Paul Pierce is considered one of the best rebounding swingmen in the NBA, and his defensive (16.9%) and total (9.7%) rebounding rates are the highest of his career, so some of the blame can fall on Mickael Pietrus, Sasha Pavlovic and Marquis Daniels. Still, the small forwards are only being out-rebounded on the defensive end by a single rebound per game.

Meanwhile, Celtics centers rank 24th in the league in rebounds per game (11.6) at their position while opposing centers grab 14.3 boards per game — ranking top five in the NBA. Jermaine O’Neal & Co. are worse on the defensive glass, allowing exactly five offensive boards (third in the league) to their counterparts per game.

Among centers who play at least 20 minutes a night, O’Neal ranks 28th out of 36 in both defensive and total rebound rate. If O’Neal wants to be judged on his defense and rebounding, the latter hasn’t been so good. Of course, the fact that O’Neal remains the only proven center on the roster doesn’t help so much either.


Just getting the opportunity to read Chris Mannix’s latest Sports Illustrated piece on the Celtics, two quotes from unnamed sources stood out in particular about these old Celtics and their trade values.

  • NBA scout: “They just look old. They don’t move well, they don’t finish well. That used to be a really intimidating team. Now they look soft.”
  • Eastern Conference general manager: “If Danny [Ainge] is looking for young talent and draft picks, forget it. [Pierce] is not worth that kind of package.”

Speaking of trades, despite recent reports to the contrary in Boston and Chicago, Magic GM Otis Smith told the Orlando Sentinel that Dwight Howard‘s preferred trade destinations remains the Nets, Lakers and Mavericks.

As for the Celtics looking old, they could be reinvigorated by Rondo’s return as soon as Wednesday night’s Raptors game. The 24-year-old point guard is expected back for either Wednesday or Friday’s game against the Knicks, according to the Associated Press.

“[Rondo] being on the road means he wanted to work with the team,” Rivers told the AP. “With us, when you see a guy on the road, it means he’s really close.”


Patriots quarterback Tom Brady generally says all the right things, except when he told this: “I actually saw Kobe Bryant for the first time when they went to the finals in Boston. It’s someone that I really look up to and admire, because of his competitiveness. I’d never met him before. You always watch other athletes and how they play the game and what makes them successful. You seem them play the game the way you think it needs to be played, like Derek Jeter. I love the way that he plays the game. You see some of those great caliber athletes. You look up to them and admire what it takes day in and day out to be a great player.” …

Apparently the NBA ownership business isn’t so bad after all, as Granite Telecommunications president Robert Hale bought a piece of the team. ‘€œI think there is limited financial downside and, in fact, there’€™s some upside,’€ Hale told The Patriot Ledger. ‘€œIt’€™s an amazing investment and there aren’€™t that many with limited downside.’€ …

In a Huffington Post piece, N.C. State sophomore C.J. Leslie discussed his admiration for — and the life lessons he learned from — Len Bias, who died from cocaine intoxication before playing an NBA game in 1986. The story included this gem from Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski: “During my years as an ACC coach, the two most dominant players we’ve faced were Michael Jordan and Len Bias. They did things no one else can do.”

(Have a question, concern or conception for tomorrow’€™s Irish Coffee? Send a message to @brohrbach on Twitter.)

Read More: Boston Celtics, Jermaine O'Neal, Kevin Garnett, NBA
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