|Irish Coffee: Celtics succeed one possession at a time||01.25.11 at 1:58 pm ET|
Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee …
Over the weekend, I stumbled across a New York Times article that claimed Derrick Rose is a better defender than Rajon Rondo, based on the individual statistical analysis of points allowed per possession:
Rose has allowed just 0.77 points per possession overall on defense this season, an elite mark for any defender, regardless of position. Chris Paul (0.86 points per possession allowed), Rajon Rondo (0.83 PPP allowed), and Russell Westbrook (0.92 PPP allowed) –- all excellent defenders -– have been trumped statistically this year, and by no slim margin. Rose has each of those players handily beat, and boasts a shockingly comprehensive defensive profile.
My natural reaction: How do I get my hands on these points per possession (PPP) statistics? It turns out Synergy Sports Technology tracks every possession — offensively and defensively – for every NBA player. On both sides of the ball, a team or player’s possessions are broken down into 11 categories: 1. isolations, 2. pick-and-rolls (ball-handler), 3. post-ups, 4. pick-and-rolls (roll man), 5. spot-ups, 6. off screens, 7. handoffs, 8. cuts, 9. offensive rebounds, 10. transitions and 11. all other plays.
Obviously, a player’s PPP offensively doesn’t account for the quality of the pass he’s receiving or the look he’s getting, but it’s a great tool to determine how well he’s performing overall and on which plays he’s succeeding.
Likewise, a player’s PPP allowed defensively doesn’t account for the quality of his help defense or who he’s defending, but it’s an accurate representation of whether or not he’s stopping his assignment as well as on what plays he’s being beaten.
Let’s first break down how efficient the Celtics have been offensively as a team; the first number is where they rank in the league in terms of PPP, and the percentage reflects how often they run each play:
|No passing fancy: C’s determined to show NBA ‘what basketball is like’||01.22.11 at 11:35 am ET|
In a stat sheet filled with superlatives, the thing that shone for the Celtics like a neon sign could be found several columns over and several rows deep.
The Celtics had 31 assists on 37 baskets in Friday’s 110-86 dismantling of the Jazz at TD Garden to improve to an Eastern Conference-best 33-9. The most impressive part of the performance was that it wasn’t all Rajon Rondo. Yes, the Celtics point guard led the way with 12 dimes, but Marquis Daniels had six, Ray Allen had four and Kevin Garnett had three. Of the 11 players who dressed, only Paul Pierce and Semih Erden failed to register at least one helper.
From the opening tip, the Celtics were determined to spread the wealth. Shaquille O’Neal drew people to him in the paint as he usually does then found Pierce to his left on a cut to the basket for a lay-up 35 seconds in. The Celtics were off to the races.
That would be the first of 31 times one Celtic teammate found another for a field goal.
“It’s just a product of our work,” Pierce said. “Everyday we come in here and that’s what we work on. We work on making the passes, running our offense. Believing in one another, not caring who gets the credit. When you have a selfless group like this, that’s what happens.”
The Jazz did their best early to keep up but as a team built on strength and power, the Celtics seemed determined to take advantage of that. Let KG explain:
“Typical stuff. We know a lot of the offense goes through their bigs,” Garnett began. “They lay a lot of high post, lot of movement. Everybody knows Jerry Sloan’s system, he has been here for 30 years, 25-plus years. They are a physical team. We knew that we had to come out and not only meet their bigs’ physicality, but to be aggressive ourselves.
“I thought for the most part, we moved the ball. The things we worked on in practice the other day definitely showed and good showing by us. I liked the way we were forceful, physical. I thought we were firm. Again we moved the ball, everything we worked on and everything we have practiced up until this point was exemplified tonight.”
Utah Hall of Fame coach Jerry Sloan pushed every button he could but the Celtics were too much for his team, which came in tied for first with Oklahoma City in the Northwest Division.
“Well they showed us what basketball is like tonight,” Sloan said. “They came out and they played a terrific game, they took us out of our offense, we couldn’t do anything of what we were trying to do. I thought they were terrific passing the ball, and they made us turn the ball over way too many times, 21 turnovers for 26 points, it’s tough to beat anybody when you have that happen.
“But give them credit for how they came out and got after us. They were good in their offense getting the kind of shots they wanted and the kind that they can make. Doc was pretty generous not keeping his players out there, letting us breathe a little bit I guess.”
|Shaq on Celtics’ effort: ‘Blame it on the sleet’||01.20.11 at 1:00 am ET|
I’ve heard of “Blame It on the Rain” before, but “blame it on the sleet”? That’s a new one.
But Shaquille O’Neal has made a living off coming up with new slogans, and Wednesday night was no different. In a span of about five minutes after an ugly 86-82 Celtics victory against the Pistons, he blamed the Celtics’ sluggishness on the weather, invented a nickname for himself and Rajon Rondo, explained his team’s need to step on the Pistons’ throats, vowed to make free throws in the clutch and described how he got on Semih Erden‘s ass. Not bad.
O’Neal produced on the floor, too, for all 25 minutes. One of few Celtics to play inspired basketball throughout the game, he recorded a season-high 12 rebounds — including five on the offensive end — to go along with 12 points, three steals and a pair of blocks. He did miss a pair of free throws with three minutes to play that would’ve tied the game, but his effort sparked the comeback that eventually resulted in a four-point win.
It was all in a day’s work for Shaq. We’ll let him explain:
- On the effort: “It was just a flat game. Blame it on one of those days. I’m going to blame it on the sleet. Is that the right word — rain and snow combined? Yeah, I’m going to blame it on the sleet.”
- On the starters: “You got any one of the Big Three and ‘La Odda Dos’ — me and Rondo — that can take over a game at any time. We’ve just got to continue to play hard. We’ve got to learn to get up for everybody.” (I think Shaq actually meant “La Otra Dos,” the Spanish translation for “The Other Two”)
- More on the effort: “We don’t make excuses. We’ve just got to get it done. … We just have to learn to put our foot on people’s necks and kill them right away. We can’t keep playing with people.”
- On Erden: “I had to get on his ass tonight. He was out there messing around. We have a pretty great relationship. He listens to me, and after I got on his ass, he had a couple dunks and a couple rebounds.”
- Even more on the effort: “We knew that we were out there messing around … and not really as focused. It’s kind of hard getting up for teams like that, but if we want to win the whole thing we’ve got to get up for everybody. We have to realize that teams are going to come in here and play way above their heads.”
- On his free throws: “If we had lost the game, I would’ve been really upset. Keep in mind, when we really, really, really need them, I’ll be there, and you won’t have to worry about it — studies show.”
- On his effort: “The whole team was flat. I just had to pick it up. I haven’t been playing that many minutes, so I’m not really tired. I really haven’t been rebounding all that well, so I just wanted to try to grab every loose ball, every rebound.”
|Ray Allen never thinks about the misses, neither do Doc Rivers or his teammates||01.19.11 at 11:38 pm ET|
Ray Allen is a future hall-of-famer so when shots aren’t falling he doesn’t panic. After drilling the game-winning jumper with 24.5 seconds remaining in an 86-82 win over the Pistons, he said that approach helped him again Wednesday night when he missed two fourth-quarter free throws and was just 1-for-7 before hitting the decisive jumper.
With 31.8 seconds remaining, Rajon Rondo grabbed a loose-ball rebound and Doc Rivers called timeout. He drew up a play that had Allen coming off a screen and Paul Pierce, with a game-high 22 points – available as a second-option.
“It was more than him as the option,” Rivers said. “He was the first option on the play. And then Paul was the second, on the flare. Ray just makes shots, you know? He’s one of those guys, he can go 0-for-10; you know the one guy that believes he’s going to make it is Ray. And the second group is our team. When we drew it up, you could tell, they thought it would work and they went with it. It was great.”
“I wasn’t surprised,” Allen said of being given another chance on a pass from Rondo. “Anytime the situation comes down to the end of the game, we’ve been in these situations enough to know that it’s going to be either me, Paul [Pierce], Kevin [Garnett] or Rondo if he gets in the gaps.
“If he didn’t throw it to me, it would’ve went somewhere else and somebody would’ve been able to make the shot. I’ve said this before, I wasn’t shooting the ball particularly well and I didn’t really think I had a great rhythm but I always think the next one is going to go in. So, I was never worried about it.”
The second-most prolific 3-point shooter in NBA history, Allen also wasn’t worried about missing all four of his 3-point shots on the night before getting a chance to drill the game-winner – which ironically was ruled a trey before officials reviewed it during a timeout and changed it to a two-pointer.
“It wasn’t odd at all because I was kind of replaying in my mind the shots I had tonight,” Allen said. “Early, I had two threes and one of them was a ’911′ shot trying to beat the buzzer. Offensively, we weren’t in a great rhythm , a bad rhythm overall for the team and that translated into how we were playing.”
If Allen had no hesitation about taking the shot, Rivers certainly didn’t. “Not with Ray,” Rivers answered without any hesitation. “No, No. Ray is a shooter. Shooters make shots. So, no.”
|NBA will rescind Rajon Rondo assist||01.18.11 at 2:20 pm ET|
It’s no secret that stat inflation goes on in every NBA game, but how about getting credited for an assist on as pass you didn’t even make? That was the case Monday night in the Celtics 109-106 win over the Orlando Magic when Rajon Rondo was given an assist on a play that ended with Shaquille O’Neal scoring on a pass from Ray Allen.
This was first caught by Sham Sports, an invaluable NBA site, and given some more exposure by Zach Lowe, from the Sports Illustrated NBA blog, The Point Forward. The league emailed Lowe and told him the assist will be changed.
Here’s the video:
|Fast Break: Kevin Garnett, Celtics cast spell on Magic||01.17.11 at 11:00 pm ET|
The Celtics handed Kevin Garnett a pretty nice welcome home present, delivering a 109-106 victory against the Magic at TD Garden on Monday night. Of course, the C’s All-Star forward — who returned for his first game of 2011 after missing nine games with a strained calf – had a hand in the win, totaling 19 points and eight rebounds.
A Paul Pierce jumper plus the foul with 38 seconds left put the Celtics up 107-104, and a Garnett steal with 15 seconds to go led to a pair of Ray Allen free throws that sealed the victory. Allen led six Celtics in double figures with 26 points as the Celtics improved to 31-9. Rajon Rondo (10 points, 13 assists) notched his 16th double-double of the season, as the C’s avenged their Christmas Day loss in Orlando.
Dwight Howard had a monster game for the Magic (26-15), finishing with 33 points and 13 rebounds.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
The return of KG: Obviously, any time a former Defensive Player of the Year returns to the lineup, it’s a bonus. When that guy also averages 15 points a night, it’s basketball’s version of a double rainbow.
In his return, Garnett showed no signs of the strained calf that kept him out of the last nine games. He was active on both ends of the floor — especially the defensive end — and saw plenty of playing time until foul trouble somewhat limited his minutes. He finished with 19 points, eight rebounds, two assists and two steals in 31 minutes.
Banging the (defensive) boards: Entering the game, the Magic owned the league’s fourth-best rebounding percentage because they have a guy named Dwight Howard who’s fairly tall, pretty strong and kind of good at grabbing boards (13.3 per game upon arriving in Boston). Led by the Big Three’s combined 18 rebounds, the Celtics out-rebounded the Magic on the defensive end, 24-21. However, the Magic grabbed 13 offensive boards to take the overall rebounding edge, 34-30. Still, not a bad showing against one of the NBA’s best boarding teams.
Rajon Rondo’d Jameer Nelson: Lost in the discussion of the recoveries of Garnett, Delonte West and Kendrick Perkins is any talk about Rondo’s resurgence after missing time for an ankle sprain. The Celtics point guard had a remarkably efficient night, recording 10 points (on 5-of-6 shooting), 13 assists (and only 1 turnover), four rebounds and three steals. His best pass of the night — a transition delivery to Allen that led to a pair of free throws — didn’t even result in an assist. Rondo’s counterpart, Nelson, had just nine points and five assists.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Hack-a-Howard: Whether Howard forced the issue or not, the Celtics went to this strategy early and often. In the first half alone, Howard took almost as many free-throw attempts (12) as the entire Celtics team (13).
The results were two-fold: 1) Howard made 13-of-18 foul shots for the game, which was a win for Orlando, considering he entered the game shooting just 58.9 percent; and 2) the Celtics’ bigs got into foul trouble, as Garnett, Shaquille O’Neal and Luke Harangody all had three personals at the break.
Defending the perimeter: The Celtics ranked sixth in the NBA in opponents’ 3-point percentage, but on a few occasions they’ve failed to successfully get out and defend the 3-point shot. Orlando takes more treys per game than any other team. When the Magic are making them, they’ll be in the game. That was the case Monday night, as they shot 11-of-27 from beyond the arc. Ryan Anderson killed the C’s, making 4-of-6 from downtown.
Technical difficulty: Doc Rivers was all over the refs all night, picking up his fifth technical foul of the season (arguing a Howard walk that wasn’t called) and he very well could’ve gotten whistled for his sixth. Shockingly, Rivers’ archnemesis — referee Bill Kennedy — was not involved in the game. Rivers and Pierce are now tied for the team lead in technical fouls with five apiece.
|Doc Rivers needs more out of Semih Erden||01.15.11 at 2:05 pm ET|
Doc Rivers admitted after Friday’s escape against the Charlotte Bobcats – without Shaquille O’Neal and Rajon Rondo playing at another level, the Celtics wouldn’t have been too happy.
And rookie Semih Erden would’ve led the list of players feeling pretty miserable.
On a night when the depleted front court needed minutes from their Turkish import, Shaquille O’Neal had to play 35 minutes because Erden – still learning the intricacies of the NBA. Rivers was more than aware that Erden was playing one day after missing practice with a pulled groin.
“Semih, we just needed him more on the floor tonight,” Rivers said. “I just kept telling him, just point, and we’ll get you out, and then we’ll bring you back in and do whatever we can, but we need you tonight. And they went small and we did a great job of not forcing it to them, but letting it come to them in the flow without taking us out of our flow.”
Rivers would not give the rookie a free pass just because of the injury.
“I don’t ask,” Rivers said. “If a guy’s playing, he’s healthy. Listen, they don’t care on the other team.If you’re going to be out on the floor, I don’t want to hear about it and neither does the other team. That’s how we always function, and our guys know that.”
Rondo fell just four rebounds shy of another triple-double while Shaq scored a game-high 23 points in the Celtics’ 99-94 win over the Bobcats Friday night at TD Garden. The Celtics were very effective from long distance, draining 8-of-19 from beyond the arc.
The Celtics joined the San Antonio Spurs and Miami Heat as 30-game winners, improving to 30-9 on the season and 2-1 on their six-game homestand. They are off until Monday night when they host Dwight Howard and the Orlando Magic in the possible return of Kevin Garnett to the Celtics lineup.
And, if called upon, Rivers hopes Erden does his level best to stay on the court.