[Editor's Note: I have to admit, I have been known to make a mistake here and there in posts. These mistakes are usually made in haste and I apologize for making my more regrettable ones (like Monday when I mentioned Ronnie Brewer would be defending Pierce in the Jazz game....<smacks forehead>. I totally take ownership.
Here at CelticsHub, we try to read all of your thoughts from the comment section and respond when response merits. The understanding is essentially, if you took the time to read and react, we'll take the time to respond. Some comments however, deserve more than just a Twitter-sized response. So without further adieu, Jason, this one's for you.]
In the preview for Monday’s Jazz game, I wrote the following: Despite their early season dominance, it could be argued that the Celtics are really playing their best basketball of the season. That’s a pretty amorphous statement that, I admit, I was pretty noncommittal about when I wrote it. So, I looked up the numbers. As it turns out, I was right.
The best way to quantitatively approach this subject is to first determine a length of time by which a statement like “playing their best basketball” can be measured. I thought about crunching numbers and analyzing the season by dividing it into four equal parts. That, unfortunately, got axed because the Celtics are more then 3/4th’s of the way through the season. Plus, let’s be honest, that would be a TON of number crunching and I have a degree in English. Given these conditions, I decided that doing all that number crunching would be a waste of time-mostly because ESPN had already done it for me.
After perusing the options within their fancy drop-down menu, I settled on the Gregorian Calendar “Month” for dividing the season up into suitable periods of analyzable play. I guess I already let the cat out of the bag, but since you won’t believe me until I provide some fancy pictures that illustrate my point, I suppose I’ll oblige:
By looking at the numbers, December and March jump out as being the most offensively productive. For the sake of quick reference and stemming the outbreak of unnecessary scrolling, I have provided you with the two months together for easy comparison (please, no need to thank me. It’s my job…sort of):
Let’s just go through this stat cat by stat cat. Points, assists, and personal fouls are a wash. December gets the nod in the rebounding and blocks department while March wins out in steals and the assist to turnover ratio. The overall picture boils down to a pick-your-poison scenario. Do you appreciate the glass cleaning the Celts did back in December, or are you astounded by how well the Celtics took care of the ball in March? You can figure out which way I lean by the way I framed the question.
Despite the majority of the content in this post, I am not a stats person. That is why it is even more important to look at who the Celtics played in December and March and the context surrounding those games.
Once again, at first look, the wins for December look pretty impressive. The Celtics had blow out wins against Oklahoma City and Utah coupled with solid wins against San Antonio and Orlando. These are, without a doubt, impressive wins. On the flip-side, the Celtics took some BAD losses against BAD teams. These include games against Philadelphia, Golden State, and the Los Angeles Clippers. Conversely, in the month of March, the Celtics have seen two really impressive wins against western title contenders, Dallas and Denver. The Celtics also only have one bad loss in the month of March (ya’ll remember Memphis, right?).
If these win-loss records still don’t convince you, the Celtics still have games against San Antonio and Oklahoma City. If they were to get wins against these two western powers, the debate ends there.
For right now though, the debate continues.
Based solely on personnel the Celtics are a better team than they were in December, thus should be playing better basketball. Michael Finley is an upgrade over the two-headed Walker-Giddens monster and I’ve already written about how Nate Robinson is an upgrade over Eddie House. Compound the personnel upgrade with an even bigger factor for the present: health. Big Baby has a thumb again and has put it to good use gobbling up offensive rebounds. Paul Pierce’s knee has been emptied out which commemorates the return of his quick first step. Kevin Garnett is at least playing in games and contributing well.
All signs point to the Celtics playing their best basketball in the month of March, which is a sign that they are one step closer to hitting their stride before the playoffs.