Tim Fuller-US PRESSWIRE
The defense is a concern, but don't sleep on the improvements on offense.
In four of the last 5 games the Celtics have given up 100 points or more. They are clearly struggling on the defensive side the ball which is concerning since this team has been defined by their defense for years. There's still time to turn that around, but perhaps in the consternation over the defense we've missed another early season trend. This team is becoming pretty good on offense.
The following stats come from the Celtics website.
Boston currently ranks ninth in the league in offensive efficiency, which defines the amount of points a team scores per 100 possessions, with a rating of 103.9. Every team ahead of the C’s in that category is considered to be a serious title contender this season.
Perhaps the Celtics are simply trying to fight fire with fire. The Heat and Thunder are very good defensive teams, but they also feature elite offenses. Or put another way, you can't really expect to simply shut down a team like the Heat. At some point you are going to have to put up some points to keep pace with them.
That offensive efficiency is also being utilized more often this season than in the past. The Celtics average 94.6 possessions per game this season, which is easily their highest pace since the 2007-08 championship campaign that featured a whopping 108.8 possessions a game. With guys like Chris Wilcox, Jeff Green, Courtney Lee and Leandro Barbosa running alongside Rondo, Boston wants to push the pace as often as possible.
Wait, you mean those proclamations in preseason about wanting to push the ball more were not just training camp wishful thinking? Every year the team says they want to run more and it has never really happened until this year. Pierce and Garnett obviously aren't going to be leading the break too often, but they can pick up some opportunistic buckets off of Rondo's staggered fast breaks. And Pierce and JET are always available for a trailing three pointer.
With Rondo at the helm of a more up-tempo offense, Boston is breaking down defenses with ease. The Celtics rank second in the league with a field goal percentage of 47.8 percent. Eight players are shooting at least 46.3 percent from the field, including perimeter players like Rondo, Terry, Barbosa and Lee.
The fact that this team takes so many mid-range jumpers and is so efficient offensively is pretty impressive. Pierce and Garnett are two other guys that shoot a lot of shots outside the paint but they have made careers out of knocking those down. With Rondo starting to hit that mid-range shot, he's becoming harder and harder to guard.
Now, I would be remiss if I didn't stress that all this data is coming from the Celtics team website (though I'm sure it is simple enough to look up if you are more stat literate than I am). So there may be some spin involved. However, it does appear that the Celtics are scoring points at a higher and more efficient clip.
Does any of this mean that the team will abandon their defensive identity and run and gun from now on? Over Kevin Garnett's barking body. Doc would not allow that either. They will continue to stress defense and hopefully as that comes around the offense won't take too many steps backwards and the wins will start to come more frequently.