|Stat Man: Brad Stevens’ post-timeout brilliance||11.11.13 at 1:48 pm ET|
It was quite a week for Brad Stevens. Seven days ago, his Celtics dropped to 0-4 and rose to the top of ESPN’s Tank Rank. Now, his C’s are riding a three-game win streak punctuated by a pair of plays in the span of 3.6 seconds against the two-time defending NBA champions that emphatically announced the coach’s arrival.
In the final moments of Saturday’s Heat upset, Stevens concocted a pair of post-timeout plays that offered the first NBA glimpse of the brilliance that everyone who knew him at Butler has raved about for the past four months.
The first: Since Shane Battier had previously fronted Gerald Wallace in the post, Stevens called for Jeff Green to lob an entry pass to Wallace under the basket for a layup that cut a four-point deficit in half with one second left.
And second: Weighing the risk of throwing crosscourt against the reward of potentially freeing up a shooter where LeBron James might sag defensively, Stevens called for Wallace to return the favor, lobbing an entry pass to Green in the far corner for a 3-pointer that beat the buzzer. Both seemingly made more brilliant by the fact Dwyane Wade made the youth basketball mistake of missing the rim entirely on a free throw attempt between them.
During his tenure in Boston, Doc Rivers was rightfully praised for his post-timeout play calls, but he also had Paul Pierce to help him look good despite so often calling the same isolation elbow jumper. Stevens doesn’t have that luxury and requires a bit more creativity in engineering scoring opportunities for a team without a playmaker.
In the aftermath of the two most remarkable play calls during Stevens’ brief NBA coaching career, now seems as good a time as any to examine the Celtics coach’s success in post-timeout situations.
|Irish Coffee: The Kris Humphries Minutes Watch||11.08.13 at 12:59 pm ET|
The Kris Humphries Minutes Watch is one of the more interesting subplots of this Celtics season.
By sticking him on the end of the bench early this season, the C’s benefit twofold, accelerating the development of rookies Kelly Olynyk and Vitor Faverani while improving the team’s lottery chances.
On the flip side, the Celtics might also benefit from increasing Humphries’ playing time. He’s a 10-year NBA veteran who’s averaged a double-double per 36 minutes over his career, so there’s little doubt he gives Brad Stevens a better chance to stay afloat until Rajon Rondo returns than Faverani. Meanwhile, showcasing him might actually increase his expiring contract’s trade value in the coming months.
In other words, the Kris Humphries Minutes Watch might just be the best tanking barometer we have. And, unlike at least one of his Celtics teammates, Humphries doesn’t seem all that bothered by either situation.
‘I don’t look at it like that,’ he told the Boston Herald’s Steve Bulpett. ‘I look at it like I’ve got to prepare myself to help my team whatever way I can. I can’t read into all that stuff. If you’re a professional, you’ve got to do your job. That’s preparing yourself to play, whether you’re playing or not playing. We’re all trying to do that.’
The fact his name was on the tip of just about everybody’s tongue when the Knicks lost Tyson Chandler for 4-6 weeks is a good sign for his trade market. Considering each team’s financial situation, such a deal seems far from likely, since the Celtics would almost certainly have to absorb the $23.3 million left on Andrea Bargnani‘s contract through 2015 in return. Still, any number of contending teams might need frontcourt help by February.
It’s a good thing Humphries has enough Patron, wine and craft beer to get him through the season (see video).
|Gordon Hayward, Brad Stevens: A mutual admiration||11.07.13 at 2:02 am ET|
“You could kind of see,” said Celtics guard Phil Pressey as a knowing smile came to his face. “He talked about every single player, but as soon as he brought up Hayward, he kind of gave a couple more details about him.”
And Stevens’ first NBA win was no different from so many at Butler: Hayward was the best player on the floor.
“He’s a lot better than when I coached him, and man was he good when I coached him,” said Stevens after watching the Jazz guard drop 28 points, nine rebounds and five assists on his Celtics. “I thought he was the best player in college at the time, and man has he improved. I’m proud of him.
“I can’t tell you what that feels like, because I was there when he was a puppy ‘¦ and nobody was recruiting him. And it was like, ‘You think we should offer that guy a scholarship? Nobody’s looking at him. Nobody’s even in the building.’ It was probably a good decision, in retrospect. He’s awfully good.”
Let’s just say the feeling is mutual.
|Gerald Wallace: Seventh Man of the Year?||11.07.13 at 1:00 am ET|
Asked if anyone in the Celtics organization ever explained the history of the Sixth Man in Boston — a Red Auerbach creation that brought NBA Hall of Famers Frank Ramsey, John Havlicek, Kevin McHale and Bill Walton off the bench — Gerald Wallace had no idea what all that fuss was about.
“I’m like the seventh man, though,” said Wallace, who came off the bench for the first time to contribute nine points and nine rebounds in 23 minutes. “Sully [Jared Sullinger] was the first one off the bench. I’m the seventh man.”
Celtics coach Brad Stevens told Wallace he’d be joining Sullinger and Kelly Olynyk in the second unit frontcourt, and while he thought the timing could have been better, the 31-year-old couldn’t argue with the results.
“I wouldn’t say not happy,” said Wallace after his team’s first win of the season, a 97-87 victory against the winless Jazz. “I’d say kind of confused. It’s the first time since I was actually traded to Portland and came off the bench two or three games for them. I’m trying to figure it out. It’s a new experience for me. We’re still trying to figure it out as a team. It’s something different, but it worked, so maybe it’s something we can go with.”
|Fast Break: Celtics avoid worst start in franchise history||11.06.13 at 9:49 pm ET|
The Celtics avoided starting 0-5 for the first time since 1946-47 — the organization’s inaugural season — and delivered coach Brad Stevens his first NBA victory in the process, a 97-87 beating of the winless Jazz.
Brandon Bass (20 points), Jeff Green (18 points), Kelly Olynyk (14 points, 8 rebounds) and Jared Sullinger (12 points) all reached double figures, and Gerald Wallace contributed nine points and nine boards off the bench.
Here’s all that went right and wrong in the C’s first win in five tries to start the season.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Full-court Pressey: The former Waltham star didn’t score a point in his 12 first-half minutes, but at least the Celtics had a point guard. With the C’s trailing 20-10, Stevens yanked Jordan Crawford in favor of Pressey 8:17 into the first quarter. In his first four minutes, Pressey served up three assists — halving Crawford’s total for the entire season — and ignited a 13-6 run to finish the quarter trailing by just three.
A couple 3’s: By bringing Wallace off the bench for the first time this season and somewhat staggering the small forward minutes between he and Green, Stevens was able to ensure that one of his two best options was on the floor for the entire first half. Of course, the duo still saw the court together in spurts, too, combining for 21 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists in leading the Celtics to a 50-34 halftime lead.
Getting possessive: The Celtics committed an average of 19.8 turnovers and allowed 15.0 offensive rebounds per game in their first four losses. That’s a whole lot of extra possessions. Against the Jazz, the C’s respectively limited those numbers to 10 and six through three quarters. Hence, a 22-point lead on their way to victory.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Worst first: Facing a starting frontcourt of Bass and Vitor Faverani, the Jazz dominated the interior from the start — just as the C’s first four foes did this fall. Enes Kanter scored eight of Utah’s first 14 points, including a trio of buckets within 3 feet of the basket, as the Jazz opened up a 13-point advantage to start the game. As a result, Stevens started Olynyk over Faverani in the third quarter, Sullinger’s minutes increased and Kris Humphries even saw the floor. Just like we drew it up.
Flash Gordon: The Celtics had few answers for Stevens’ protege, Gordon Hayward, who amassed 28 points (12-20 FG), nine boards and five assists. Keep in mind, he becomes a restricted free agent this summer. Just saying.
So on and so fourth: The C’s fourth-quarter struggles continued, accentuated by an 11-0 Jazz run midway through the fourth quarter that helped slash what was once a 25-point Celtics lead down to eight with 6:26 to play.
|Stat man: Addressing Celtics’ big problem||11.05.13 at 2:12 pm ET|
The biggest problem facing these Celtics is the lack of a point guard, but that’s a story for a different day, since there’s no viable solution on the current roster until Rajon Rondo returns. Sure, a little more Phil Pressey might help, but is an undersized, undrafted rookie point guard really going to solve this thing?
So, let’s address a problem that Brad Stevens could possibly bandage with the current roster.
The Celtics are the NBA’s worst defensive rebounding team, allowing opponents to grab 33.9 percent of available offensive boards — a number that would rank among the worst in history over a full season. Opponents attempt 39.3 field goals per game within 8 feet of the basket; only the Blazers (43.3) are worse. The opposition scores 20.8 second-chance points per game; only the Nuggets (23.0) are worse. And just four teams (Wizards, Blazers, Clippers, Bucks) give up more than the C’s 44.5 points allowed in the paint per game.
The C’s interior defense needs work. Vitor Faverani, Brandon Bass, Jared Sullinger, Kelly Olynyk and Kris Humphries are allowing an average of 26.5 attempts at the rim, where opponents are shooting 52.8 percent.
The two biggest offenders, naturally, are rookies. Faverani is allowing 11 field goal attempts at the rim per game. Eleven! Per game! That’s the fifth-worst number in the league. He’s grabbed just 49.2 percent of his 14.8 rebound chances per game. The only other player with as many opportunities to snatch fewer than 50 percent is Al Jefferson, who hasn’t played since aggravating an ankle injury on opening night.
Meanwhile, the opposition is shooting 76.5 percent at the rim against Olynyk. That’s ridiculous. Only two bigs (Trevor Booker, DeMarre Carroll) are worse. And Olynyk snags fewer rebounds per chance than Faverani.
|Paul Pierce just made this Celtics season a little sadder||11.04.13 at 10:34 am ET|
As if this Celtics season wasn’t sad enough so far, American Express just released this Paul Pierce ad. “The more I embrace Brooklyn, the more Brooklyn embraces me. It feels good being here. It feels like I’m home.”
P.S. Seriously, though, it’s nice to see Pierce embracing the Brooklyn community the way he did Boston.