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Inside The Numbers: First Edition

Mickael Pietrus is doing his part.
Mickael Pietrus is doing his part.

During the course of the season I will be taking a look at some of the vital statistics surrounding the Celtics. Here is the first post in a series that (hopefully) won't be as depressing as the season continues. In this post I will regurgitate some statistics and give some of my own interpretations of them.

We're thirteen games into the 2011-2012 season, and the Boston Celtics are, well, struggling. They aren't the only team around the NBA that is having a hard time adjusting to the rigors of a 66-game season that was quickly thrust upon players, coaches, and other team personnel when the lockout came to a screeching end on November 26th, 2011. However, they're still playing pretty badly. The C's haven't beaten a team with a record above .500 yet, and they probably won't get a chance to put that notch on their belt until later this month.These problems are uncharacteristic of Boston's teams of the past few years, but then again, everyone and their mother saw this one coming. The Big 3 are aging, and other than the usual "these guys are just out of shape right now" excuse, the age factor is the only viable explanation. Still, it's worth it to take a look at the Celtics statistics in many areas so that we can asses the C's struggles as fairly as possible.

First things first. Here's a look at some team statistics for the Celtics through the first 13 games of the season. The following statistics are considered "the four factors" for success according to The Celtics are the 16th in the NBA in offensive efficiency (points scored per 100 possessions) with 99.1 compared to the NBA average of 99.9. The Celtics are 17th in the NBA in defensive efficiency (points allowed per 100 possessions) with 100.6 compared the league average of 100.0. The Celtics are ninth in the NBA in effective field goal percentage (eFG%, weighted efficiency that is adjusted for three-pointers) shooting 49.05% compared to the league average of 48.1%. The Celtics are 11th in the NBA in opponent's eFG% holding opposing squads to 47.05% compared to the league average of 48.1%. The Celtics are 15th in the NBA in free-throw rate (FTR) at 29.4 compared to the league average of 28.8. Their opponent's (FTR) is 28.6 while the NBA average is 28.8 (17th best in the NBA).

This next statistic is a huge part of the C's problem so far this season. The Celtics are 28th in the NBA in turnover rate (TOR). Turnover rate is the percentage of a team's possessions that end in a turnover. Boston's TOR? 15.74. The league-average TOR? 14.30. That's not good. The only teams in the NBA with a worse TOR are the T'Wolves and the Pistons. The Celtics opponent's TOR is currently at 13.87 while the NBA average is 14.32 (19th best in the NBA). The last of the four factors is offensive rebounding rate (ORR). ORR is the percentage of offensive rebounds grabbed by a team. Boston has not done this well (to my knowledge) for a good while. They are 25th in the NBA in ORR with a number of 24.15. The league average is 26.28. The Celtics opponent's ORR is 28.19 while the league average is 26.40 -- good for 24th best (worst?) in the NBA. Phew. Those are a lot of numbers.

The Celtics have really gotten a lot better from the floor in terms of shooting, but that hasn't reflected with W's for a bevy of reasons. The C's true shooting percentage (TS%, weighted like eFG% but also accounts for free throws) is seventh best in the NBA at 53.2% compared to the league average of 52.2%. The Celtics are also tops in the NBA in three-point field goal percentage (3P%) shooting 43.4% from beyond the arc. The league average? 33.9%. Yea, let's hope that stays consistent throughout the season. Boston also leads the NBA in percentage of baskets assisted (%Ast) at 64.48% compared to the league average of 57.17%. The Celtics are tops in the league in percentage of opponent's shots taken from 10-15 feet out. Opponents are taking 15% of their shots from mid-range compared to the NBA average of 9.8%. The Celtics are also the very last in the league in pace as of 1/18/2012 -- 90.6 -- and the league average is 94.2. The Celtics are 24th in the league in defensive rebound rate (DRR) at 71.81 compared to the league average of 73.6.

These numbers are just meant to give you a wide variety of understanding as to where the Celtics stand in various categories. Now, let's take a look at a few players that I haven't discussed so far this season. First things first -- let's look at how Jermaine O'Neal is playing.

Jermaine is, well, not the best offensive player in the world. He's been in the league for quite a while and we all know how his body has fared over time. He's a ghost of his former self. But he's still the most valuable center (at this time) on the roster, and he is playing decently well. He isn't adding near as much offense as Doc probably would like, but it's hard to get him involved nowadays. On offense he is scoring .87 points per play, and has shot 29-67 from the field (43.3%). Remember when O'Neal was a decent post player? He's 3-11 (27.3%) this season in post-up opportunities. His most productive play offensively has come when he cuts to the basket. He is scoring 1 point per play during these plays, and is shooting 12-27 (44.4%) from these plays. Defensively speaking Jermaine has been a bit better. We saw during the playoffs last season that he still had a little bit left in his defensive tank, and that he could still alter a team's efforts inside the paint. So far he is holding his match-ups to .72 points per play and 20-61 (32.8%) shooting. O'Neal has also been pretty decent in the post, and is the sixth best post-up defender in the league according to Synergy. He is holding his match-ups to .53 points per play and 7-29 (24.1%) shooting.

Another player I want to take a look at is Mickael Pietrus. I realize his numbers are a coming from a very small sample-size. That doesn't detract from the fact that he has had a decent impact on the C's second unit. He is currently scoring 1.17 points per play, and shooting 14-32 (43.8%) from the field, and 11-27 (40.7%) from three-point range. His effects on the C's second unit would be more noticeable if Boston were, yanno, winning consistently. However, he is doing what Danny signed him for, so far. He is making big baskets and trying his hardest to help Boston get back into games. Aside from his offense, though, he was also acquired for his defense. Mickael has been the primary defender for his match-up 28 times. He is holding those match-ups to 5-22 (22.7%) shooting. Small sample, sure, but that's some fantastic defense. If he continues to play this well for the C's -- whether he's replacing Pierce with the first unit from time to time, or playing on the second unit -- he will be a vital component to Boston's attempts to get back into contention in the Eastern Conference.

Take a deep breath. You just digested a lot of numbers that don't mean a ton right now. There isn't a statistic for "terribly slow starts" and "ineptitude on the bench at times", sadly. The Celtics are 5-8. We've seen 13 games from this team, and they have still yet to defeat a team over .500. But if any team can rebound and improve it's Boston. Sure, Rondo is shaken up. Yes, there are more problems than these numbers could possible reveal. The truth remains, though, that Doc Rivers and this squad of veterans and youngsters alike have not thrown in the towel. They believe they will get better. They believe they will play their way back into contention in the Atlantic Division. Danny Ainge does, too. So, for now, all we can do is trust them, support them, and continue to enjoy the bright side of things -- hey, at least we aren't still in a lockout.

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