January In Summary
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.
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:
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…
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.
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:
Predicted February Record: 8-3