Offensive Efficiency (points/100 possessions): 102.2
Defensive Efficiency: 65.6
Let’s get the disclaimer out of the way: The Bobcats are not a good offensive team. They ranked 27th in offensive efficiency last season, their starting shooting guard (Raja Bell) is injured (and replaced by Stephen Graham, the lesser of the Graham Brothers!) and the man for whom they traded the #1 overall pick in the 2004 draft scored zero points tonight.
So, to paraphrase a popular writer sanitizing a popular quote from the Usual Suspects: Let’s not get too excited.
But holy hell does this team have the potential to play some spectacular defense. You don’t see numbers like the Bobcats put up tonight very often. In fact, in their illustrious five-year history, the Bobcats had never scored fewer than 62 points until tonight. And making zero three-pointers? That only happened 12 times across the entire league last season. All season.
The C’s went on an absolutely unfair, outrageous and mean-spirited 31-4 run from the 4:37 mark of the 2nd quarter through the 3:16 mark of the 3rd quarter—more than 13 minutes of playing time in which they built the lead from 32-29 to 63-33. Here’s what I find interesting about that run: The Bobcats committed only five turnovers in that span, and only two of those resulted in transition chances for the C’s. (The other three were dead ball turnovers). And while five turnovers in just over a quarter isn’t good, it’s also not ridiculously high or out of line with the Bobcats overall turnover number for the game (18).
What happened? The Bobcats just missed shots. Mostly really hard shots. Because the Celtics defense can be really good. Here’s a sample of consecutive possessions from the 3rd quarter:
Tyson Chandler misses 16-footer;
Tyson Chandler 3-second violation;
Gerald Wallace misses 18-footer;
Tyson Chandler misses 18-footer;
D.J. Augustin misses 16-footer;
Stephen Graham turnover;
Tyson Chandler jumper blocked (Perkins), resulting in shot clock violation;
Tyson Chandler misses lay-up.
Tyson Chandler made 16 percent of his jump shots last season and only 48.6 percent of inside shots that weren’t dunks, according to 82games. Translation: When Tyson Chandler is shooting, your defense is doing well.
Again, this wasn’t maniacal pressure leading to fast breaks or anything. Just really sound rotations that made every shot just a little more difficult. Example (and feel free to skip to the jump if you don’t like the play-by-play video analysis):
• 7:25, 3rd quarter: Felton has the ball above the three-point line at the top of the key, guarded by Rondo. Stephen Graham is in the right corner with Allen on him. As Felton bounces, Graham cuts underneath the hoop, where Gerald Wallace gives him a little brush screen that gets Graham about three feet of separation as he turns the corner toward the left elbow. Just below the elbow, another teammate—Chandler—is waiting to hit Allen with another screen. He does, and Graham curls into position for an open jumper at the elbow as Felton delivers the ball. But Chandler’s man (Perk) jumps out on Graham instead of following Chandler, who rolls to the hoop. So Graham catches the ball, takes a dribble into a Wall of Perk and shoots a jump pass to Chandler, who appears wide open in the block/charge circle.
Only he’s not open when the ball gets there. Not quite. Because KG has rotated down from the right elbow and is on Chandler’s right hip when Tyson makes the catch. Tyson’s under the left side of the hoop, but if he goes straight up, KG has a great angle for the block. So he has to catch, gather himself and jump to the right side of the hoop, where he has space but also faces a much more difficult leaning shot. He misses.
It’s not glamorous. But it’s defense, and it’s what David Thorpe was talking about when he said in the ESPN mega opening night chat that, if KG can be KG, the C’s defense can be even better than it was in 2008.
We hit some more bright spots, after the jump.
Offensively, that 102.2 points per 100 possessions mark at the top of the page looks bad, but it’s misleading. After three quarters, the the team’s offensive efficiency was about 109, a very solid mark. The C’s took a Knicks/Magic-like 29 threes tonight, and Tommy Heinsohn was screaming for them to go inside throughout the first half. That’s 48 three-point attempts in two games for Boston, and though it’s a small sample size, I’ll bet you right now that the C’s finish in the top 10 in three-point attempts this season. (They were 21st last season).
Look, I know that relying on the three is, in theory, a bad thing, if you rely on it at the expense of any semblance of an interior game. But there is a growing body of evidence—growing to the point that even the New York Times acknowledged it last week, a year after John Hollinger and others—that shooting threes is a good thing. Especially if you’re good at it. And the C’s are. They hit 38 percent of their attempts tonight, a mark that would have ranked 2nd in the NBA last season. (The C’s, of course, led the league last season at 39.7 percent).
Is 29 too many? Probably. But 20-22 isn’t. That’s why Sheed is here. If you’re open, jack ‘em up.
• I’ll have more on this tomorrow, but it’s hard to play a more efficient game than Rajon Rondo played last night. 11 points on 5-of-6 shooting, 11 assists, 3 rebounds, 3 steals and 1 turnover. Let’s say that last one again: One single turnover.
Rajon Rondo was in complete control of the game. He was the best Celtic on the floor. The Bobcats came out to guard him near half court throughout the game, and Rondo absolutely destroyed them with his quickness from there. Just decimated the defense. A command performance. It’s early, and the jumper isn’t falling or anything (1-of-1 tonight!), but he looks like a more confident, controlled player already.
• Also worth noting: Rondo spent several minutes on the court with Marquis Daniels for the second straight game. Doc has a lot to work with in the back court, and he’s going to experiment with different combos. Such as: The House-Ray-Rondo trio that played together briefly in the 2nd. House was on the floor with all four starters, a line-up that played just 46 minutes together all season last year.
• KG looks good. He’s not going to be able to defend guards on switches anymore. We know this. It’s not 1998, and when he got switched onto Felton at one point, he pulled up shorts to psyche himself up as if it were 1998 and then promptly called for a switch. But the rotations are there, the mid-range jumper is there (5-of-9 tonight) and the rebounds are there (seven in 26 minutes).
• Why Ray Allen played 38 minutes in this game after playing 42 last night is beyond me. Yes, Paul Pierce’s early foul trouble forced Ray to play more in the 2nd quarter than Doc planned, but still. That’s too many minutes. Yes, I will continue to harp on this.
• Shelden Williams had himself a nice 12-9 game tonight, including 8-of-11 from the foul line. Good for Shelden. But the bulk of that came in the 4th quarter against Alexis Ajinca. So don’t get too excited about the points. Be happy with the rebounds and the solid defense, though; he’s not going to contribute much offensively, and he missed what might be the most wide open jumper off an inbounds pass in the history of basketball in the 2nd quarter. I thought maybe the Bobcats didn’t hear the whistle.
• Let’s congratulate Lester Hudson on his first official NBA action. He didn’t score, but he was +9 in 10 4th quarter minutes. Congrats, Lester.
• Just when it looked like Doc was going to give J.R. Giddens some meaningful time in the 2nd quarter, he pulled Giddens after 1:50 of playing time. And I don’t think Giddens helped himself much in garbage time by allowing Graham to blow by him on the left elbow and air-balling a three from the corner.
• Sheed made his fist appearance in Boston with about 4:00 to go in the 1st quarter, and what was the absolute first thing that happened? Paul Pierce got whistled for a technical. Coincidence?
• Perk looks great defensively. That is all.
• Nobody, and I mean nobody, owns garbage time like Eddie House.
Finally, some notes from channel-flipping:
• I flipped over to the Cavs-Raptors game during a commercial to find the Raps up 20 in the first half. Good times.
• I flipped to the Magic game to find Jason Williams hitting three free throws to give Orlando 70 points–70!– in the first half. Bad times.
• Dwight Howard still sets illegal screens. Just because he raises his hands up doesn’t make the hip-check legal, refs.
• The Hawks scoreboard clock malfunctioned immediately after the opening tip off. That can’t be good.
• Speaking of the Hawks, Josh Smith blocked a Pacer fast-break lay-up attempt, and the arena announcer credited the block to “Employee No. 5.” (Smith wears uniform #5). What???? Antoine Walker has already lost all his money. Does he have to see some unpolished malcontent steal his Employee Number X schtick as well?