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By The Numbers: The Current Six-Game Winning Streak

 

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The 2012-13 Boston Celtics have been as unpredictable as any team in the league this season. Since they defeated the Nets in Brooklyn on Christmas Day, the Celtics have gone on a four-game losing streak, six-game winning streak, six-game losing streak and another six-game winning streak. However, the reason that the most recent win streak is more impressive than the previous one is that each of those victories have come without Rajon Rondo.

As evidenced by their fantastic play over the last couple weeks, the Celtics have performed very well without their floor general. In fact, they are approximately 6.0 points better without Rondo per 100 possessions. On Sunday against the Nuggets, the Celtics will surpass 1,000 minutes played with their starting point guard off the floor this season, so this is no small sample size.

One of the reasons the Celtics have been succeeding without Rondo is their improvement in winning the turnover game with opponents. Since their ball dominator has been out of the lineup, the Celtics have yet to lose the turnover battle in any of the six contests. The Celtics with Rondo at the helm were unable to achieve such a six-game streak this season. His frequent ball control on offense led to more turnovers and his poor on-ball defense led to less forced turnovers. Replacing Rondo’s point duties with the mix of mostly Courtney Lee, Avery Bradley and Paul Pierce benefitted the Celtics. Doc Rivers has even admitted that he has no idea who is bringing the ball down the floor on a random possession.

The bench has also come alive with their scoring in this recent stretch. Over the last few weeks, Jason Terry, Leandro Barbosa and Jeff Green have all set new season-long streaks in double-digit scoring. They are more comfortable now than they had been at any point this season. In addition, the bench as a whole has contributed at its highest level in a long time. Since New Year’s Day 2013, the Celtics have had at least three reserves score 12 or more points in five different contests. According to Elias Sports Bureau, in the previous four calendar years (2009-12), that happened only once (January 12, 2011 vs. Sacramento).

Let us not forget all of the captain’s statistical contributions. Not only has Pierce averaged 17.5 points per game during the winning streak, but he also has 9.5 rebounds and 6.2 assists per game in that span. He is truly the team’s point forward and has succeeded thus far in that role. His career-bests for a season are 7.3 rebounds in 2002-03 and 5.1 assists in 2003-04. Moreover, Pierce has recorded at least five rebounds in 12 consecutive games for the first time since 2005.

All of these factors as well as Kevin Garnett scoring in double digits in each of the last six games have contributed to the Celtics’ great play. They now have three victories by more than 12 points in their last six games. In the first 43 games of 2012-13, the Celtics had just five such wins. While the Celtics might not be title contenders for this season, they sure believe they have a chance. Boston’s depth is much more useful than most thought after the first half of the season and many of those main players feeling reborn since the Rondo ACL injury.

For more Celtics coverage and pertinent statistics, follow Celtics Hub and Stats Adam Lowenstein on Twitter: @CelticsHub and @StatsAdam

  • OKCeltic

    I don't know if they have more depth than most thought. Many of us who followed the off-season moves thought DA was assembling a very deep bench with the exception of a solid big to give KG a breather or to allow him to move back to PF. The problem was the lack of a fluid offensive scheme. I'm not placing all that blame on RR. Much of it is on Doc. Watching the last six games should open both of their eyes and make them realize that having the ball in RR's hands 90% of each trip down the floor is not the answer. RR needs to instigate that motion. If he doesn't want to or is reluctant to let it happen, the Doc needs to demand it or take him off the floor.

    I didn't like seeing Rondo get hurt, but maybe sitting and watching his teammates play this style of ball will help expand his approach to how he runs the offense.

  • Sophomore

    OKCeltic – completely agree that the offense is more fluid. You could see it even in the Xmas game against the Nets. I remember the 2d quarter of that game, when Rondo was out, because the Cs played some startlingly beautiful ball on offense and had killer pressure on D.

    Rondo is hugely talented, and he has that extra playoff gear. To me, the big question is what he's seeing now. Does he see how he could actually help the team more by handling the ball less? Can he see how much he could bring to this team by using some of his quickness to play better on-ball defense?

    If he sees these things, then I'm eager to have him back. If he doesn't, then I'm eager to move him for a big.

  • Mark

    Everyone seems to be coming at this with the premise that Rondo wanted to dominate the ball as much as he did. Last time I checked Doc is the coach and he, not Rondo, creates the offensive strategy by which the Celtics operate. If anyone on that team thought Rondo pounding the ball was the issue and Doc did nothing to change that it’s on Doc 100%.

    Another thing, there is no evidence by which anyone can come to the conclusion or assume that Rondo will be unwilling to adapt his game to fit in with this system ASSUMING this system fits (key word there) the personnel next season.

    Lastly, instead of heaping praise upon this group lets think back to the numerous occasions, multiple times per game even, that Rondo would push the damn ball and not have a single teammate run with him. Bass, KG and Pierce being the worst offenders due to the minutes played together. This need to blame Rondo is getting to be too much.

    • Phil725

      I'd argue that the need to blame in general is too much. I get that we as a society have to find a scapegoat for every situation, but it's such a zero sum game. The Celtics were underachieving big time prior to the Rondo injury, there's plenty of blame to go around. I'm content with just enjoying the improved product they're putting out now. I'd rather talk about what's working now than what wasn't a month ago, but then again, I'm an optimist.

      How much Rondo was at fault does matter as a conversation when it comes time to gauge his value (can you build around him, do you trade him, etc,) but there's no reason to have that conversation with a ~10 game sample size. That's an offseason topic.

    • KillerGymRat

      Couldn't agree more Mark.

      Seriously, I expect more informed commentary. This one is unnecesarily biased against Rondo, and manipulative as it ignores the biggest difference.

      Effort.

      The biggest difference isn't Rondo or no Rondo, or even the system. It's the effort. In the first 6 game winning streak, the defensive activity got kicked up several notches leading to wins. But then in the 6 game losing streak the D (and pretty much everything) was flat and the effort was pathetic. Now in this recent 6 game stretch the effort is back (for the most part – as there have still been lapses, just not insurmountable ones).

      The blame (I prefer area to focus on for improvement but since everybody seem stuck on finger pointing…) goes out to everyone on the team to put out a consistent winning effort. Save for KG who never takes a play off, it hasn't been there all season – Rondo or no Rondo. This team isn't talented enough or athletic enough on the whole to coast to wins. They have to fight for everything. Right now they're fighting. So guess what. They're winning.

      The spread definitely helps and is a much better fit for our personel, but no way in hell were guys playing this hard during the losing skid, nor for most of the loses this season.

      And that's somehow Rondo's fault? Whatever.

  • Sophomore

    Fair point, Mark, to say that Doc should take his share of the blame. I'm not on the team so I don't know.

    What I do know is that whoever was drawing things up, his game needed work. Maybe Doc needs to see that, too. But I find it hard to believe Rondo was pushing for a more open offense and Doc was standing in his way. Rondo's got the elite ego you often find in a top athlete. Remember the assist record? Did you get the sense he was indifferent, that he wouldn't care about losing the record if it helped the team win? I didn't.

    Rondo's a grown man now, and now that he's been here a few years and proved himself, he's earned a right to speak up. Danny and Doc made it clear the Cs were going to be his team. If he didn't like the way the offense was run, he should have said something.

    I'm not saying this makes him a hopeless case, or way out of the ordinary. Everybody remembers MJ's first few years, before he realized he couldn't do it all himself. Great players (and their coaches) sometimes need to learn how to get the most out of their talents.

    As for fast breaks, I'd like to see Rondo run forward when the Cs get the rebound sometimes, instead of running back to get the ball. He always wants to run the break. Maybe that Doc's instructions, maybe it's Rondo's. But it definitely slowed things down.

    The only place I'm pretty sure Doc isn't at fault is is on-ball defense, and his inability to get around picks. Please don't tell me Rondo is a plus on-ball defender.

    My point isn't that Rondo is a bum, or that he's not redeemable. He's a great point guard, with special skills, who hasn't figured out how to get the most from his talents and these teammates. I'd think that's pretty clear.

  • Phil725

    The turnover story is the most interesting one to me. If you were a believer that the on/off court numbers for Rondo this year told a true story, then it shouldn't be surprising that the offense is experiencing at least a short term improvement. The one area that looked to be a real problem was turnovers. The Rondo lineups were less turnover prone than the bench ones, plus you add in the peripheral problem of asking bench players to carry starter loads, which historically leads to more turnovers and less efficiency. The Cs were already in the bottom 10 in turnover rate, so getting worse in that spot could've been disastrous.

    Instead, it's went the other way. They've stayed well under their season average four of the last six games, and they weren't far over against the Kings or Clippers (who also happen to be the top team in the league at forcing turnovers.)

    Looking at how things have reset; I have confidence in Pierce as a ball handler, KG is a great passer, Terry's made a career out of facilitating on bench lineups. They have guys to handle the ball without turning it over a lot. Still, six games isn't enough to say we're out of the woods. We could see things flip in a hurry if the team starts getting sloppy. I'll still be watching it going forward, but I'm encouraged by what I've seen so far.

    The Cs have also been forcing a few more turnovers than normal, but they were one of the best in the league at that all year, and you would expect more turnovers with forcing an up tempo game and a more engaged team as a whole, so I'm not too worried about that.

    • hydrofluoric

      I just am worried about the playoffs. Kinda feel that the defenses you face in the playoffs tighten up a lot, and those swing passes around the perimeter will end in either more turnovers for our offense, or more attempts at dribble penetration. And our dribble penetration definitely leaves a lot to desire in the ball-security department; every game Courtney Lee loses it by going into the crowded paint at least once. Afraid we'd see more of that.

      And on the other hand, I'm not sure you can always count on the other team giving you turnovers (especially live turnovers) in the playoffs – the pace slows and teams play with more deliberation as a rule. I know it's not football, but the Patriots were +28 or something in turnovers across the regular season and then lost in the playoffs in the first game where their D didn't come up with the big plays. There's certainly a skill to forcing turnovers, but when you have less chances to do it (fewer possessions, slower pace, more carefulness, and of course fewer games overall) that advantage dissipates a bit.

      • Phil725

        Better defenses shutting down this new offense in the playoffs is definitely a huge concern. It reminds me a little bit of the Knicks' situation last year. They had stuff that worked all season, then all of the sudden they come up against a super engaged Miami team, and Steve Novak couldn't even get a shot off in their regular offense. Stuff that works in the regular season might not work in the playoffs, and there are no shortage of great defenses in the way of a playoff run (Ind, Chi, Mia. At least they won't have to face themselves…)

        Turnovers or not, I think they'll be able to sustain something close to this all regular season. They might get shut down by the Bulls, but they'll also have games where they put up Oratings over 120 against teams that can't be bothered to defend like Sacramento. That's not a level they could reach reliably with the precision offense. Don't let the next fourty games sway you though, they're gonna miss Playoff Rondo big time.

        I'm not sure about any leaguewide turnover differences that correlate with the playoffs. I'd expect them to go up actually, since the best defensive teams usually make the playoffs, and intensity on every possession goes up. Still, I don't think the Cs are depending on turnovers. They've forced turnovers on 10.7, 13.8, 18.5, 12.4, 17.4 and 16% of possessions over the winning streak. That actually averages out to their exact average for the season (14.8)

        They've been a good turnover forcing team since KG showed up, and I'd expect that to continue in the playoffs. It's all about turnovers on the other side of the ball for me. They had a big advantage on Miami in turnover rate, and that game went to double OT. Another turnover or two, and you lose that game. With everything requiring more precision in the playoffs, will they be able to put up similar numbers?

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