Post-game Reactions

Just for kicks, here are the Celtics’ quarter-by-quarter scoring margins over their last three series (Cleveland, Orlando, LA). The stats encompass 15 games—six each against the Cavs and Magic, and three against LA.

                      In 9 Wins           In 6 Losses        Overall

1st Q                    +48                -36                 +12

2nd Q                    +15                -8                    +7

3rd Q                     +56                -17               +39

4th Q                       -4                 -17                -21

Is any of this relevant?

A couple of caveats:

• Quarter-by-quarter analysis can be overdone sometimes, particularly when you look at small sample sizes. If your team gets trounced in the 2nd quarter over a full season, it probably says something about your bench. But in the playoffs, the rotations are shorter, starters play more and the game sample size is small. So be careful reading too much into this stuff.

Likewise: You might notice the C’s had positive aggregate margins in wins and negative margins in losses. Duh.

• Another reason to be skeptical: those 4th quarter numbers. They look awful. They’re really not. The Celtics were + 8 in the 4th against the Cavs and are +15 so far against Los Angeles. The C’s lost the 4th quarter in all six games against Orlando, but much of the 4th quarter was really garbage time in Game 3 (a blowout win in Boston), Game 5 (bad loss in Orlando) and Game 6 (Boston up 21 going into the 4th). Take those games out, and we’re really just talking about three games, and the 4th quarter margin was just -1 in one of those three games.

All of this said, the 1st quarter numbers are interesting, aren’t they? The Celtics have killed it in the 1st quarter in wins and played worse in the 1st than in any other quarter during their six losses. Overall, Boston is 7-1 over this span when they win the 1st quarter and 2-5 when they lose it.

I’d hesitate to read too much into this, but we all know Boston’s starting line-up is, by any measure, one of the most effective in the league; of all five-man groups that played at least 220 minutes together in the regular season, only four had a better plus/minus (unadjusted) than Boston’s starting five, according to Basketball Value.

We also know that Boston’s bench, like most benches, is inconsistent. Check out Boston’s line-up data for the post-season (again via Basketball Value). Of Boston’s 20 most often-used line-ups in the playoffs, 11 have positive plus/minus numbers and 9 have negative plus/minus numbers. (And, yes, the sample sizes are ridiculously small. I know).

Of those nine negative line-ups, seven contain two or more more bench players. Six contain the front-court combination of Big Baby and Sheed. Two of the five most frequently-used of these nine negative units contain the Rondo/Tony Allen back court, and individual numbers show the team’s offense has scored about 7 fewer points per 100 possessions with TA on the court (about 101.4 points per 100 possessions) versus with him on the bench (about 108.5 points per 100 possessions, a tick above Boston’s season average). In TA’s defense, Boston is giving up about 5.5 fewer points per 100 possessions with him on the floor versus with him on the bench.

Sheed has the worst plus/minus (adjusted or unadjusted) of all Boston’s regulars, excluding Nate Robinson, who is only sort of a regular.

Again, the sample sizes are small. But I think we can agree on this: The starters are consistent; the bench is not. And if we can take and hold anything from this quarter-by-quarter data, it might be that Boston needs its starters to put the team in the lead—that perhaps Boston is uniquely effective when playing from ahead. (And the 3rd quarter numbers show the team can just as well take the lead then, too).

That notion makes intuitive sense. Boston is an older team with an inconsistent bench, a top-flight defense and an offense more prone to droughts than those of most elite clubs. (Remember, Boston ranked just 15th in offensive efficiency this season). Yes, Boston blew a bunch of double-digit leads in the regular season (only Memphis blew more), but I think we can all agree at this point that regular-season stats haven’t turned out to be meaningful for this particular Boston team. When their offense has suffered in the 4th quarter during the playoffs, Boston has still managed to pull out a few wins, in part because they were able to build leads early and use their defense to hold on late. (See the first two games at Orlando, for instance).

Again: You can’t make the simplistic argument that Boston “must” win the 1st quarter or “can’t” complete late rallies. Those generalizations obviously aren’t true.

But this team is a beast when it gets an early lead and sustains it. Let’s hope the first quarter goes well tonight.

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Zach Lowe

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  • Paolo

    Is there anyway to find out in which of the 1st quarter losses (and wins, later on) were one of the starting five plagued by foul trouble?

  • Korey

    Oh no Zach, you did not write this:
    “But I think we can agree on this: The starters are consistent; the bench is not.”

    Over the last week, your Cs hub constituent have told me Tony allen, sheed, baby, and co. are consistent performers…


  • BunkerHillG

    The first quarter certainly seems to set the tone of the game. Felt great in game 3 with KG working early, but then the tide turned swiftly and they were down by the time the bench guys were coming in.

    As Doc always says (besides “play together”) stops lead to good offensive sets. I think the key is solid defense in the first ten minutes. I’d LOVE to see our starters escape the first quarter without picking up 2 and heading to the bench early…that might allow them to get the offensive flow that guys like Pierce thrive on.

  • @paolo: Good question, one I didn’t think to look into last night. I may do so later this week.

  • I love Green

    Must win game tonight. Gotta get off to a good start in the 1st.

  • Korey

    I’m going to be brash Laker fan right now and say some honest Laker truth…
    The Lakers are beating the Celtics are THEIR OWN GAME. Yes, we are better then what you do best.

    You dont want to play a fastbreak loosey game with us. We can outscore you, that’s a given. If that score is over 100, the Celtics are losing (check the stats)

    So the Celtics want to play a physical slow game? They want to grab, push , pull, flop, foul, bump all cutters and run us through the mud. OK. You punked us in 08, but this is different:
    – Bynum is bigger and stronger than Perkins. He cant handle his length. Take that.
    – Artest is bigger and stronger than Artest. Pierce cant handle some pushing back. Take that.
    – Gasol while still soft at moments will respond to adversity and play through the roughness. Again, take THAT.

    So in actuality, the lakers are better at a slowdown game then THE CELTICS ARE.

    All I hear from the Celtics is “we need to get stops and push the pace”. Really? Change in philosophy? Didnt you want to slow down vs the Magic and Cavs? A selective fastbreak is obviously beneficial for transition 3s, but the crux of your team relies on halfcourt execution and toughness. Pierce iso’ing and drawing fouls. KG doing work. Ray Allen 3s off a myriad of moving screens.

    But Guess what? The Lakers see your toughness and raise you a Artest.

    You all in Celtics or you folding your cards?

    Game 4 Tonight!
    Celtics = Debo
    Lakers = Craig

  • choffster

    If C’s get good production from their starters in any game in this series their defense is good enough to get the win. IF! Hasn’t happened yet. Rondo stepped up in the 4th of game 2 and the Lakers folded in the face of the Celtic D. But to get another win they need more balanced firepower. (PP this means you) We’ll see what happens tonight with backs to the wall.

  • pilgrimtraveller

    korey, you have a way of misquoting the Cs hub constituency. what i have argued, at any rate, is that the celtics bench is better than the lakers bench. i’d admit that the bench hasn’t yet made a solid case for me, although i do believe that early returns lean in that direction. in any case, bench stats from the season will be somewhat deceiving, given baby’s long absence due to injury and wallace’s apparent lack of concern for the regular season. odom played well in the last game for your side, but i believe baby was the best player off the bench for either side, and tony allen played bryant superbly until he was kicked in the neck and taken out of the game (and that kick was a foul and a should have been called). tony allen’s exit from the game had a big effect. by the way, given all the whining after the second game by lakers fans about moving picks, it should be said that nearly every one of fisher’s late-game makes was made possible by a moving pick. just once, it would be nice to see kobe called for a moving pick.

  • Coolin

    The only things that are gauranteed in this lifetime are: Death, taxes, and Glen Perkins will get called for atleast one moving screen every game.

    The refs are atrocious, I have no idea why the NBA can’t get decent refs. Are they paid that badly that nobody wants to ref so they keep the usual suspect year in and year out?

    I look/hope for a low blood pressure win by the Celtics tonight.

    I would love to see Glen Perkins pass the damn ball once he gets it. This series he has been rejected on 60% of his attempts. He never even considers passing the ball. Another thing, Rondo has got to hit his damn free throws, it is getting really agonizing watching him shoot at that line.

  • trindog

    Its tough to play through officiating when it literally takes you out of the game. All three games have been affect one way or another by the officiating. I understand the Lakers are the glamour boys of the league, but for crying out loud you cant wait to see if a shot is good to determine you are going to call a foul. Let this guys be men and play the game of basketball. This has the potential to be one of the greatest series of all time if the officials allow the players to play. All i ask for is a little bit of consistency. From a guy you referees high level AAU ball as an official all you can ask for is consistency. I am a firm believe there is some contact in basketball, and to keep blowing the whistle every time down court destroys the flow of the game. I am not saying allow the WWE to take over the NBA finals, rather let the guys play on both ends

  • torpid bunny

    It never stops. People think one game is the series.

    I will say that the lakers fans seem to have way more riding on this series than the celtics fans. We’ll be disappointed if we lose. Lakers fans will be devastated and humiliated. It will pretty much permanently kill all their Kobe talk.

  • Jay P


    Honestly man, I enjoyed the debates you brought up until now, but now you’re just getting borderline asinine.

    First of all, the Lakers can’t win a running game with Boston, and absolutely Boston wants to get stops and push the pace. Rondo is the best player in Basketball on the break, KG has great speed as a trailer, Ray and Paul can spot up once Rondo draws defenders. And if Tony Allen is in the game, you have two guys out of the back-court who are great open court player and can drive the hoop and finish/dish.

    Playing fast break basketball doesn’t mean you give up a lot of points. It just means you have to transition back quickly and set up D. Something they usually do pretty well. It makes for some hard minutes obviously, but that goes for both teams, and the Celtics have the depth to pull it off.

    The Celtics can be good in the half-court game, but it’s not their biggest strength anymore, where are you getting these arguments from? There’s no question a half court game favors the Lakers, they have an incredibly efficient inside-out game, and Kobe Bryant who can create shots better than probably anyone in Basketball.

    The Celtics are a team that beats you with balance, they have strengths in every area. The problem is they haven’t put it together in a game yet. We haven’t had the inside-out game to play half court because KG has been off (or on the bench with foul trouble) and Pierce hasn’t been hitting his shots.

    But when the Big 3 put it together at the same time, then this team can beat you no matter what D you throw at them. If they get stops, they run with Rondo, if they don’t they play half-court where if their executing well, there are 3 guys who can take it to you.

  • They are not going to let the guys play on both ends. I stated this earlier and I’ll say this again. David Stern is upset he didn’t get his dream matchup of Kobe vs. Lebron in the finals. Stern understands that the “”average” Nba fan wanted to see the 2 single best players in the league go head to head. This is were the biggest “”ratings” come from,even though the C’s and Lakers are far more balanced teams than the Cavs are. Stern knows the “”Average”” fan couldn’t give a rat’s ass about that,they just want to see the glamour matchup of Kobe vs. Lebron. Stern knows that instructing the refs to call this series extremely tight will affect the Celtics far more then the Lakers because the Celtics are the more aggresive teams defensively. Get 1 of the big 3 off the court and limit there playing time together and it will guarantee Laker success. Game 1–Ray Allen–Game2–KG–Game3–Paul Pierce—Don’t be surprised if tonight they go after Rondo——Keep Kobe and Gasol’s court time limited and see what happens to the Lakers. And even thought the total foul count against both teams so far differs by about 10 or so, the high foul totals are against the C’s key players as opposed to the Lakers high totals not being against key players,only exception –Kobe having 5 in game 2– I guarantee if the refs back of a little the Celtics will win this series.

  • boardrimnet

    solid defense first then patience in getting open mid-range or 3s in the half-court set. If we get stops, RR can do his thing in transition.
    Officiating will still be tight but focus must be on the game

  • Bob

    @ Stephen

    If Stern wanted his match up of Kobe and Lebron, why didn’t he have the refs screw up the Cavs and C’s series like he’s supposedly doing with the NBA Finals?

    I am not too happy about the officiating with this series either but come on now…

  • ducksawce

    Korey, oh my god…you know NOTHING about this Celtics team this year.

    Just like informed Celtic fans know this year’s Lakers are indeed very tough, and defensively dominant, informed Lakers fans should know that this year’s Celtics are offensively dominant on the fast break and semi-transition. That’s single-handedly how they won game 2 in the 4th quarter, how Ray Allen got hot in the 1st half in game 2, and how KG got going in game 3.

    It’s all about Rondo on the transition….”sparking” the big 3…the Big 3 these days needs tinder to get going…and Rondo IS that spark and tinder. This year, any one of the Big 3 usually gets themselves going on their own regardless of Rondo…but the rest usually need some impetus…

    So in summary…you are right about one thing. The Lakers are indeed MUCH better at physical, halfcourt play this year…often better than the Celtics are, if not better overall in every game at that…


    The Lakers are no longer a “loosey-fast-break” team…at least against the Celtics. They have rarely been dominant on the fast break like they used to be with Ariza. You clearly gained a vast defensive improvement this year with Artest…but you certainly any sense of offensive explosion you used to have with Ariza on the fast break. The Lakers are not offensively dominant like they used to be…roughly to the same degree that the Celtics are not physically dominant on defense like they used to be…

    …the two teams are just dang equal in so many respects, and as a fan of basketball, I must admit they are so similar to eachother, that it is clearly a problem trying to determine who has ANY advantage OVERALL, at all…

    The Lakers’ biggest asset against Boston is Gasol
    The Celtics’ biggest asset against LA is Rondo

    It is these two players that signify the changes in these two teams.

  • Korey

    @ Jay P

    Today is not a debate day.

    It’s a game day.

    It’s a gung-ho go to war day. Hence the precursor to my post.

    I’m in full “Celtics are turrrible” mode and will not remove myself from that point until after Game 4.

    Plus in every exaggeration there is some truth anyway, but I’ll let that be debated tomorrow!

    Celtics = Debo
    Lakers = Craig

  • Korey

    I see I have got the Celtics Hub riled up!

    Good job me <<<>>

    Now, this is PLENTY of material for me to throw back in all of your faces when the Lakers get this game 4 and put the stranglehold on the series!

    (Or, I’ll be eating crow for 2 days but who worries about that kind of stuff!)

  • Jay P

    Eddie Rush should never be officiating a Celtics Playoff game again after the Game 5 debacle in Orlando. Stern is a freaking moron, how the hell does he let this go on?

    Anyone expecting the officials to be any different in tonights game has another thing coming with tonights officials:

    Eddie Rush (No explanation necessary)
    Scott Foster (Implicated in Donaghy relationships)
    Greg Willard (Hometown: Pasadena, CA)

    Freaking awesome… this is going to suck.

  • TG

    Jay P, speaking of Donaghy, he’s actually doing a breakdown of the reffing in this series for another blog, and in his Game 3 breakdown, he specifically called out Danny Crawford as being a guy who is biased against certain teams (read: the Mavs). I can’t believe that DONAGHY can be openly saying a ref is dirty, or at least biased, and Stern still puts him on the floor in the Finals. Anyway, here’s hoping the refs call a good game for both sides, and go Celts!

  • mitch

    korey, i can see you dying in a car accident tonight

  • @bob—–He tried to but it didn’t work. Like I said in my earlier post the foul differential in this series is fairly close I believe the C’s have been whistled for 10 or so more fouls over a 3 game spread so that’s not the big problem. The most important players on the Celtics are being targeted–that’s the problem. The fact that the total number of fouls being called against each team remains somewhat close creates the “illusion”” that there is no bias here. Let’s see Gasol get called for 2 quick fouls tonight and we will see what happens to the Lakers. Let the players decide this thing and I’m okay with the outcome. But the refs aren’t doing that. Stop “”Pussifying”” the NBA finals dammit!!!

  • Ray Leighton

    OK, could we please stop having people talking about what a great job Artest is doing? It seems like everyone keeps saying it just because everyone else keeps saying it, but it actually is not based on reality. Go read the multiple posts with some actual data I put up on the earlier post — the short version is that Artest is actually hurting the Lakers; his offensive dropoff with Paul on him is worse than Paul’s dropoff with Artest on him — the difference in output between the two players is more in Paul’s favor than it would be if the two players were putting up their expected numbers during the regular season. Paul has consistently outproduced Artest across the board in all three games and at a greater level than against his average opposition. Lastly, Paul’s scoring average is only 2 points down from normal, and his assist average is actually slightly higher, which doesn’t really sound exactly like Artest is shutting him down. The Lakers are not winning because of Ron Artest, they are winning despite Ron Artest. If you want to look for reasons why the Lakers are winning, then point to Gasol.

    Also, how do we always get so far off the topic that Zach brings up?? I think that the first-quarter is a big deal — and note that Stan VanGundy said the same thing; it’s a first quarter league. I fully expect the first-quarter to be a valid predictor for every game this series.

    This is a good example of when Doc needs to be more flexible in his rotations — I was very bothered that when the Lakers went on a run in the mid-First, that Doc pulled out KG. We were playing poorly on both defense and offense for the next few minutes and the Lakers’ bench ran up a big lead. I know that we are trying to keep KG rested but he was the one player that the Lakers were largely unable to defend in Game 3; you almost have to keep him in there to keep the offense moving. I think that the Lakers’ bigs were playing a bit as if they were in shock because KG was going to the rim so aggressively and they obviously were not expecting that. So why give Gasol/Bynum a rest and a chance to think about how to fix it? Keep them on their heels and keep attacking them. And with both KG and Perk on the bench during that stretch, the interior defense just collapsed. We have got to be willing to make adjustments, even in the 1st quarter, if we are at risk of handing the opposing team momentum.

    Oh btw, Jay P, thanks for ruining my day with the list of officials….

  • pilgrimtraveller

    extra, extra, read all about it! korey drops his mask as an objective observer of basketball reality to reveal the stumpy, green teeth, the hairy palms, the spittle-stained shirt, and the blinking eyes (“damn,” he was heard to grunt, “it’s brighter here than in my mamma’s basement!”) of a troll!

  • Shooter

    Artest is not affecting Pierce’s offense in this series at all.The unusual suspects have been the refs,they’ve tied Pierce down in this series by blowing their whistle everytime Pierce breathes on someone.I expect Pierce to have a “performance of the night” game tonight.He has to,i know that’s what he’s thinking.He knows it,Doc knows it, Lakers know it’s coming.

  • lakershater13

    Eddie Rush is one of the refs tonight. look back all season and you will see key losses for the celtics against cavs hawks and orlando in close games. tonight may not be the best game for him to ref.

  • JMM

    Korey types: “Now, this is PLENTY of material for me to throw back in all of your faces when the Lakers get this game 4 and put the stranglehold on the series!”

    Yeah, right.