2020 NBA Playoffs
2020 NBA Playoffs

Numbers preview: Eastern Conference finals -- Boston Celtics (3) vs. Miami Heat (5)

It's strength vs. strength as Boston and Miami battle for an NBA Finals berth

John Schuhmann

John Schuhmann NBA.com

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Sep 14, 2020 2:21 PM ET

The Celtics ranked in the top 5 in both offensive and defensive efficiency during the 2019-20 regular season.

It's been 51 years since we didn't have the 1 or 2 seed in the Eastern Conference finals (and it was known as the "Eastern Division" back then), but this has been a unique postseason in more ways than one. And even before the season took a 20-week break, the Boston Celtics and Miami Heat were certainly capable of getting here.

The Celtics were the only East team that ranked in the top five in both offensive and defensive efficiency in the regular season. The Heat, meanwhile, had the best record (11-6) in regular season games played between the top six teams in the East.

>> Game 1: Tuesday, 6:30 ET on ESPN

Miami had a easier route to the conference finals, sweeping the Indiana Pacers and dispatching the top-seeded Milwaukee Bucks in five games. They scored 10.5 more points per 100 possessions in the conference semis than the Bucks allowed in the regular season. The Celtics are more battle-tested, having survived a seven-game series with the defending champion Toronto Raptors. They allowed 10.5 fewer points per 100 possessions in that series than the Raptors scored in the regular season.

It's strength vs. strength, with a trip to The Finals on the line.

Here are some statistical notes to get you ready for the Eastern Conference finals, with links to let you dive in and explore more.

Pace = Possessions per 48 minutes
OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions
NetRtg = Point differential per 100 possessions

All stats through Sep. 13.

Boston Celtics (48-24, 8-3)

First round: Beat Philadelphia in four games.
Conf. semis: Beat Toronto in seven games.
Pace: 96.0 (13)
OffRtg: 110.2 (7)
DefRtg: 101.9 (1)
NetRtg: +8.3 (2)

Regular season: Team stats | Advanced splits | Player stats | Player shooting | Lineups
vs. Miami: Team stats | Advanced splits | Player stats | Player shooting | Lineups
Playoffs: Team stats | Advanced splits | Player stats | Player shooting | Lineups

Celtics efficiency by round
RoundOpp.OffRtgRankAdjODefRtgRankAdjD
First roundPHI117.24+8.8105.06-5.7
Conf. semisTOR106.47+1.7100.31-10.5
AdjO = OffRtg - opponent's regular-season DefRtg
AdjD = DefRtg - opponent's regular-season OffRtg

Celtics postseason notes -- General:

  1. Have combined with their opponents to score just 106.1 points per 100 possessions, the second lowest combined mark in the playoffs.
  2. Eight of their 11 games, most in the playoffs, have been within five points in the last five minutes.
  3. 6-2 after leading by double-digits. 2-1 after trailing by double-digits.
  4. Have been the best second-quarter team (+20.0 points per 100 possessions) in the postseason.

 

Celtics postseason shot profile
AreaFGMFGAFG%Rank%FGARank
Restricted area16624966.7%427%10
Other paint5714439.6%916%7
Mid-range5713342.9%714%9
Corner 33810336.9%1111%7
Above-break 39829533.2%1232%9
%FGA = Percentage of total shots

Celtics postseason notes -- Offense:

  1. Rank 10th in the playoffs in player movement (10.7 miles traveled per 24 minutes of possession) and 15th in ball movement (291 passes per 24 minutes of possession), according to Second Spectrum tracking. That latter number jumped from 270 passes per 24 minutes in the first round to 303 per 24 in the conference semis.
  2. Saw big jumps in both assist percentage (the percentage of their field goals that were assisted) and turnover percentage (turnovers per 100 possessions) from the first round to the conference semis.
  3. Have the third biggest difference between their field goal percentage in the paint (56.7%, fifth) and their effective field goal percentage on shots from outside the paint (49.1%, 13th).
  4. Have scored 1.06 points per possession, the second best rate in the playoffs, on pick-and-roll ball-handler possessions, but just 0.63 points per possession, the worst rate, on isolations.
  5. Have seen the third biggest drop in their effective field goal percentage from the first six seconds of the shot clock (61.8%, fourth) to the last 18 seconds (50.4%, 11th), according to Second Spectrum tracking.
Celtics offensive four factors
Season typeeFG%RankOREB%RankTO%RankFTA RateRank
Reg. season53.1%1728.3%513.7%80.25918
Playoffs52.3%1124.3%1014.2%100.2925
eFG% = (FGM + (0.5 * 3PM)) / FGA
OREB% = Percentage of available offensive rebounds obtained.
TO% = Turnovers per 100 possessions.
FTA Rate = FTA/FGA

Celtics postseason notes -- Defense:

  1. Most improved defensive team in the playoffs, having allowed 4.6 fewer points per 100 possessions than they did in the regular season (106.5, fourth). Held Toronto to 22.6 fewer points per 100 possessions than they scored in the first round (122.9).
  2. Have allowed less than a point per possession four times, most in the playoffs.
  3. Rank second in opponent field goal percentage in the restricted area (55.9%).
  4. Lead the postseason in opponent 3-point percentage (30.5%).
  5. Have allowed just 0.86 points per possession in transition, the second best mark in the playoffs.
  6. Have allowed just 0.69 points per possession on pick-and-roll ball-handler possessions, the second best mark in the playoffs.
Celtics defensive four factors
Season typeeFG%RankOREB%RankTO%RankFTA RateRank
Reg. season50.9%426.9%1615.1%80.28124
Playoffs47.0%125.5%1013.3%100.2847

Celtics postseason notes -- Lineups:

  1. Starting lineup -- Walker, Smart, Brown, Tatum and Theis -- has played 170 total minutes, second most in the playoffs. It's outscored its opponents by 4.2 points per 100 possessions, the fifth best mark among nine lineups that have played at least 75 minutes together.
  2. Marcus Smart (plus-88) and Jayson Tatum (plus-83) rank first and second in cumulative plus-minus in the Eastern Conference playoffs.
  3. The Celtics have allowed just 98.3 points per 100 possessions with Jayson Tatum on the floor. That's the lowest on-court DefRtg mark among players who advanced out of the first round and have averaged at least 15 minutes per game in the playoffs. Brad Wanamaker has the fourth lowest mark (99.0), while Tatum and Smart have the best mark (97.2) among 69 two-man combinations that have played at least 200 minutes together.
  4. Only 26% of their minutes and 17% of their points, both the lowest rates in the playoffs, have come from reserves.

Celtics postseason notes -- Individuals:

  1. Jaylen Brown ranks third in the playoffs with 6.1 points per game in transition, according to Synergy play-type tracking.
  2. Brown has had the ball for just 2.1 minutes per game, the second fewest among 24 players who've averaged at least 20 points per game in the playoffs.
  3. Brown has shot 70% (38-for-54) in the restricted area and 50% (12-for-24) from mid-range, but just 24% (6-for-25) on non-restricted-area shots in the paint, the worst mark among 26 players who've attempted at least 20.
  4. Enes Kanter has grabbed 17.4% of available offensive rebounds while he's been the floor, the highest rate among 142 players who've averaged at least 10 minutes per game in the playoffs. Robert Williams III has the fifth highest rate (13.6%).
  5. Marcus Smart has shot 12-for-24 (50%) on corner 3s, the second best mark among 15 players who've attempted at least 20.
  6. Jayson Tatum ranks third in minutes per game (39.8) in the playoffs.
  7. Tatum (25.3 and 10.1) is one of six players who have averaged at least 25 points and 10 rebounds per game in the playoffs.
  8. Tatum has scored just 0.72 points per possession on isolations, the worst mark among 16 players who have averaged at least four isolation possessions per game, according to Synergy play-type tracking. The 1.04 points per possession he's scored as pick-and-roll ball-handler rank eighth among 23 players who've averaged at least five ball-handler possessions per game.
  9. Daniel Theis has accounted for 50% of the Celtics' blocks while he's been on the floor. That's the second highest rate among 66 players who've played at least 200 postseason minutes. Opponents have shot 52.7% at the rim when Theis has been there to protect it. That's the best rim protection mark among players who advanced out of the first round and have defended at least five shots at the rim per game.
  10. Theis has shot 5-for-31 (16%) from outside the paint, the worst mark among 89 players with at least 30 postseason field goal attempts from the outside.
  11. Kemba Walker ranks sixth in the playoffs with 9.8 pick-and-roll ball-handler possessions per game. The 1.08 points per possession he's scored as pick-and-roll ball-handler rank seventh among 23 players who've averaged at least five ball-handler possessions per game.
  12. Walker has shot 23-for-41 (56%) from mid-range, the second best mark among 25 players with at least 20 mid-range attempts.
  13. Walker has averaged 5.82 seconds and 5.59 dribbles per touch. Those marks both rank fourth among players with at least 300 touches in the postseason.
  14. Smart (8-for-30, 27%), Walker (14-for-54, 26%) and Brown (5-for-24, 21%) rank 21st, 22nd, and 24th in pull-up 3-point percentage among 25 players who've attempted at least 20 pull-up 3s in the playoffs.
  15. Grant Williams has committed 6.9 fouls per 36 minutes, fourth most among 117 players who've played at least 100 minutes in the playoffs.
The Heat had the best record in the East during the regular season against the six top-ranked teams.

Miami Heat (44-29, 8-1)

First round: Beat Indiana in four games.
Conf. semis: Beat Milwaukee in five games.
Pace: 97.7 (12)
OffRtg: 112.9 (4)
DefRtg: 105.4 (4)
NetRtg: +7.4 (3)

Regular season: Team stats | Advanced splits | Player stats | Player shooting | Lineups
vs. Boston: Team stats | Advanced splits | Player stats | Player shooting | Lineups
Playoffs: Team stats | Advanced splits | Player stats | Player shooting | Lineups

Heat efficiency by round
RoundOpp.OffRtgRankAdjODefRtgRankAdjD
First roundIND112.77+5.1103.94-5.6
Conf. semisMIL113.02+10.5106.63-5.3
AdjO = OffRtg - opponent's regular-season DefRtg
AdjD = DefRtg - opponent's regular-season OffRtg

Heat postseason notes -- General:

  1. Have seen the biggest jump in point differential per 100 possessions from the regular season (plus-2.7, eighth) to the playoffs (plus-7.4, third).
  2. Postseason-best 5-1 in games that were within five points in the last five minutes.
  3. 8-1 after leading by double-digits. 3-0 after trailing by double-digits.
  4. Have outscored the their opponents by 5.4 points per game on free throws, the biggest differential in the playoffs.
  5. Have outscored their opponents by 8.3 points per game from 3-point range, the second biggest differential.
  6. Have been the best fourth-quarter team (+20.8 points per 100 possessions) in the postseason. Were the third worst fourth-quarter team (-5.8 per 100) in the regular season.
Heat postseason shot profile
AreaFGMFGAFG%Rank%FGARank
Restricted area11518362.8%825%12
Other paint5311844.9%316%6
Mid-range419443.6%513%13
Corner 3227330.1%1510%9
Above-break 310525840.7%235%4

Heat postseason notes -- Offense:

  1. Rank sixth in the playoffs in player movement (10.9 miles traveled per 24 minutes of possession) and third in ball movement (320 passes per 24 minutes of possession), according to Second Spectrum tracking.
  2. Have recorded assists on 65.5% of their field goals, the second highest rate in the playoffs. They've recorded assists on 89.8% of their 3-pointers, the highest rate.
  3. Lead the playoffs in time of possession at 22.1 minutes per game, according to Second Spectrum tracking.
  4. Have an effective field goal percentage of 64.4% in the first six seconds of the shot clock. That's the second best mark in the playoffs, but only 10% of their shots, the third lowest rate, have come in the first six seconds, according to Second Spectrum tracking.
  5. Rank second with 14.1 elbow touches per game and lead the playoffs with 9.9 hand-off possessions per game.
  6. Have seen the second biggest jump in free throw rate from the regular season (29.9 attempts per 100 shots from the field, first) to the playoffs (35.1, second). The only team with a bigger jump was the Celtics' first-round opponent (Philadelphia).
Heat offensive four factors
Season typeeFG%RankOREB%RankTO%RankFTA RateRank
Reg. season54.7%325.7%2314.9%220.2991
Playoffs54.8%526.8%414.9%120.3512

Heat postseason notes -- Defense:

  1. Second most improved defensive team in the playoffs, having allowed 3.9 fewer points per 100 possessions than they did in the regular season (109.3, 12th).
  2. Only 11.0% of opponent possessions, the postseason's third lowest rate, have been pick-and-roll ball-handler possessions. The 0.66 points per possession they've allowed on ball-handler possessions in the lowest mark in the postseason.
  3. Rank second with 14.0 deflections per game.
  4. Opponents have taken just 39.0% of their shots, the postseason's second lowest opponent rate, from 3-point range. Only team with a lower opponent rate than it had in the regular season (43.5%, second highest).
Heat defensive four factors
Season typeeFG%RankOREB%RankTO%RankFTA RateRank
Reg. season52.3%1124.7%314.0%190.27219
Playoffs51.3%421.7%314.4%80.28610

Heat postseason notes -- Lineups:

  1. Starting lineup -- Dragic, Robinson, Butler, Crowder and Adebayo -- has played 119 total minutes, third most in the playoffs. It's recorded assists on 73.1% of its field goals, the highest rate among 17 lineups that have played at least 50 minutes together.
  2. The Heat have allowed just 98.5 points per 100 possessions with Andre Iguodala on the floor. That's the second lowest on-court DefRtg mark among players who advanced out of the first round and have averaged at least 15 minutes per game in the playoffs.
  3. The Heat have been 18.3 points per 100 possessions better with Duncan Robinson off the floor (plus-17.6) than they've been with him on the floor (minus-0.7). That's the third worst on-off NetRtg differential among players who've played at least 100 minutes in the playoffs for a team that's still alive. In the regular season, Robinson had the third best on-off differential among all players who played at least 1,000 minutes.
  4. 17% of their minutes, the second highest rate in the playoffs (lower than only that of Oklahoma City), have come from rookies.

Heat postseason notes -- Individuals:

  1. Bam Adebayo has grabbed 17.0% of available rebounds while he's been on the floor, the fourth highest rate among players who've averaged at least 15 minutes (highest among those still playing) in the playoffs.
  2. Adebayo has shot 10-for-19 (53%) from mid-range, up from 22.3% in the regular season.
  3. Adebayo has taken 81% of his shots, the fifth highest rate among 86 players with at least 50 postseason field goal attempts, in the paint. Jimmy Butler has the eighth highest rate (68%).
  4. Butler has a free throw rate of 86 attempts per 100 shots from the field, the highest rate among 86 players with at least 50 field goal attempts in the playoffs. He has two of the three instances of a player attempting at least 19 free throws in a game.
  5. Butler ranks second in the postseason with 3.7 deflections per game. He's the only player who's played at least 100 postseason minutes with more steals (19) than personal fouls (15) and he's accounted for 36.5% of the Heat's steals while he's been on the floor. That's the second highest rate among 66 players who've played at least 200 postseason minutes.
  6. Jae Crowder has accounted for 38.0% of the Heat's 3-pointers while he's been on the floor. That's the highest rate among 66 players who've played at least 200 postseason minutes. He's taken 90.4% of his shots from 3-point range, the highest rate among 86 players with at least 50 field goal attempts in the postseason and up from 70.0% in the regular season. Duncan Robinson has the second highest rate (88%).
  7. Goran Dragic ranks fourth in the playoffs with 10.1 pick-and-roll ball-handler possessions per game. The 0.84 points per possession he's scored as pick-and-roll ball-handler rank 21st among 23 players who've averaged at least five ball-handler possessions per game. Butler's 0.89 points per possession rank 20th.
  8. Dragic is one of six players who've averaged at least five catch-and-shoot points (6.4) and at least five pull-up points (5.6) per game.
  9. Dragic's free throw rate of 20.6 attempts per 100 shots from the field is down from 34.0 in the regular season. That's the third biggest drop among 82 players with at least 200 field goal attempts in the regular season and at least 50 in the playoffs.
  10. Tyler Herro has traveled 4.56 miles per hour in the playoffs, the fastest among players who've averaged at least 15 minutes per game.
  11. Herro (2.8) and Robinson (2.8) rank second and third in hand-off points per game, according to Synergy play-type tracking. Robinson's points per possession on hand-offs has dropped from 1.38 in the regular season to 0.89 in the playoffs.
  12. Andre Iguodala's usage rate of 8.0% is the second lowest among 122 players who have averaged at least 15 minutes per game in the playoffs.
  13. Iguodala has averaged 3.26 steals + blocks per 36 minutes, fourth most among 117 players who've played at least 100 minutes in the postseason.
  14. Kelly Olynyk has grabbed 19.6% of available rebounds while he's been the floor, the fourth highest rate among 142 players who've averaged at least 10 minutes per game in the playoffs.

Regular season matchup

Boston won, 2-1
Dec. 4 @ Boston - Celtics 112, Heat 93
Jan. 28 @ Miami - Celtics 109, Heat 101
Aug. 4 - Restart - Heat 112, Celtics 106

Pace: 96.0 possessions (per team) per 48 minutes
Boston OffRtg: 113.5 (7th vs. Miami)
Miami OffRtg: 106.3 (18th vs. Boston)

Total points scored, season series
AreaBOSMIADiff.
Restricted area967224
Other paint2628-2
Total in paint12210022
Mid-range2226-4
3-point range1171143
Total outside paint139140-1
Free throws66660
Fast break points34286
2nd chance points55505

Matchup notes:

  1. Gordon Hayward and Marcus Smart both missed the December meeting, while Jayson Tatum missed the January meeting. The starting lineup that the Celtics used in the conference semifinals -- Walker, Smart, Brown, Tatum and Theis -- did not play at all against Miami this season.
  2. No Heat five-man lineup played in more than one game against Boston. The Heat had Jae Crowder and Andre Iguodala for the August meeting only, but were without Jimmy Butler for that one. Goran Dragic missed the December meeting, while Kendrick Nunn missed the January game.
  3. Boston ranked second defensively (106.3 points allowed per 100 possessions) among Eastern Conference teams against Miami in the regular season, and the Celtics' December win was one of only seven times this season that the Heat were held under a point per possession. The Heat's effective field goal percentage of 49.4% was their lowest mark against any Eastern Conference opponent.
  4. The December meeting and the August meeting were two of the three times the Heat were held under 30 points in the paint. Their 33.3 points in the paint per game were tied for their lowest average against any opponent.
  5. The Celtics' free throw rate of 33.6 attempts per 100 shots from the field was their second highest mark against any opponent.
  6. The January meeting and the August meeting were two of the six times in the regular season in which the Heat registered at least 20 second chance points.
  7. Daniel Theis (+33 in 83 minutes) and Jayson Tatum (+32 in 67 minutes) had the third and fourth best plus-minus marks against the Heat this season.
  8. Jimmy Butler's 37 points in the Heat's December loss was his second highest scoring total of the regular season. His six 3-pointers tied a career high and were four more than he's made in any game this season (regular season or playoffs). He was 0-for-6 from outside the paint in the other game he played vs. Boston.
  9. The three meetings with the Celtics were three of the 20 games in which Bam Adebayo recorded three or fewer assists.
  10. The Heat were a plus-13 in Duncan Robinson's 97 minutes, but were outscored by 34 points in 47 minutes with him off the floor.
  11. In the one game in which they both played (Dec. 4), Butler was the primary defender on Tatum, who shot just 1-for-4 with that matchup. Tatum and Jaylen Brown split the Butler assignment pretty evenly.

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John Schuhmann is a staff writer for NBA.com. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter.

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