So you have probably heard it already. This year’s Boston Celtics are 16-4 through 20 games, which is….you guessed it….the same exact clip as last year’s crew had after 20 contests of their own. The strange thing is, the similarities in the numbers don’t stop between the rosters there. In fact, the numbers for both teams through 20 games in both season are eerily similar, if not downright surprising.
Let’s start with the offense. This year the C’s offensive rating is 109.3 through 20 games, good for 8th place in the league, according to Basketball-Reference.
Last year’s offense through 20 games? It was slightly better with a 109.4 points mark per 100 possessions.
Now a couple things to keep in mind about those numbers. First off, there’s no question this year’s team is much more dangerous and dynamic on the offensive end. However, they have dealt with a multitude of injuries already during this young campaign, creating a makeshift bench unit at time that has had more than their fair share of trouble carrying their weight on the offensive end.
Last year’s team was virtually entirely healthy at this point of the year, minus a thumb injury to Glen Davis and Kevin Garnett’s knee limitations. Paul Pierce was playing out of his mind early, actually earning some top-10 MVP recognition at this juncture due to his incredible offensively efficiency (he shot 45%+ from downtown the first 2 months).
Still, all things considered if you asked a C’s fan point blank which offense he thought looked better through 20 games without paying attention to the numbers, I’d bet the house almost everyone would take this year’s. .
This is good news in the sense that we know this year’s offense should also get better once the Jermaine O’Neal’s and Delonte West’s return. Thus we can expect this year’s offense numbers to stay steady or improve, as opposed to last year where the team dipped into the teens in offensive efficiency when the injuries and fatigue began to mount while Pierce’s numbers came back to earth.
The other fun comparison with both squads in the numbers comes on the defensive end….where there is even more encouraging news Boston Defensive Rating Through 20 games
(2010) 99.7 (1st in league)
(2009) 99.1 (1st in league)
Again, this shouldn’t come as shocking news that last year’s D was better by the numbers. However I’m extremely encouraged how much this team’s defense has excelled despite injuries to their two best defensive centers in Kendrick Perkins and Jermaine O’Neal.
If you told anyone before the season started that Shaquille O’Neal, Glen Davis, and a rookie no one had heard of before the summer (Semih Erden) would have been logging all of the center minutes through the team’s first 20 games, my first worry would have been the team’s defense. Perk had served as this team’s anchor back there for four years along with KG and his absence seemed daunting for the C’s team D.
Still, it’s a tribute to all those three guys, especially Glen Davis who has overcome size concerns, to step up as a true asset rather than a liability down the stretches of most games at the center spot, especially on the defensive end. Between his positioning, rebounding, and ability to force charges, he has earned the right to be considered for crunch time minutes, even when all the big guys return from injury.
Like the offense, the defense only stands to get better when Delonte, Jermaine and Kendrick get back from injury, as they are all still considered plus defenders in this stage of their career. Jermaine and Kendrick will also provide a shot blocking presence this team has lacked (28th in league in blocks through 20 games), giving the team an additional element it’s lacked.
So, if you are a Celtic opponent you have to be scared. This team has had a lot of bumps in the road through 20 contests, yet they are still are on the top of their game. With more returning assets expected over the next three months, the sky’s the limit for this squad on both ends of the floor, if they can keep the same healthy bodies on the floor.