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“P Aggressive! P-P Aggressive!”

 

"Take that!"

The dog days of an NBA season can take their toll on even the fiercest of competitors.  It may sound disheartening but the truth is those games don’t really matter.  Let me qualify:  if you play for a playoff lock like the Heat, Lakers, Bulls, Spurs, or Celtics, you can bank on being in the top half of the playoff bracket no matter how many midseason trap games your team loses.  It’s a sad reality, but after two straight seasons of fast starts and long(er than what is comfortable) lulls, this is how some older good teams are built.  It happened to the Lakers in the beginning of the season and now everyone is in near-unanimous agreement that they are the team to beat in the Western Conference.

So what accounts for the inconsistent play post Allstar break?  Lots of things.  But I would say there was a general malaise over this team after posting an impressive 40-14 record leading up to the break which explains the team’s 14-9 post ASG record.  Luckily, one major change fans have seen in the team’s latest play has been a kind of aggressiveness.  There are some guys that will never not be aggressive (Kevin Garnett, Glen Davis, Delonte West) but that aggression can manifest in poor shot selection and fighting with Channing Frye’s crotch.  While some Celtics will never lose their intensity, there are some perimeter players that can get caught standing around when the Celtics offense gets out of sync (Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, Rajon Rondo) and those two things alone can kill chances to win games.

The Celtics can still be characterized as in an offensive funk given their inability to win back-to-back games and their lack of focus on the offensive end but one major element for the Celtics’ recent success has been the play of Paul Pierce.  Over the past ten games, I would submit to you that we have seen a dramatic shift in Pierce’s aggression level.   We have seen Pierce attack the rim earlier and more often in games.  We have seen Pierce crash the boards and come up with timely rebounds that either ice the game or give the Celtics a chance to comeback.  We have seen far less standing around waiting to jack up a three point shot and back pedal.

This of course, is all according to the eye test.  It looks like Pierce is being more aggressive but then again, how do you quantify aggression?  I have tried.  I have looked up Pierce’s Field Goal Attempts at the Rim, his Total Field Goal Attempts, and his rebounding numbers for the past ten games and there is hardly anything remarkably different.  Aside from a few outliers like the games in San Antonio (11 rebounds), Atlanta (8 rebounds), and Charlotte (3 rebounds), Pierce’s numbers have not strayed much from his 6 rebounds per 40 minutes season mark.  As for FGA and FGA at the rim, these numbers from the past ten games are actually lower than his season average on the whole.

Are the games the Celtics’ dramtic wins making it look like Pierce is playing better than he did during the slump?  Is Pierce the engine that stirs the drink when it comes to ramping up the offensive execution or is he just the byproduct/beneficiary of the overall improved play from the Celtics?

It’s really hard to tell.  Before I looked up the numbers** I predicted I would see an overall +2– meaning Pierce was averaging two more rebounds, 2 more FGA attempts, and some indication that he was taking it to the hole more often.  Unfortunately, the numbers didn’t pan out how I had hoped which makes this situation even more interesting.    Perhaps even when Pierce looks like he’s not being aggressive he’s still putting up impressive numbers.

What do ya’ll think?

*The post’s title was written by the world’s funniest dude.  You may have heard of him here.

**All numbers were taken from the indispensable HoopData.com

  • Scott

    Yep. I commented the other day that when paul leads the game in rebounding the C's are 5-0. I know its small sample size, but that does not factor in when he leads his team, because when you look at the results page for the Celtics, it only tells you who the game high was in each category. You can see though, that when Paul does go after boards this team is better. Thats one more guy going after rebounds on a team that 'sucks' at rebounding.. that will be key.

    One thing on Shaq… People keep saying that we need him to win, and without him we are doomed. Remind me why? The way the current standings are set, we will most likely not face Orlando (barring we get past philly and miami (or new york…?)) because Chicago will get to play them second round. And is it me, or am i the only one that thinks the Lakers are not going to simply walk through the west like the rest of the world thinks? They are going to have to battle, and if the UNDERSIZED WARRIORS can out-rebound LA on any given night (50-47) then i like our chances. Shaq would be a fantastic option for DOC, and you can see how good he plays when he is in with the starters, but I say Doc finishes out the season starting Jermaine, keeps Jermaine starting there, and works Shaq in when he can. This team can win without him, and due to recent play, i am really starting to believe that they are going to.

    GO C's

    • kricky

      If JO can give us 20-25 minutes of good D and solid rebounding then you are right. But let's not forget that he is also still working his way back from injuries too.

    • GREENMAN

      COmpletely agree that we can win without shaq. Sure it would help to have him but he isn't going to make or break our team. I would hope that by the LA series, Shaq will be good to go anyways. It seems as if the Media just wants to write off the C's like they did last year.

      On another note, everyone talks about the Bulls injury problems and being in 1st place in the East. Well, I have to argue that the Celtics have faced similar if not worse injurries and are in 2nd place in the East and only 3 games back of the bulls after going through a largescale midseason trade. C's are going to go through the East as they did last year, because the only other team that plays a playoff style basketball is the Bulls and thier style is just a 2nd rate Doc Rivers version. I'll take the original over the copy.

  • Alex

    Game 7 last year: LA dominated the glass. And Bynum's playing much better now.

    As kricky said, if JO can rebound, then Shaq may not be absolutely necessary, but JO looks like KG from last year, unable to get two hands on a rebound.

    • Scott

      It’s a gamble, but a sig. smaller one than shaq. Plus JO has 9 rebs in his last two games, while only playing 29 mins. I think he’ll be fine, especially come playoff time.

  • Viva

    It seems Dany thinks the same. With that over discussed trade he is betting against those two teams also. Don't get me wrong, Perk is a great guy, but we should get over him, he's not with us anymore.
    And PP is more aggressive when we need him to be, but overall it evens out, so that is why that's not showing in stats. At least, that is what I believe.

  • johnschaffer

    if shaq comes back for 10 min a game with Jo and krisitc other bigs we will be fine in playoffs. the team is coming together i cant believe only 5 games left in a very eventful injury filled season , thank god the celtics are coming through ,and i think danny made smart trades ,good luck celtics , whip ass and take names

  • kricky

    We may not need Shaq to get out of the East, but we still will need Shaq against LA. Bynum has evolved into a real beast and we need someone besides JO and Nads to bang in there with him. (Remember how Nads got torched by the likes of Roy Hibert and DeAndre Jordan last month?)

    Bynum looked really good, even in last night's loss (How sweet was that BTW??). The Fakers just did not give him the ball at the end of the game (dumbasses!). Instead Kobe played his usual hero ball. Lets hope they keep falling into this trap.

  • kricky

    Just looked at the standings. We could pull even with the Fakers with a win tonight. I'm not sure who would get the home court if the season end's like that.

    But given all the turbulence we've experienced keeping the 2 seed and getting home court over LA in the potential finals matchup would be a resounding success, no?

    • Chris O

      Yes Kricky it would. THe 2 seed and home court against any team not named the Bulls or Spurs would be great.

  • dave

    Fans of the C's should know better than anyone. Teams that are built for success in the post season get exposed in the regular season. How many back to back road games will the C's or the Lakers be playing once the playoffs start.

    It's one thing to beat the C's or the Lakers on any given night when you only play them a handful of times all year during the 82 game slog. But much more is required to defeat them in the post season.

    Challengers are going to have to beat the C's and the Lakers four times in seven games or less over the span of two weeks with Rivers and Jackson making adjustments throughout.

    Throw away the regular season when evaluating what happens with these match-ups. Someone may beat the C's or the Lakers in the post season but there won't be any correlation to the in-season performances.

  • Morpheus

    Back on topic. The answer may lie in his FTAs, getting to the line more. I checked out his FTAs month by month and this is what i got:

    FTAs Per Game Month
    4.9 November
    4.9 December
    5.3 January
    6.5 February
    6.3 March – Slump Month
    6.7 April

    So those FGA numbers don't count the number of times he attacks the basket and gets to the FT line. So he most probably is being more aggressive of late, despite what his FGA numbers may tell you at the basket.

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