NBA.com’s John Schuhmann gets you ready for the 2017-18 season with a key stat for each team in the league and shows you why it matters. Today, we look at the Boston Celtics, who were often down, but rarely out.
The Boston Celtics led the league with 25 wins after trailing in the fourth quarter, four more than any other team.
The 25 wins were also the most after trailing in the fourth quarter in the last nine seasons (since the Cleveland Cavaliers went 28-37 after trailing in the fourth in 2007-08).
The Celtics had the lowest point differential *(plus-2.6 per game) for a No. 1 seed in the last 41 years. Though they were one of the league’s best teams, they had as many losses by 15 or more points (eight) as they did wins by 15 or more (eight).
* Adjusting for pace, the Celtics had the worst point differential for a No. 1 seed (plus-3.1 points per 100 possessions) since the 1978-79 Sonics (plus-2.6).
They were terrific in close games, though. Only the Spurs (29-14) had a better record than the Celtics (32-17) in games that were within five points in the last five minutes.
The Celtics’ offense, which ranked eighth overall, was at its best in the fourth quarter, scoring 114.3 points per 100 possessions.
Isaiah Thomas‘ 9.8 fourth-quarter points per game ranked second in the league. And he scored more efficiently in the fourth (true shooting percentage of 65.0 percent) than he did in any other period.
Thomas shot even better on clutch possessions than he did at other points in the fourth. Among 40 players who took at least 50 shots with the score within five points in the last five minutes, Thomas had the fifth best clutch effective field goal percentage (55.2 percent) and the third best clutch true shooting percentage (65.4 percent).
As a team, the Celtics led the league in clutch offense, scoring 123.2 points per 100 possessions with the game within five points in the last five minutes of the fourth quarter or overtime. No team had a bigger jump in how efficiently it scored on clutch possessions vs. non-clutch possessions (107.8).
That clutch offense was Thomas-heavy, though. He took 91 more clutch shots than any teammate last season and accounted for 265 (53 percent) of the team’s 497 clutch points via his own points (223) and assists. The Celtics’ only regular season win over the Cavs last season was won with an 11-7 run in which Thomas scored or assisted on all 11 points.
Thomas is gone, but has been replaced by Kyrie Irving, who has been one of the league’s most clutch players over the last several years and hit one of the biggest shots in NBA history. In fact, since he came into the league (2011), Irving is the only player with an effective field goal percentage over 50 percent on at least 65 shots with the score within three points in the final minute of the fourth quarter or overtime.
With Irving and Gordon Hayward now running the show, the Celtics will still be dangerous when down. But it would be nice if they did a better job of avoiding the need to come back.
History: Season by season results | Advanced stats | Franchise leaders
2016-17: Team stats | Advanced splits | Player stats | Player shooting | Lineups
Playoffs: Team stats | Advanced splits | Player stats | Player shooting | Lineups
CELTICS NOTES – GENERAL
- One of two teams (Utah is the other) that has seen an increase in wins in each of the last three seasons.
- Including the playoffs, they went 3-10 against the other two East teams – Cleveland (2-7) and Toronto (1-3) – that won more than 50 games.
- One of five teams (and the only playoff team) that ranked in the bottom 10 in both offensive and defensive rebounding percentage.
- Before the All-Star break, they ranked sixth offensively and 18th defensively. After the All-Star break, they ranked 15th offensively and seventh defensively. Only two teams suffered a bigger drop in OffRtg and only four had a bigger improvement in DefRtg.
- Played more playoff games (18) than the Warriors (17).
- Returning just four players from last season’s roster, fewest in the league.
CELTICS NOTES – OFFENSE
- Ranked second in the league with 325.2 passes per game. Ranked second in assist percentage in the regular season, assisting on 65.3 percent of their baskets. Have ranked in the top seven in assist percentage in nine of the last 10 seasons. In the playoffs, they assisted on 70.2 percent of their baskets, the highest postseason rate in the last eight years.
- Took 39.3 percent of their shots, the third highest rate in the league, from 3-point range. Their increase in 3PA/FGA from the season before (29.3 percent) was also the league’s third highest. They had the second highest 3PA/FGA ratio (41.0 percent) in the playoffs.
- According to SportVU, 24 percent of their 3-point attempts were contested. That was the third highest rate in the league.
- Scored 3.3 fewer points per 100 possessions after the All-Star break (106.2) than they did before the break (109.6). Only two teams (San Antonio and Toronto) saw a bigger post-break drop-off in OffRtg.
- Ranked fifth offensively (scoring 107.6 points per 100 possessions in 31 games) against the league’s top-10 defenses.
CELTICS NOTES – DEFENSE
- Have had a better-than-average defense in nine of the last 10 seasons and have ranked in the top five in opponent 3-point percentage in each of the last 10.
- Have ranked in the in the bottom five in defensive rebounding percentage each of the last two seasons. Ranked last in defensive rebounding percentage in the ’17 playoffs, grabbing just 71.5 percent of available defensive boards.
- Allowed 6.1 more points per 100 possessions in the second half of games (108.6 – 23rd in the league) than they did in the first half (102.5 – fifth). That was the league’s second biggest half-to-half DefRtg increase, behind only that of Brooklyn (6.8).
- Allowed 2.2 fewer points per 100 possessions after the All-Star break (104.0) than they did before the break (106.2). Only four teams saw a bigger post-break improvement in DefRtg.
- Their opponents shot just 34.2 percent on corner threes, the second lowest mark in the league. And their opponents took only 21.5 percent of their threes from the corners, the fourth lowest rate in the league.
CELTICS NOTES – LINEUPS
- The Celtics scored 15.7 points per 100 possessions more with Thomas on the floor (113.6) than they did with him off the floor (99.0). That was the second biggest on-off OffRtg differential (behind that of Stephen Curry) among 277 players who played at least 1,000 minutes for a single team. They also allowed 8.9 points per 100 possessions more with Thomas on the floor (108.6) than they did with him off the floor (101.4). That was the second biggest DefRtg differential (behind that of Andre Drummond) among that same group of 277 players.
- Had the two worst rebounding lineups (among those that played at least 50 minutes) in the playoffs. Grabbed just 42.8 percent of available boards in 162 total minutes with Thomas, Avery Bradley, Crowder and Al Horford on the floor with either Gerald Green or Amir Johnson.
- Four returning players – Jaylen Brown, Horford, Terry Rozier and Marcus Smart – played 129 minutes together in the regular season and 14 minutes in the playoffs.
- Were outscored by 5.3 points per 100 possessions with Brown and Rozier both on the floor and 3.9 points per 100 possessions with Brown and Smart both on the floor. Those were two of the three worst NetRtg marks among their 30 combinations that played at least 500 minutes together.
- With Aron Baynes and Marcus Morris on the floor together, the Pistons outscored their opponents by 8.4 points per 100 possessions, the best mark among Detroit’s 29 two-man combinations that played at least 500 minutes.
CELTICS NOTES – INDIVIDUAL
- According to SportVU, Detroit opponents scored only 0.89 points per possession when Aron Baynes was the screener’s defender on a ball screen last season. That was the lowest rate among 99 players who were the screener’s defender on at least 500 ball screens.
- Jaylen Brown led rookies in total minutes (215), total points (85) and total rebounds (36) in the postseason.
- Gordon Hayward recorded career highs in usage rate (using 27.6 percent of the Jazz’s possessions while he was on the floor), effective field goal percentage (53.6 percent) and true shooting percentage (59.5 percent) last season.
- According to SportVU, when Hayward was guarding them, opponents scored 5.4 fewer points per 36 minutes than expected. That was the second lowest point-prevention rate in the league among players who played at least 40 games (higher than only that of Trevor Ariza).
- Over the last five seasons, Al Horford ranks fourth in field goal percentage in the restricted area (minimum 1,000 attempts) at 72.5 percent and 11th in mid-range field goal percentage (minimum 1,000 attempts) at 45.6 percent. Other players in the top 15 in both: Kevin Durant (first and eighth), Serge Ibaka (ninth and seventh) and Kawhi Leonard (13th and 13th).
- Horford was the only player to shoot better than 50 percent on at least 50 3-point attempts in the ’17 playoffs.
- Kyrie Irving shot 40.1 percent from 3-point range last season, up from 32.1 percent the season before. That was the second biggest improvement (behind only that of Goran Dragic) among 96 players who attempted at least 200 threes both seasons. The 40.1 percent was lower than the 41.5 percent he shot from 3-point range in 2014-15, but his effective field goal percentage of 53.5 percent last season was a career high.
- Irving had a usage rate of 26.8 percent with LeBron James on the floor and 41.7 percent (higher than Russell Westbrook’s record-setting 40.8 percent) with James off the floor last season.
- Irving and Isaiah Thomas each scored 1.12 points per possession on isolation possessions, the best marks among 54 players who had at least 100.
- Marcus Morris took only 12.1 percent of his shots from the restricted area, the lowest rate among 38 players who attempted at least 1,000 total shots last season.
- Terry Rozier (46.2 percent) and Marcus Smart (48.1 percent) were two of 13 players who shot less than 50 percent on at least 100 shots in the restricted area.
- Smart’s effective field goal percentage of 42.2 percent was the worst among 174 players who took at least 500 shots. He was the only player who shot less than 30 percent on at least 300 shots from outside the paint.
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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NBA TV’s Celtics preview premieres at 6 p.m. ET on Wednesday, Oct. 4. See the full preview schedule here.