Celtics

Levine: Celtics by the Numbers

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Levine: Celtics by the Numbers

By Rich Levine
CSNNE.com

The season is only 23 games old, which means it's way too early to reach any conclusions based on the numbers being posted by your Boston Celtics.

There's so much basketball to be played, and everything's sure to change at least a little. But with more than a quarter of the campaign in the books, it's worth noting some of the statistical trends that are developing. Just to know they're there.

For this first round of Celtics by the Numbers, I just focused on team statistics, as well as a few notes on the Big Four or whatever you'd like to call them.

The Celtics currently lead the NBA in team field-goal percentage at .509, "miles" ahead of second-place Phoenix, which is shooting. .472.

So the C's are the only team in the league shooting better than 50 percent, but even more impressive is that if they can keep it up they'll become the first Celtics team in 20 years to finish a season above 50 percent.

(Of the regulars on that 1990-91 team, Robert Parish led the way at .598, Kevin Gamble was second of course with .587 and Kevin McHale finished at .553.

A 34-year-old Larry Bird led that team in scoring (19.7) but shot only .454 from the field.

OK, back to reality.

Given their ridiculous shooting percentage, it's no surprise the C's also attempt fewer three-pointers a game than anyone in the league. Even though their .386 team three-point percentage is tied for fifth-best in the NBA.

The Celtics' 'D' is among the league leaders. They're giving up the fewest points, at 91 a game, and have the fourth-best field-goal percentage allowed, at .433. Over their first 23 games, the Celtics have given up more than 100 points only eight times or, as many times as they did in the final nine games of last regular season.

But while the Celtics' defensive success is expected, what you might not realize (mostly because no one likes to talk when they're doing well), is that the Heat are tied with the C's defensively, at 91 points a game, and on top of that, also have the best field-goal percentage against in the league. They're currently holding opponents to .427.
Paul Pierce
Pierce is leading the Celtics in scoring average with 18 points a game, and if he can finish this season on top, it will be his 11th straight year leading the team in scoring.

Yep, that's a record. But Pierce will only be breaking his own. Larry Bird is second all-time, having led the C's in scoring for nine straight seasons (1979-88). No other player in team history has even done it for more than five straight years, although John Havlicek and Sam Jones came close.

Pierce is also averaging a career-low 1.7 turnovers a game although that's more a matter of him not having the ball as much as he used to.

Some other numbers that might support that?

He's attempting fewer fouls shots (5.0) than he has in any season since his rookie year. Although as a testament to Pierce's work ethic, he shot .713 during that first season, and is now at .843. Hopefully Rondo's paying attention.

Pierce is also attempting fewer three pointers (3.2 a game) than he has at any point in his career. Not that Pierce jacking up the long ball is necessarily a bad thing in the 12 games where he's attempted four or more, the C's are 12-0.

Not surprising given the team's overall success, but Pierce also boasts the best field goal percentage of his career at .497. Before this, his best was .472 (last year).

Ray Allen
I'm sure you noticed, but Ray Allen is lighting it up from three-point range this season. His .435 three-point percentage is the best of his Hall of Fame career, and, if he can keep it up, would be good for the third-most efficient three-point shooting season in Celtics history. Eddie House has the all-time record with the .444 he shot back 2009. Some guy named Danny Ainge is second with .443 in 1987.

Also, heading into Wednesday's game at MSG, Allen is nine three-pointers away from 2500 for his career, and 70 away from breaking Reggie Miller's all-time record for career threes.

Like Pierce, Allen is also shooting a career-best from the field at .484.

Kevin Garnett
Garnett's resurgence has already been well documented this season, but here's a quick review:

He had 10 rebounds 12 times in 69 games last season. This season, he's done it 12 times in 23 games.

Last year, Garnett had 10 double-doubles on the season. This year, he already has 12.

Those two stats pretty much say it all.

Also, while KG is best known for his defense, Doc Rivers always talks about how much better the Celtics are when KG's more involved on offense, and even with the small sample size this stat supports that.

In the Celtics 19 wins, Garnett's shooting .557. In the four losses he's at .453.

Rajon Rondo
Rondo already hold the Celtics' single-season record for assists per game he set it last year with a 9.6 average but this year he's set to become the first Celtic in history to average 10 a game.

His current 2.4 steals per game average would also break the single season record (2.3 that he set last year).

Like most of his teammates, Rondo's also shooting a career best from the field .530.

If there's one negative story with Rondo (aside from his health), it's of course his foul shooting. He's shooting a career worst .432 this season. In fact, that would be the lowest percentage in the NBA if not for what might be considered a bigger problem. Rondo hasn't even attempted enough foul shots to qualify.

To that, you might say "Great! He can't shoot them anyway!" but another way to look at it is to wonder whether the poor shooting has affected how aggressive Rondo is around the rim.

Last year, Rondo averaged career-best 3.5 FTs a game, this year, it's a career-low 1.9.

That's all for now. We'll check back around the All-Star Break with another look at the Celtics by the Numbers.

Rich Levine's column runs each Monday, Wednesday and Friday on CSNNE.com. Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrlevine33

Davis steps up his defense on Celtics rumors

Davis steps up his defense on Celtics rumors

BOSTON – You would have thought Anthony Davis was having visions of a double-team coming at him the way he consistently pivoted away from questions about the Celtics’ interest in him.

The 6-foot-10 forward has been the subject of trade rumors involving the Celtics for some time now; enough time for the four-time All-Star to spin away from such questions the way he does most wannabe defenders.

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When asked about whether he pays attention to the Celtics fans who want him donning a C's uniform soon, Davis responses with comments focused specifically on tonight’s game.

“We got a big one tonight,” he said. “It’s a great Celtics team. Kyrie [Irving], Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, Al [Horford], a lot of isolation basketball so we have to load up, be loud defensively and talk. It’ll be a good one for us.”

And Davis would be a good one for the Celtics, something that seemed a far-fetched fantasy at first which remains a longshot of happening, ever.

New Orleans (22-20) comes in having won three of its past four and finds itself just one game behind Oklahoma City for the fifth-best record in the Western Conference.

NBA executives have repeatedly indicated the only shot that Boston or any other team seriously have at landing Davis, 24, is for the Pelicans to fail to make the playoffs, which many expect would lead to wholesale changes that may include but not be limited to, finding a new home for Davis.

But such speculation is a moot point now, not with the Pelicans playing some of their best basketball of the season.

And a big part of that success has been Davis who is averaging a team-leading 26.7 points along with 10.5 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 2.1 blocked shots per game.

He and fellow All-Star DeMarcus Cousins form what many consider the most talented frontcourt tandem in the NBA.

“Davis and his ability to score the ball, his ability to roll to the rim, transition, all that stuff … they’re both very, very good,” said Celtics coach Brad Stevens.

And as much as fans would love to see him in a Celtics uniform, tonight’s game will likely be the only time this season you’ll see Davis in Boston.

Even though Davis tactfully went about avoiding all questions linking him with the Celtics, that doesn’t diminish the fact that he has a tremendous amount of respect for the Celtics team and the organization as a whole.

“They’ve been playing very well; especially start of the season,” Davis said of the Celtics. “They kind of started to slip a little bit toward the end of the beginning. But they got it back, won seven in a row, still number one in the NBA right now. Everyone thought they would slip when Gordon [Hayward] went out [with a dislocated left ankle]; it’s kind of like they picked it up. When one of your star guys go out, guys have to step up and they’ve been doing that all year.”

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Challenges big and small for Celtics tonight

Challenges big and small for Celtics tonight

BOSTON – In the NBA, some teams are built to play small ball with three guards as starters.

Others are constructed to go big with talented, high-impact big men.

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And then there’s the New Orleans Pelicans, who seem to start games with both at the same time.

Dealing with New Orleans’ non-traditional starting lineup will be one of the many challenges awaiting the Celtics tonight.

While the Pelicans’ atypical starting five may not necessarily be ideal, there’s no arguing against its effectiveness.

New Orleans starts games with a three-guard lineup that includes 6-foot-1 Rajon Rondo with Jrue Holiday and E’Twaun Moore who are both 6-4 guards. They are joined by the twin terrors – to opposing defenses at least – of 6-11 DeMarcus Cousins and 6-10 Anthony Davis.

They have been New Orleans’ most successful five-man unit, posting a 12-8 record this season. It’s one of the biggest reasons they are come in sixth in the Western Conference at 22-20, trailing Oklahoma City (24-20) by one game.

Boston has played its share of non-traditional lineups under fifth-year coach Brad Stevens.

Like the Pelicans, the key for Boston to do so successfully lies in the versatility of their power forward.

For New Orleans, that would be Davis.

The Celtics rely on Al Horford to provide a similar element of versatility.

“Last year, we started Amir [Johnson, now with Philadelphia] with Al,” said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens. “Kelly [Olynyk, now in Miami] played a lot with Al. I think what Al allows you to do, is he gives you another guy that shoots like a traditional guard so he can play both spots and his ability to defend fours [power forwards] allows him to play with anybody.”

How Horford handles his rotating assignments defensively will be among the challenges Boston will contend with tonight.

Here are five under-the-radar storylines to keep tabs on tonight:

REUNION TIME
We have seen this season how former Celtics return to the TD Garden to light up the Green Team, and tonight’s game is full of potential candidates to keep the tradition set by Olynyk and Jonas Jerebko (Utah) alive and well. Among the ex-Celtics on the Pelicans roster are E’Twaun Moore and Rajon Rondo who are both slated to start tonight. New Orleans roster also includes former Celtics Tony Allen (left fibula fracture) and Jameer Nelson (personal) who are both listed as out tonight.

PASSING BIG MEN
You won’t ever mistake Horford for Cousins, but the two big men do have at least one thing in common: passing. While both have shown the ability to score (Cousins on a much grander, more consistent scale for sure), one of their biggest strengths is their ability to get teammates involved offensively. Horford averages 5.3 assists per game, which would be tops among all centers, but most of Horford’s playing time this season has come as a power forward. Still, 5.3 assists per game are impressive enough to rank fifth among all forwards this season. As for centers, Cousins’ 5.1 per game is indeed the pace-setter for the rest of the league’s centers.

ANTHONY DAVIS
With Davis’ size, athleticism and versatility, he is one of the select few players whose game has very few holes in it. And while he can score from just about any spot on the floor, keeping Davis in the mid-range zone offensively is key. According to nba.com, Davis is shooting 39.3 percent on mid-range shots this season. That’s not horrible, but it is a noticeable drop-off from what he does at the rim in the restricted area (75.8 percent), in the paint non-restricted area (50.8 percent) and on corner 3’s (54.5 percent).

ON THE REBOUND
Often the clearest indicator of Boston’s success lies in how well the Celtics rebound. In their current seven-game winning streak, rebounding – surprise, surprise – has been one of their strengths. In the past seven games, Boston has averaged 47.9 rebounds per game. The only team with a higher average in that span is the Los Angeles Lakers (49.3). In addition, Boston is grabbing 50.9 percent of available rebounds, which ranks ninth in the NBA during the seven-game winning streak.

TATUM MINUTES ADD UP
As a rookie last season, Jaylen Brown logged 1,341 regular-season minutes, which was pretty good for a first-year player on a team pegged before his arrival as a playoff-caliber club. Fast forward to this season and another Celtics rookie Jayson Tatum. Despite having played in 44 games this season (Brown appeared in 78 games as a rookie last year), Tatum has literally played more than Brown, with 1,362 minutes already logged. The left knee stiffness that kept him out of practice Saturday was determined to not be an issue, but it’s worth monitoring his health as his impact – and minutes played – continue to rise.

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