Sunday, November 22, 2015

The Celtics Quietly Building One of the NBA's Best Defenses

Forward Jared Sullinger has been pivotal for Boston on the defensive end, and on the glass this season.
By Adam Lowenstein (@StatsAdam)

Wednesday’s 18-point lead against the visiting Dallas Mavericks did not last long. The TD Garden crowd was roaring at referees Tony Brothers, Ben Taylor and Tony Brown for most of the game, but the Celtics have to be faulted for their frustrating shooting in the second, third and fourth quarters.

Boston’s 26th-ranked 3-point shooting started strong. The Celtics made three of their first five shots from downtown, but finished the game 5-for-21, including missing all six of their 3-point attempts in the second quarter.

However, the green bounced back on Friday to win yet another game by double digits. With Boston’s 120-95 victory over the Brooklyn Nets, the 7-5 Celtics have yet to win a game by fewer than 13 points this season. The seven victories of at least 10 points thus far this season already ties Boston’s total of double-digit victories during the entire 2006-07 season, and surpasses the team’s total in 1996-97.

According to ESPN’s Hollinger team statistics, the Celtics’ defense is tied with the San Antonio Spurs’ defense for the lowest number of points allowed per possession. The main reason for the green’s success is that the team is forcing the highest turnover percentage in the league this season.

Basketball-Reference’s Defensive Box Plus/Minus, which measures a players’ per-possession performance relative to the league average, has three Celtics in the top ten: Jared Sullinger, Amir Johnson and Jae Crowder.

However, one of the Celtics’ defensive stalwarts, Marcus Smart, will miss Sunday’s game in Brooklyn and Tuesday’s contest in Atlanta due to a bruised knee. In the meantime, Boston will look to keep its opponents away from the free throw line. When the C’s have allowed fewer than 25 free throw attempts, they are 6-0 this season. In their victories against the Nets and Hawks, they allowed 24 free throws and a season-best 20 free throws, respectively.

For the C’s to be successful, Jared Sullinger has to continue his strong rebounding season, as he has propelled the team’s offensive rebounding percentage to the fourth-best spot in the NBA. The Celtics’ 27.7 offensive rebounding percentage this season is almost as good as the one that the 62-20 Celtics accomplished in 2008-09. In addition, Sullinger’s win shares per 48 minutes ranks 16th in the league.

Another player I may have mentioned in previous articles is performing well thus far in 2015-16 as well. Isaiah Thomas, who posted his season-best plus/minus on Friday against the Nets, is on pace for by far his best season in terms of assists and win shares. Thomas has at least six assists in each of his last five games, which has tied his longest streak as a Celtic.

Although Thomas has made 26 shots from 3-point distance this season, he has done so on 81 attempts, the seventh-most 3-point attempts among players this season. Smart and Kelly Olynyk are also culprits of poor shooting from downtown, as they have combined for 20-for-77 shooting from deep this season. It remains to be seen how Brad Stevens plans to deal with this situation.

The Celtics are, interestingly, 4-0 when attempting at least 30 shots from deep in games this season.

For more sports coverage, follow Adam Lowenstein on Twitter at @StatsAdam. Statistics used from

No comments :