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The Month Ahead: February 2011

 

January In Summary

Reunited. Once Again. For The First Time.

The Celtics went 12-4 in January, to bring their record to an Eastern Conference-best 36-11 on the season. Over the last month, they’ve increased their lead over the Miami by two full games, They now sit 2.5 games up on the Heat, and are three better in the loss column.

In the overall standings, Boston is still four full games back of San Antonio for the best record in the NBA, despite handing the Spurs one of their seven losses earlier in the month.

Statistical Review

Coming into February, the Celtics are:

10th (tied) in offensive efficiency (106.0 points scored/100 possessions). Last month – 11th/105.6.

2nd in defensive efficiency (97.9 points allowed/100 possessions). Last month – 1st/97.0.

1st in eFG% at 53.7%. Last month – 1st/53.3%.
2nd in TS% at 57.3%. Last month – 1st/57.1%.
1st in assist ratio at 17.5. Last month – 1st/17.4.
8th (tied) in defensive rebound rate at 74.9. Last month – 3rd/76.8.
30th in offensive rebound rate at 21.4. Last month – 29th/21.8.
17th (tied) in total rebound rate at 49.8. Last month – 9th/50.8.
22nd in pace at 92.8. Last month – 24th/92.8.
27th in turnover rate at 25.5. Last month – 25th/25.4.

Predictably, the Celtics defensive rebound rate dipped with Kevin Garnett missing half of January and they finally cratered in the offensive rebounding category. KG and Kendrick Perkins’ returns will finally allow us to assess what this team looks like with its full complement of big men (excepting Jermaine O’Neal, who we can no longer count on).

Perk should make a significant difference. Paraphrasing from our recent rebounding review:

Perkins’ rebounding rates last season: 9.1 ORR, 24.4 DRR, 17.0 TRR (the latter two of those were career highs). If Perkins were to produce at those levels again this season, he’d be both the Celtics second best overall rebounder and second best defensive rebounder (both times behind Garnett). More interestingly: he’d be the C’s second best offensive rebounder too.

Still, despite all that context and signs of hope (including out-rebounding the Lakers 43-30 on Sunday) the C’s remain 17th in the league in TRR, a shade below mediocre. Let’s punt this one ’till next month and see how much of a difference a healthy frontline makes.

Lastly, have a look at that TOR. It’s trending the wrong way:

  • Dec 1: 23rd in the league at 24.6
  • Jan 1: 25th in the league at 25.4
  • Feb 1: 27th in the league at 25.5

Admittedly, it’s a marginal decline over the last month but does anyone have faith this team will shore up these numbers before the playoffs? I don’t.

After the jump, we’ll examine the February schedule and make some predictions.

February is front-loaded with tough games against would-be title contenders. Dallas, Orlando, the Lakers and the Heat all come to Boston over a ten-day span after the C’s wrap up the road trip tonight in Sacramento. Then February finishes with a post-all-star game road trip the C’s could dominate, especially if nobody else gets hurt this month.

Speaking of which…

Predictions

Last month’s reasonable enough stab at the January record (I predicted 10-6 and the C’s ended up 12-4) was undercut by a few less successful predictions.

Let me try and look a bit less stupid this month.

But only a bit.

Safe Prediction: Perkins will reclaim his starting job from Shaquille O’Neal. There’s a healthy debate to be had on this front but Shaq’s been staggered by foul trouble and shaky on the boards since around Christmas. The big guy is now 33rd (of 62 qualifying centers) in TRR, 40th in ORR and 40th (best) in TOR. And of course, Perkins brings more on the defensive end. Still, Shaq’s PER remains a reasonable 17.85 and Doc Rivers may be able to get him more touches and bulk up the second unit’s offensive efficiency by pushing back his first appearance until later in the first quarter.

After all, how many second unit centers can guard O’Neal?

Bold Prediction: The good vibes of recent days on the injury front will be shattered by at least one more semi-major setback to a major player. It only seems logical, right?

You know what? Screw that.

Let’s say the C’s stay healthy all the way through February. They’re about due for a month without an injury calamity.

Right?

Ridiculous Prediction: On February 10th, the Celtics will send the Lakers to the locker room at halftime trailing by 15+ points and the resulting fallout will include, in order:

  • Kobe Bryant taking 31 second-half shots and refusing to pass to anyone on his team including Ron Artest, from whom he’ll actually steal the ball at one point.
  • The Lakers giving up and walking off the TD Garden floor with a 20-point-loss.
  • Kevin Garnett will be so excited at the victory, he’ll sign an autograph for Phil Jackson and then punch himself in the crotch. David Stern will quickly assess three technical fouls to Rasheed Wallace as punishment.
  • Mitch Kupchak will ultimately bow to pressure (prematurely, I think) and shake up his team with a trade, possibly a big one.

Predicted February Record: 8-3

  • Batman

    Hmm i got last month's prediction wrong too
    For this month I'm saying 9-2
    Too bold?

  • CsFanInArkansas

    Definitely not too bold, Batman.
    I think February is going to be a HUGE month for us.

    *We've got Perk back – he's getting much closer to game shape – he'll be starting against ORL.
    *Delonte will be back after a few more games – huge lift for our bench.
    *The games we lost in January were "bunnies" to teams we should've torched – albiet, we're still sniffing the best record in the league – and we don't want to give up the best record in the East.
    *Only one back-to-back – against an outclassed Bobcats team.
    *Finally, I think we're just going to be dialed in. We've got some tough opponents coming to the Garden, and I think this past game in LA helped the team remember the chip on their shoulder.

    Watch out.

    9-2 (I'm thinking the two losses will be @ Charlotte and @ Denver)

  • NHBluesMan

    loved the ridiculous prediction. Had to keep myself from laughing out loud at work when i read 'Kobe will steal the ball from Artest' Great stuff!

  • CsFanInArkansas

    This is just a thought for the C'sHub staff from one of your loyal readers…

    Now that the Celtics are ALMOST back to full health (I'm not sure how close Delonte is – and I'm not really counting on JO for the remainder of the season), is there any way we could see our favorite Celtics writers (you guys) do a piece on the depth of our team compared to the depth around the league? I keep current with our roster, but I don't really know what's going on with the #6 – #10 guys on other teams around the league. I'd love to hear our C'sHub spin on the depth comparison around the NBA.

    Thanks!

  • kricky

    TOR may go down when Delonte get's back too, taking PG play for Nate and giving Rondo a break too.

    What an amazing 2nd Unit: Delononte, Shaq, Nate, Baby, and Marquise. It will be very interesting to see how they play together and if Doc still needs to throw out a started with them. This could be a unit that is capable of really extending leads.

  • zebulon

    "Shaq’s been staggered by foul trouble" – yo bro, this doesn't make sense.

  • JP-

    I am hopeful that the Celtics will beat the Heat again, its in Boston, so that is good news. I think the Heat will really want to attempt to prove how far they have come since the early season games. Should be a good month with a lot of good games on tap.

  • Gay 4 Shaq

    Celtics are gonna go undefeated in February . JUST REMEMBER I SAID IT FIRST

  • I_Love_Green

    Looking into the crystal ball I see one team coming out of february as the clear cut favorite to win it all…….

    The Boston Celtics!! We will go 10-1 in February with the one loss being to the Nuggets (Shaq and Pierce will miss that game) Shaq because he's old, and Pierce because of a hurt foot but he won't miss anymore games. Oh and Melo does not get traded.

    Mavs haven't been playing well, and we almost beat them in Dallas with Semih as our only healthy center, and when Dirk was an early frontrunner for MVP.
    The Magic are tough, but we got Perk back! We've beaten them before and we're only better now.
    The lakers will be looking for revenge, but won't get it. Our home crowd will still be feeling the finals loss when they come to town. That should be a fun game.
    The Heat. Come on now we got Perk back! They thought we were big before, and now we got the Beast back who should be starting by then. But really we're just better than them. Its all about matchups and we beat them in the PG, PF, and C positons significantly.

  • Batman

    i think our turnovers really depend on rondo
    he needs to stop leading the league in turnovers

    • kricky

      Hopefully Delonte will play well and cut down on some of those minutes for RR, leaving him more rested and focused when he's in there, and thus less turnovers.

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