Post-game Reactions

Celtics Heat BasketballAt the beginning of the 4th quarter last night, as the Celtics were imploding on both ends of the floor, I was conversing with my buddy JRo about the C’s struggles. The two of us like to go back and forth with numbers that stick out to us during the game. JRo mentioned Perk had only 4 rebounds at this point, which was concerning. After Ray Allen hit a big 3, I angrily pointed out that he only had taken 6 shots at that juncture and the C’s needed to go to him more. Things like that.

In any case, the C’s had some pretty miserable stretches during this game, and the two of us were trying to unearth why. The turnovers were the painful and obvious cause, as were the offensive rebounds allowed to the Heat. Both of these factors combined to give Miami 31 more shots than Boston as Zach Lowe pointed out in his recap. Brutal numbers right there.

It was more than those two factors that were bothering me though in the 3rd quarter and early part of the 4th, as the C’s squandered an 8 point lead and fell behind by 11. They had been turning the ball over all game, but just now had seemed to lose all momentum out of nowhere. To me, the real problem stemmed from the team appearing to have no flow offensively. The ball that had been moving around the perimeter and into the post so seamlessly in the 1st half had vanished.

A look at the box score at the 8 minute mark in the 4th quarter last night, confirmed my suspicions. The Celtics had only 12 assists! That might as well sound off a four alarm fire if you are a Celtics fan, but it explained a lot about the team’s performance to that point.

So after the game, I decided to investigate the play by play to decipher how the C’s assist number could have been that low 40 minutes into the game, after they had put together such a nice 1st half with 57 points? Some quick research after the game gave me the answer. The Celtics ball movement had pretty much stopped all together.

One assist in 16 minutes. That’s what the C’s offense had put together in the first 16 minutes of the 2nd half last night. Not coincidentally, the team only scored a putrid 21 points in those 16:33, as their 8 point lead vanished to an 11 point deficit when Doc Rivers called time out with 7:33 left in the game.

Now to give you an idea of just how important assists are to the C’s I did some research. We all know they are one of the most unselfish teams in the league, but I think we fail to realize just how important to the C’s game assists are.

The Celtics rank 2nd in the league in assists per game with 24 per game only behind Utah who has an astounding 25.7 per game. I would have expected to see Phoenix up top, but the kings of run and gun basketball are 3rd behind the C’s.

Unsurprisingly, the C’s average more assists in their wins (24.6) than their losses (22). A number that was shocking to me though, was how big the assist discrepancy was in the team’s home/road splits. Boston averages 26.3 assists at home and only 22 on the road. So the passing problems they had in Miami have been a characteristic of this team all year long away from The Garden.

What’s the reason for this you ask? I couldn’t tell you offhand. On the road, it seems like The C’s go through spurts where they get out of rhythm, rush into shots and rely on themselves in the isolation game a bit too much. That sort of play led to their losses in Los Angeles and Phoenix last week, with 21 and 18 assists in those games respectively.

Luckily, last night, the team’s unselfish play and sharp ball movement returned once the C’s returned to the floor after Doc’s timeout. I won’t rehash the game’s concluding moments, but just know that on the C’s final 8 baskets in regulation, 6 of those were assisted, with Paul Pierce saving the best one for last.

So take note Celtics fans of this team’s passing, as it usually is just as big of an indicator of whether this team will win as the turnovers or rebounding problems that we all worry about.

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Brian Robb

Brian Robb co-founded CelticsHub in 2009 and is the currently editor-in-chief. He is a producer and reporter at 98.5 The Sports Hub in Boston and also contributes to Boston.com and Bleacher Report among other outlets.
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  • dont_drink_the_koolaid

    Good dig on the numbers.

    A lot of this game I was thinking….no intensity, no ball movement, losing the small battles, giving up O rebounds, turnovers, reaching at everything instead of moving the feet, etc. Throw in a healthy dose of Joey Crawford and the game loses all rhythm.

    ….so why is Doc not using his timeouts to control the flow? I respect the Phil Jackson school of thought to make the guys find their own way out of it….but when KG is not on the floor, I think Doc could step up and throw some f-bombs and give the benchwarmers some run.

    But then Doc won me back with the oop call. Guess its about the destination, not the journey 🙂

  • Jon

    A big reason teams often have large assist descrepencies for home vs away games is that it is a very subjective stat. Home scorekeepers tend to reward their players favorably with assists as opposed to the opponents.

    This should give some insight.


  • Jason

    Lots of stuff to discuss here. The first thing I was going to mention is the bias in assist numbers, but Jon’s got it covered.

    Another thing, the assist numbers are a give and take. Let’s say Rondo gets Ray 5 open shots. Some days Ray hits 0 and sometimes he hits 5. Rondo hasn’t done anything better or worse, but his assist numbers will fluctuate wildly. This is to say sometimes the assist numbers are down because guys miss assisted shots. It doesn’t always mean the ball moved less. It could be, but the assist number isn’t the be-all end-all.

    Plus, if Rondo dishes to Perk (for example) and he gets fouled, but doesn’t make the shot, there’s no assist. 41 FTs indicate a lot of good things and maybe a lot of assists were counterfeited because of drawing fouls.

    The assist stat is too blunt and needs to be brought into this century. Assists on 3s (highly dependent on quality of the shooter), assists on other jumpers, assists on easy lay-ins and dunks, assists that lead to fouls/FTs, even hockey assists, too.

    Like you, mid-2nd half, I was frustrated. With 6 minutes to go in the 3rd, the C’s had drawn their 5h foul and Pierce hit 2 FTs. After that, they had 2 TOs, 2 missed Sheed 3s and one Rondo drive. This coincided with the Heat run and I was screaming, why is Sheed jacking 3s and why are they playing loose with the ball? Keep attacking. Get to the rim and the line. Like I said, frustrating.

    Lastly, rebounding. It’s getting ridiculous and I’m not sure who to blame. The D is so good because of the help and the rotations, but then the guards maybe rely too much on that, leaving the bigs to compensate and rotate constantly. Then, contesting and out of position, the bigs are at a disadvantage to rebound. Is Perk just not a high-flyer? Has KG just lost his bounce? Are they simply not doing the fundamentals like boxing out? Are they getting outhustled? Are the guards at fault for not coming down to box out and rebound after letting their man by?

    We know KG’s not what he once was and we know Perk’s not a skier and that he will always go contest leaving him out of position. So we have those disadvantages that you can’t coach away right off the bat. So, to compensate, what I think can be coached and emphasized is the fundamental boxing out and the guards committed to helping more. You would just think these adjustments would have been made by and now and apparently they are not and it’s very concerning. The Lakers (the only team that should truly challenge the C’s) have 3 very long bigs, plus Artest at the 3. If the rebounding issue is not shored up, it could very easily cost the C’s the championship.

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