Playoffs 2017: East First Round -- Celtics (1) vs. Bulls (8)

Numbers preview: Celtics (1) vs. Bulls (8)

John Schuhmann

John Schuhmann

The Boston Celtics are the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference, but also a team that hasn’t won a playoff series in five years. They’ve taken clear steps forward in their last three regular seasons under Brad Stevens, but still have a lot to prove in the playoffs.

The Celtics have scored just 93.6 points per 100 possessions in 10 playoff games over the last two years (getting held under a point per possession in eight of the 10), with Isaiah Thomas shooting just 38 percent. The addition of Al Horford has given Thomas more support this year, but the All-Star point guard will still be the focus of opposing defenses in the playoffs, and other guys will have to step up.

Their opponent in the first round is an eight seed, but a weird one. The Chicago Bulls were inconsistent from game to game, capable of beating the best teams in the league one night and losing to the worst teams the next. In fact, the Bulls were 12-9 against the teams with the league’s eight best records, but just 13-12 against the teams with the league’s nine worst records.

You never know what you’re going to get with the Bulls and you haven’t seen these Celtics win a playoff series yet. That makes this 1-8 series different than most others.

Celtics-Bulls series hub | Ian Thomsen’s series preview

Here are some statistical notes to get you ready for the 1-8 series in the East, 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

Boston Celtics (53-29)

Pace: 99.3 (12)

OffRtg: 108.6 (8)

DefRtg: 105.5 (12)

NetRtg: +3.1 (7)

Regular season: Team stats | Advanced splits | Player stats | Player shooting | Lineups

vs. Chicago: Team stats | Advanced splits | Player stats | Player shooting | Lineups

Celtics notes:

Lowest NetRtg (+3.1) for a 1 seed since the 1978-79 Sonics (+2.6).

Ranked second in the league and first among playoff teams with 325.2 passes per game.

One of five teams (and the only playoff team) that ranked in the bottom 10 in both offensive and defensive rebounding percentage.

Took only 16.7 percent of their shots from mid-range. Only Houston (8.1 percent) and Brooklyn (13.1 percent) took a lower percentage of their shots from between the paint and the 3-point line.

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.

Isaiah Thomas led the league with 12.6 drives per game and 9.5 points per game on drives.

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.

The Celtics outscored their opponents by 349 points with Jae Crowder on the floor. That was the third best raw plus-minus (behind those of LeBron James and Kyle Lowry) among Eastern Conference players.

Marcus Smart’s effective field goal percentage of 42.2 percent was the worst among 174 players who took at least 500 shots. He was one of seven players who shot less than 30 percent on at least 200 shots from outside the paint.

Chicago Bulls (41-41)

Pace: 97.7 (20)

OffRtg: 104.6 (21)

DefRtg: 104.5 (6)

NetRtg: +0.1 (14)

Regular season: Team stats | Advanced splits | Player stats | Player shooting | Lineups

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

Bulls notes:

Effective field goal percentage of 48.7 percent ranked last in the league. They were a bottom-10 shooting team in the paint (24th), from mid-range (21st) and from 3-point range (24th). But they did rank sixth in 3-point percentage (38.2 percent) after the All-Star break.

Took 28.1 percent of their shots from mid-range, the third highest rate in the league. Only San Antonio (29.5 percent) and New York (28.6 percent) took a higher percentage of their shots from between the paint and the 3-point line.

Ranked third defensively after the All-Star break, allowing only 102.2 points per 100 possessions, 3.3 fewer than they allowed before the break. Only Brooklyn, Toronto and Portland improved more defensively after the break.

Among 76 players with at least 200 pick-and-roll ball-handler possessions, Butler had the highest free throw rate (21.2 percent).

Butler shot 59-for-62 (95 percent) on clutch free throws, the best mark among players who attempted at least 25.

Among 164 players who took at least 250 shots before the All-Star break and 150 shots after the break, Rajon Rondo (12.8 percent) and Nikola Mirotic (12.1 percent) saw the two biggest increases in effective field goal percentage. Rondo had an effective field goal percentage of 40.7 percent before the break and 53.5 percent after it. Mirotic: 47.1 percent and 59.2 percent.

Robin Lopez contested 1,307 shots this season, most in the league. The three guys who contested the most shots (Lopez, Rudy Gobert, and Lopez’s brother Brook) were the same three guys who blocked eight shots in a game this season.

The matchup

Season series: Tied 2-2 (home team won all 4 games)

Oct. 27 @ CHI – Bulls 105, Celtics 99

Nov. 2 @ BOS – Celtics 107, Bulls 100

Feb. 16 @ CHI – Bulls 104, Celtics 103

Mar. 12 @ BOS – Celtics 100, Bulls 80

Pace: 95.8

BOS OffRtg: 108.3 (11th vs. CHI)

CHI OffRtg: 100.1 (24th vs. BOS)

Matchup notes:

They played twice in the first seven days of the season. Both games in Chicago were the second game of a back-to-back for the Celtics. The Bulls had the previous day off for all four games.

Al Horford missed the second meeting and Avery Bradley missed the third meeting for Boston. For the Bulls, Dwyane Wade missed the third meeting and Mirotic didn’t play in either of the last two meetings.

The 15.0 offensive rebounds the Bulls averaged in the four games were their highest average against any Eastern Conference opponent and no East team had a higher rebounding percentage against the Celtics this season. In Chicago’s two wins, the Bulls outscored the Celtics 40-9 on second chance points. In Boston’s two wins, second chance points were even (25 apiece).

Over the four games, he Bulls outscored the Celtics, 74-47, at the free throw line.

In their two wins, the Bulls committed 21 turnovers, and only eight (38 percent) of them were live balls (Boston steals). In their two losses, the Bulls committed 38 turnovers and 24 of them (63 percent) of them were live balls.

Wade’s minus-37 in the fourth game was the worst plus-minus of his career.

Butler shot 5-for-19 with Jae Crowder defending him over the four games.

Amir Johnson shot 17-for-25 (68 percent), the best mark among players who took at least 25 shots against the Bulls this season. His 23 points in the second meeting were a season high.

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

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting.

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