Beyond the numbers: How valuable is pace for title contenders?

Beyond the numbers: How valuable is pace for title contenders?

BOSTON – No matter how talent-rich or talent-deprived a team in the NBA is, they all talk about wanting to play with more pace. 

Pace is defined as the number of possessions a team has per 48 minutes of play. 

While pace is important, having a lot of shots at scoring doesn’t necessarily make for a good offensive team or a successful one. 

The NBA is a copycat league, which is in part why there’s a high level of importance placed on playing with great pace. 

But what teams have discovered is that in the process of trying to play with great pace, more important is finding a pace that best suits your team. 

That’s why a team like the Golden State Warriors can win a title with a high pace, while the following year a team like Cleveland can win it all and be among the league’s worst in terms of their pace. 

Seeing the past two NBA champions succeed with two varying levels of pace, makes one wonder just how valuable is it when it comes to being a component of a title contender?

Based on the last decade of NBA champions, having a high pace is far from being a prerequisite for winning an NBA title. 

In fact, Golden State’s title run in 2015 was the only team in the last decade to win an NBA title AND lead the league in pace in the same season. 

Only two teams (Golden State in 2015 and the Los Angeles Lakers in 2009) finished in the top 10 in pace in their title run.

Conversely, three teams (Cleveland last year; Miami in 2013 and San Antonio in 2007) finished in the bottom-10 in pace en route to winning championships.

And closer to home, Boston’s 2008 run towards Banner 17 featured a Celtics team that had a pace of 93.30, which ranked 19th in the NBA. 

That’s why fans shouldn’t be overly alarmed about the Celtics now playing with a slower pace than they did a year ago. 

This season, Boston’s pace is 98.89, which ranks 18th in the NBA compared to last season when they had a pace of 101.15, which ranked third in the NBA. 

Meanwhile the Spurs who routinely finish near the bottom of the league in pace but remain a perennial title contender, are currently 27th in the NBA with a pace of 95.46 which isn’t that far off the pace of the Cleveland Cavaliers (95.48) when they won a title last spring.

And when you look at the squads that play with a high pace, those at the top rank among the worst teams in the NBA in terms of wins. 

Six of the top 10 teams in pace have losing records, which includes the league’s top two in pace, Brooklyn (104.53) and Phoenix (104.32), which have a combined record of 9-21.

NBCSB Breakfast podcast: Maybe next year will be the Celtics' year

NBC Sports Boston Illustration

NBCSB Breakfast podcast: Maybe next year will be the Celtics' year

1:31 - With the results of Kyrie Irving’s second opinion on he knee looming, the Celtic’s season is certainly up in the air. A. Sherrod Blakely, Chris Mannix, Kyle Draper and Gary Tanguay debate how and if Kyrie should be used if he returns.

6:02 - Back in October Michael Felger prematurely said the Bruins season was over. The B’s marketing team featured Felger in an ad for playoff tickets now that the Bruins have clinched the playoffs. Felger, Trenni and Gary react to the commercial and discuss the Bruins playoff chances.

11:47 - The Patriots are making moves! on Tursday the Pats made deals with LaAdrian Waddle, Marquis Flowers and Patrick Chung. Phil Perry, Michael Holley, Troy Brown and Tom Curran discuss how despite these moves, the Patriots should still be in search of a left tackle.

Greg Monroe looking forward to his 2nd taste of playoffs

File Photo

Greg Monroe looking forward to his 2nd taste of playoffs

BOSTON – We live in a world filled with success stories that came about by accident. 

The invention of the microwave oven.

Post-It notes.

The creation of potato chips.

The Boston Celtics’ game-winning play against Oklahoma City earlier this week qualfies; a play in which there were multiple miscues made by the Celtics prior to Marcus Morris’ game-winning shot. 


All these Celtics injuries have made Brad Stevens a mad scientist of sorts with some unusual lineups that may be on display tonight against the guard-centric Portland Trail Blazers. 

In Boston’s 100-99 win over the Thunder on Tuesday, we saw Stevens utilize a lineup with Al Horford and Greg Monroe, in four different stints.

Monroe, who had 17 points off the bench - the most he has scored as a Celtic -  enjoyed playing with Horford.

“Al’s so smart. He’s seen it all in this league,” Monroe told NBC Sports Boston. “He’s an all-star. Very cerebral player, unselfish. So it’s easy playing with him. He can space, drive, make plays. I feel like I can make plays, driving. It’s fun playing with him. I look forward to getting out there with him more.”

Horford had similar praise for playing with Monroe.

“Coach (Brad Stevens) made a great move bringing Greg back in, in the fourth, playing us together,” Horford said. “He made some great plays, passing the ball and just … timely plays. It’s one of those things, the more we play with each other the more comfortable we’ll get. I thought it was very positive.”

Monroe’s role has become significantly more important with the season-ending injury (torn meniscus, left knee) to Daniel Theis. And his ability to play well with various lineups will only improve Boston’s chances of weathering this latest storm of injuries which comes on the eve of the playoffs. 

And while there’s a certain amount of pleasure all players take in being on a playoff-bound team, Monroe understands better than most NBA veterans just how special it is to be headed towards the postseason.

In his eighth season, this will only be Monroe’s second time participating in the playoffs. 

The first time? 

That was last year, with the Milwaukee Bucks. 

“This is what everybody plays for, I hope,” Monroe said. “This is what I play for, to get into the postseason, make a run. It’s the best situation. I’ve been through a lot in my career, this year. I’m grateful. I don’t take anything for granted. I’m going to do whatever I can to help the team.”

And he has done that lately.

Monroe comes into tonight’s game having scored in double figures each of the last four games, a season high for the 6-foot-11 center. 

Having spent most of his NBA career watching instead of participating in the playoffs, Monroe is out to prove that he can in fact be a significant contributor to a team that’s postseason-bound.

“For sure. You have to have a little chip, a little fire, at least in my eyes,” Monroe said. “I’ve never doubted myself. It’s about being between those lines and being the best player I can be. That’s what I’m focused on.”