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Turn Up the Bass!

One of the more surprising aspects of this season’s Celtics team has been how far the gap has closed between the team’s offensive and defensive efficiencies.  During the garnett-era, the actual numbers have been all over the map, but the overall gap between the two has been roughly 7 points per 100 possessions.  In other words, it hasn’t really mattered how good the Celtics offense or defense was compared to the rest of the league.  The Celtics still saw sustained success as long as they scored on average 7 points more than their opponent per 100 possessions.  This year, the gap is 0.03.

This isn’t surprising given the fact that the Celtics enter today with a 9-8 record and sitting a comfortable fourth in the divisional standings.  A slightly over .500 team would on average score slightly more points than they give up.  A big reason for this discrepancy is the drastic change in defensive efficiency from past seasons in the Garnett-era.  I think every writer on this site has at the very least mentioned the Celtics diminishing capacity on defense in the grades of a face-palming loss.  While the defense is definitely a problem, it is unfortunately not the only problem the Celtics have.

It would be really nice and clean if offense and defense were this sort of mystical inverse proportion where a team could automatically become more efficient on offense if they tightened up their defensive rotations.  Not the case.  The Celtics can be a really bad defensive team and a really bad offensive team, or in the case of this season, an eh offensive team and an eh defensive team.

Fixing the defense is going to be a long process.  We know that now because the familiar excuses aren’t even plausible anymore.  Last season, the Celtics could point to myriad reasons for their shortcomings.  No full training camp.  No off days for practice.  Too many back-to-backs.  Injuries.  This season is entirely different.  The Celtics have had a full training camp, are about to play their second game in five nights, and are supposedly younger and deeper than they have been in years.  The Celtics can only hope to fix their problems defending the ball through attrition.  Doc Rivers needs to wear away his team’s bad habits of over-helping, under crashing, and not adequately contesting three point shooters until the number of points the Celtics allow per 100 possessions goes down to where were used to for a Garnett-anchored team.

That’s a long term hope solution.

11/23 vs. Oklahoma City

In the short term, if there is one cog in the Celtics offensive machine that could use a little oiling it’s Brandon Bass.  Last season, the Bass/Rondo pick-and-roll was not only intrinsic to the Celtics success but also one of the main reasons why retaining Bass was a top priority for Danny Ainge this past offseason.  Rondo and Bass play really well together because of Rondo’s ability to completely suck defenses in only to kick it out to the open man.  When the Celtics have guys like Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Jason Terry, and Courtney Lee on the floor it’s easy to see why the open guy is often Bass.

Last season, Bass shot 48% from the field.  That number is down to 44% this season.  Anecdotally, there are many reasons for this.  Bass tends to not catch balls cleanly, can make poor decisions, hesitates.  By the numbers, however, Bass is shooting the ball as well as he did last season in all but one area of the floor.  From 3-9 feet (according to HoopData).  Historically, Bass hasn’t exactly been great from this area but so far this season he’s down to a putrid 18%.  With Bass being so effective from the mid-range and at the rim, it’s conceivable that Bass has trouble in this area because the floor has shrunk and his lack of height is exposed.  If this be the case than Bass needs to be a better decision maker when presented with these types of shot opportunities.  He showed some mid-game growth in Portland when after getting an offensive rebound and then his shot blocked on the ensuring put-back attempt, he kicked the ball out to the perimeter when he secured a second offensive rebound later in the game.  If Bass finds himself with the ball between 3-9 feet, he should probably look elsewhere.  The last thing I want for Bass to do is over-think.  He seems to play his best basketball when he’s catch-and-shooting from 12+ feet, or he’s powering a ball up to the rim for a two-handed slam.  So, in order to really attempt to rectify this issue, the Celtics should avoid offensive sets where Bass finds himself in that Bermuda Triangle of 18%.

For the most part, the Celtics do this with Bass.  This also may seem nit-picky and small but as I mentioned before, Bass is going to get touches on a team with this many offensive threats and the more the Celtics can maximize the effectiveness of those possessions, the more success they’ll likely to have.

11/25 @ Orlando

The Celtics have also had a problem with offensive execution this season.  If the Celtics flub an execution and Bass isn’t in the right position or mishandles a pass, it usually results in an end-of-the-shot-clock heave or a low percentage shot from a player who doesn’t mind taking any shot (i.e. Paul Pierce).

There are a lot of chicken-and-egg situations going on here.  Does Bass wind up in his not so sweet spot because of poor offensive execution or because he’s in the wrong spot? Does Bass find opportunities there because he’s being more aggressive on the offensive glass?  Is Bass just a victim of a small sample size and his number of attempts from this area will go down once the Celtics secure their offensive identity?  Admittedly, I set out to lament the decline of Bass’ mid-range jump shot from last season to now but the numbers don’t bear that out.  My memory tells me that Bass is missing a lot of open jumpers but since his FG% from that area hasn’t declined and his attempts haven’t declined significantly, he could just be making the harder shots and missing the easy ones.  Whatever the actual answers are to any of these questions, the Celtics starting lineup is really only as good as its weakest link.

Bottom line: Bass needs to play better.


  • sean

    won't avery bradley have a meaningful impact on the defense? he's a top-ten league defender, arguably first team… i feel like his energy played such a big role in our resurgence last year.

  • High Rollers

    That's another factor… if a healthy Avery B. returns to his magnificent cutting ways, a wide-open Bass will be finding himself shooting jumpers from his sweet spot for days. And when they start dropping, we're gonna have some monster games. Can you imagine a KG-led Celtics squad stringing up ten or more games in a row at 99+ points? I can easily picture it, but it's kinda like a Picasso compared to the old identity. But like you said, the fence has to be fortified first.

  • Reid

    Certainly Brandon has limitations but he is more athletic then my hero John Havlicek! Hondo was not fast couldn't jump the highest but had a never ending motor. See that motto helped me to become adequate on the court. I was able to employ my favorite sports philosophy. As the game goes on you should be getting stronger than your opponent. This requires excellent conditioning! A couple of Connecticut alum use this method to achieve success. Brandon is usually undersized compared to his opponent this requires him to develop a shot that he can get off over taller players. Hondo used the running hook! I think Cowens also used the hook to great effect. Now we see Diandre Jordan using it as a weapon to improve his offensive arsenal. Brandon needs to do the same. He need s to work on a hook shot that can be effective in the 3 – 9 foot range, and continue to pass out of the paint when multiple players attack. Why do players not use the hook it is a shot designed to get the ball over taller players? Pass it on, he is not the only one!

    • 2P2D

      John Havlicek in his prime was one of the best athletes in the NBA.

  • Ian Van Doren

    I think Bradley's defense brings an element the Celtics are lacking right now. The Celtics guards have a tough time stopping penetration. Rondo gambles too much at times. Opponent's guards are able to penetrate too easily, causing the Celtics bigs to have to scramble and adjust their rotations.

  • Phil

    The familiar excuses may not be valid anymore, but there are always new ones that you can use. Lack of training camp just switches to lack of familiarity between the new players. Injuries with the big guys nursing stuff just changes to injury to your best perimeter defender. Old age changes to… older age on possibly the most important defender to his team in the entire league. I think there's some validity there, but it's also possible that this team's defensive ceiling isn't the same as it used to be. It's something to be concerned about while we hope that these issues resolve themselves.

    Regarding Bass, he kind of is what he is on offense. He can shoot open 15 footers, and that's about it. That in itself is valuable. He does a lot of things you don't like on that side of the ball, but if he can hover between 44 and 48%, I don't think it's a problem. If he rebounds okay and plays smart defense, he's worth the contract given what big guys get nowadays. That's been far from a given though. Rondo cannot be the second best rebounder on the team if they want to do anything. It's a lot harder to quantify his defense, but I feel confident in saying that it's not where we need it.

  • tbunny

    To me this argument is like saying the Celtics are mediocre right now because of a 4% decline in Bass's FG%. That seems fairly simplistic.

    • High Rollers

      Yeah but would you disagree that a 4% increase in Bass's fg% (whatever the cause may turn out to be… a shooter busting a slump, better spacing, Bradley's return to the starting group, etc.) would have a significant positive impact on the C's overall performance?

      There's no denying that simply making buckets provides more time to get back and get the defense set. As much as this post laments Brandon's somewhat head-scratching shooting/scoring woes, it also illustrates how connected things are on both sides of the ball, how important it is for Brandon to succeed in his minutes on the floor, and how different the big picture might look with even a bump up in production. I.e., not so simplistic after all.

      • tbunny

        I guess it seems like a truism that if somebody starts making more shots both offense and defense will be better.

        • High Rollers

          If, in picking your poison, you elect to get back to set up your D rather than crash the offensive glass, then it's a much healthier situation when you space the floor right and a shooter is making his shots. Games+practices+return of AB should help both Brandon's rhythm and the C's opportunities to, as they say, get back and get set. As a result, yes, both the defense and the offense should improve.

      • dslack

        If Bass makes one extra shot out of every 25 he takes (and all else stays the same), I don't think that would have a significant impact on the Celtics record.

  • Morpheus

    Ahhhh, so the problem with our offense has been Bass.

    Enough with the excuses already, it's time to PUT UP OR SHUT UP Celtics.

    Just read an article on how well the Hawks are doing this season and they have 9 new players on their team. Yet they're not making any excuses for "new faces" or "time to adjust". Bullshit, come on. Enough with the excuses already.

    This team needs to start clicking and rolling right now.

    • janos

      i am agree

  • janos

    hi brayden is janos
    this is good articles and clear me you are put the long time on researach and write this articles. i am agree you here team need all part for win but this many words write on guy nobodies really care on. is time better spend do a articles rondos or garnet ;? pierce; i am for me peronal, is read prefer those guys not partial player storys line.

    • High Rollers

      janos, did you forget that this team was floating belly up last year until Avery Bradley clicked?

      • Phil

        I think a lot of people have forgotten the huge difference between the Celtics pre and post Bradley last year, I'd even include myself a little there. I know they hit another level with Bradley, but I'm having a hard time remembering if they looked as bad at this point in the season as they do now.

        It gets even cloudier when the thing most people remember most prominently is the playoffs, which was another entire uptick in performance thanks to KG. It's unrealistic (and unwise,) to expect playoff KG for the entire season, and Bradley has shown that he's a key contributor. There's another level there that they haven't shown, but there are holes there that also won't just go away that need acknowledged.

      • janos

        i did forget thank you remind me am apreciates it.

  • tomrod

    The Celtics are underacheiving…

    Things will get better. But we do need more from a bunch of players, specially Fab Melo, Sullinger and Bass.


    Shed from Russia with Love will kill today old celtics
    O eeeee, Oeeeee
    Rossiya- chempion

    • janos


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