|Irish Coffee: Why Rajon Rondo’s assist streak is more impressive than John Stockton’s or Magic Johnson’s||11.26.12 at 4:50 pm ET|
This topic stemmed from a conversation with Celtics guard Jason Terry about the evolution of the assist after colleague Rob Bradford compared the dwindling distribution of assists to baseball errors: Considering teams in the 1980s scored at a higher rate, is Rajon Rondo‘s current streak of 37 consecutive games with at least 10 assists more impressive than John Stockton‘s string of 37 in 1989 or Magic Johnson’s record stretch of 46 in 1983?
In a word? Yes. Let the 35-year-old NBA veteran of 13 seasons who grew up on ’80s basketball explain.
“It’s just a different style of play,” said Terry, whose longest streak of double-digit assists lasted all of three games in 2003. “Now, it’s a lot more difficult to get those assists per se as in the ’80s. If you look at the style of play, it was up-and-down, run-and-gun. Now, there are much more intricate defenses. There’s also the zone defense, so it makes it a lot tougher to get assists. So, that makes his feat a lot more amazing.”
Great points all around. Let’s look at that style of play. Last season, when Rondo’s streak began, the C’s averaged only 90.4 possessions per 48 minutes. By comparison, in 1989, when Stockton’s stretch started, the Jazz averaged 98.0; and in 1983, when Magic’s string commenced, the Lakers averaged a whopping 103.8. All three hover around the league average that season, so defense has clearly muddled the pace over the years.
To put a finer point on it, not only must Rondo generate his assists on fewer possessions — and thus fewer field goal attempts — but the maturation of defensive schemes over the past quarter-century has also forced lower shooting percentages. Translation: Even fewer opportunities for Rondo to collect his dimes.
|Fast Break: Rajon Rondo stops Magic, ties John Stockton for consecutive double-digit assists||11.25.12 at 8:57 pm ET|
The Magic finally missed a couple of 3-pointers, and for the Celtics, the misses couldn’t have come at a better time. Both Jameer Nelson and Glen Davis missed treys in the final minute, and the Celtics made 3-of-4 free throws down the stretch to escape Orlando with a 116-110 overtime victory.
Rajon Rondo (15 points, 16 assists, 9 rebounds) fell one rebound short of his first triple-double of the season (and 24th of his career), but he did eclipse double-digit assists for the 37th straight game, tying John Stockton for the second-longest streak in NBA history, trailing only Magic Johnson (46).
Kevin Garnett (24 points, 10 rebounds) notched his first double-double since Nov. 9, and Paul Pierce added 23 points despite missing his signature elbow jumper at the end of regulation. Leandro Barbosa (15 points), Brandon Bass (13 points) and Jared Sullinger (11 points) also reached double figures for the Celtics (8-6).
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Blurring the lines: In four first-half minutes, Leandro Barbosa scored 11 points, making all four of his shots, including a pair of 3-pointers and a traditional three-point play. He entered the game averaging 15.8 points, 4.5 assists and 2.7 rebounds per 36 minutes, and that kind of production can’t be ignored. Makes you wonder how many guard minutes will be left for Courtney Lee once Avery Bradley returns.
Painting a masterpiece: Without Dwight Howard to stop them, the Celtics took full advantage of a rare frontcourt strength advantage. At halftime, when the Celtics built a 58-48 advantage, the Celtics owned the advantage in points in the paint (30-16) rebounds (23-21) and second-chance points (10-4). Rarely do the C’s lead any of those three categories, but it’s nice to see Pierce, Garnett and Bass deliver when they should.
Sully tapped: Less than two minutes into his night, Jared Sullinger‘s first attempt got swatted back into his face by Josh McRoberts. It was the beginning of an 0-for-3 start for the Celtics rookie. The larger concern: Opponents have blocked 19.4 percent of Sullinger’s shots this season, which ranks fifth-worst among NBA players who average at least 15 minutes a night. But Sullinger responded, taking a page out of Glen Davis‘ around-the-basket book, making five of his next nine shots to finish with 11 points and six boards in 19:25 off the bench.
|Chris Wilcox: Secret to the Rajon Rondo alley-oop||at 2:55 pm ET|
“It is what it is, man,” said Wilcox, whose averaging 13.1 points and 5.9 rebounds per 36 minutes. “I’m playing hard, just trying to be in the right spot at the right time, and good things happen. His No. 1 goal is to find us, to find the open man. All I do is just make it easier for myself and get to the right spot at the right time.”
Remarkably, 19 of Wilcox’s 21 field goals this season have come at the rim, where he’s making 86.4 percent of his shots (19-22 FG), and 15 of them have come from assists. The other four? All from offensive rebounds. He’s made a living from scoring around the basket — honing his alley-oop skills from guys like Andre Miller and Sam Cassell on the Clippers as well as Luke Ridnour and Earl Watson on the Sonics — but never like this.
“Rondo’s one of a kind,” said Wilcox.” I’ve been with some great point guards — Andre Miller, Luke Ridnour and Earl Watson — and they were basically the same kind of point guards. You just get to the right spot and good things happen. I’m just out there trying to be aggressive and trying to make things easier for him.”
|Rajon Rondo has made us take a closer look at the evolution of the assist||11.23.12 at 1:06 pm ET|
The debate regarding just how important or impressive Rajon Rondo‘s streak of 35 straight games with at least 10 assists will continue into Friday night’s game at TD Garden.
But one of the more interesting elements of the run has been the opportunity to reflect on how the assist statistic has changed over the years, and if that evolution makes Rondo’s feat any more, or less, impressive.
The stat itself can be compared somewhat to an error in baseball, with just enough subjectivity involved to spark conversation.
For instance, in 1980 there were 3,609 errors given out in 4,210 Major League Baseball games (0.85 per game). Last season, in 4,860 games there were 3,008 errors (0.61 per game).
The most errors given out to any one team in ‘80 was 174 (Cubs), while last season’s top team was the Rockies, who committed 122 (which would have been the 23rd most 22 years ago).
The lesson is that different statistics are viewed differently through the ages and the eyeballs, and assists are no exception.
Celtics coach Doc Rivers recalled after Tuesday’s practice how different arenas offer different expectations when giving out assists. Washington, he said, was notorious for being a difficult environment for visiting players to extract assists. Upon further examination, Rivers was right. Read the rest of this entry »
|Celtics undergoing a defensive identity crisis||11.22.12 at 1:14 am ET|
When Brandon Bass tipped home a Paul Pierce jumper with 1:28 left in their 112-100 loss to the Spurs, the Celtics avoided joining San Antonio as the only other team in the last 25 years not to grab an offensive rebound. Instead, they grabbed one — an NBA statistic that’s occurred just 16 times in the past quarter-century.
Of course, three of those 16 occurrences now belong to the Celtics. Only the other two games produced an entirely different result: a 103-79 blowout of the 76ers this past April and a 122-103 defeat of the Pacers during the 2008 championship season. The C’s shot better than 50 percent on both occasions, just as they did in Wednesday night’s loss to the Spurs, so there weren’t exactly a lot of offensive rebounds to be grabbed.
In other words, the Celtics should hope they only have one offensive rebound every night.
“You’re a big believer in offensive rebounds I think; I’m not,” said Celtics coach Doc Rivers. “You can pick on that all you want. That is a number I rarely look at. Statistically, it holds up. I can tell you: You don’t offensive rebound, you stop transition, you win more games than when you get offensive rebounds. I can guarantee you that.”
Sounds great in theory, except for the fact that MySynergySports.com ranks the C’s rank dead last statistically in transition defense, which is a entirely different problem. And a much bigger one.
|Rajon Rondo: ‘We’re not taking away anything’ on defense||11.21.12 at 11:34 pm ET|
Rajon Rondo can see what everyone else sees, including his head coach. The Celtics are not doing a good job defending in half-court. That has been a trademark of the Celtics success of the last five years.
But again on Wednesday night, it failed them as the Spurs not only won the game, 112-100, but they outscored the Celtics, 58-34, in the paint, thanks in large part to San Antonio’s passing and Boston’s inability to stop it.
“I don’t know,” Rondo said. “Can’t pinpoint one thing. Their players got into the paint. They did a good job of having their bigs passing [the ball]. They did a good job of everything. We didn’t take away anything we wanted to tonight.
“We’re making the same mistakes in our defense, night in and night out so I think we just have to do a better job of focusing in shootaround in the mornings when we’re given the assignments because each team varies. We’re making a lot of easy mistakes that allow teams to get to 112 points.”
It wasn’t quite “Dead men walking” as Doc Rivers put it after the loss by 20 in Detroit on Sunday night. But still, it’s alarming to these Celtics that they can’t defend for some reason in half-court.
“Basketball, you’re going to make mistakes in this game,” Rondo added. “The other team gets paid as well and they’re going to make you make mistakes but we pride ourselves on defense and we’re just not getting it done.
“We’re not taking away anything. We gave up the corner three tonight. We gave up the paint, touches and paint finishes. We gave up too many ‘And-1s’ again. I think we probably lead the league in ‘And-1s.’ So, we have to do a better job, not to hurt anyone but not let guys finish at the rim. We’re not finishing at all. It’s a collective team effort. It starts with me. I have to do a better job on pick-and-roll coverage and get back and help my bigs rebound.”
Talk about going from the frying pan into the fire, the Celtics welcome Kevin Durant and the Thunder Friday night to TD Garden. The 10:30 shootaround should be much more intense than normal.
“We have to try and bounce back and the best thing about the league is you don’t have to wait a week to play another game,” Rondo said. “So, after Thanksgiving we’ll try to get back and get focused for Oklahoma City.”
|Fast Break: Tim Duncan, Spurs board Celtics to death||at 9:52 pm ET|
The Celtics came within 90 seconds of becoming only the second team in the last 25 years to fail to record an offensive rebound — against the only other team do so. Only the Spurs won when they did it on Jan. 23, 2002. This time around, the C’s lost, 112-100.
Rajon Rondo (22 points, 15 assists) did his best to breathe life into a Celtics team seemingly already suffering a Thanksgiving Day tryptophan hangover, contributing to 19 of the C’s final 21 points. Brandon Bass broke his string of 19 straight when he mercifully tipped in an offensive rebound with 1:28 remaining.