Team Report: Boston Celtics

Team Report: Boston Celtics
Nov 30, 2006, 11:45 am

5-9, 2nd place Atlantic Division(tied), 8th Seed Eastern Conference

The Celtics struggled early this season, coming out of the gates 1-6 before re-correcting with an impressive three game stretch of play. The team made a commitment in the offseason to stay with its philosophy of youth development and the early results should be no surprise. The play of the young Celtics has been inconsistent as they’ve searched for a hierarchy in the pecking order behind veterans Paul Pierce and Wally Sczcerbiak.

One of the key words in the offseason was “separation” and that has taken effect to some degree as Sebastian Telfair, Ryan Gomes, and Al Jefferson have differentiated themselves from the pack by turning in the most consistently productive performances of any of the youth. Missing in this equation thus far has been Delonte West, whose solid play last season was being counted on to anchor the backcourt production off the bench. His early woes could be attributed to a number of factors, but his production is essential to the projected success this team envisioned when going into this season.

The objective in all of this has been to cultivate the young talent with patience before determining which of them will be part of the team’s foundation and which are acceptable trade commodities to augment the remaining unit. Early season returns on this “investment” have yielded positive results in terms of player value. Telfair, Gomes, and Jefferson have all enhanced their market value, as has Gerald Green and Rajon Rondo. While the progress has been incremental, it bodes well for management’s long-term strategy-despite the superficial reaction from the local fan base and some media outlets.


Starting lineup

Kendrick Perkins
Ryan Gomes
Wally Szczerbiak
Paul Pierce
Sebastian Telfair


Al Jefferson
Delonte West
Gerald Green
Tony Allen

The team has done fairly well offensively overall, but there are some distinct holes in their attack that are helping to contribute to their fluctuating effectiveness. The team’s shot distribution and offensive balance are the two primary culprits in the team’s struggles to date.

Of the top 5 scorers on the team, Pierce and Szczerbiak take 37 shots per game combined out of 78 shots the team takes in total. The next three scorers, Telfair Gomes, and Jefferson, take a total of 24 shots between them. While Pierce and Sczcerbiak are justifiably going to take a larger percentage of the shot opportunities, these numbers don’t change appreciably in Celtics team losses. This means that the three young players aren’t increasing their level of production to compensate for the times when the two veteran leaders aren’t finding success.

In the 9 Celtics losses, Paul Pierce is shooting .410 from the field and averaged 23 points per game, In the 5 Celtics wins, Pierce is shooting .536 from the field and averaging 34 points per game. Wally Szczerbiak shoots .429 in losses and averages 17.6 points, while shooting .500 and scoring 23 points per game in team wins. While it is not uncommon to see such discrepancies for team leaders when split between wins and losses, the troubling element is in the shot volume, both players take relatively the same amount of shots whether they’re struggling or not.

In these same games, Telfair, Gomes, and Jefferson’s shot attempts have been nearly identical regardless of win or loss. This means that none of the support players are attempting to mitigate the off shooting nights that Pierce and Szczerbiak have on occasion. Because of this, the team is entirely reliant on the two veterans to succeed. Without top-level production from the two scoring leaders, the team has not been able to muster up the needed production to win without it.

A perfect example of this occurred during the team’s close loss to New Jersey on Wednesday night. Pierce checks in at the 8:40 mark in the fourth quarter. From that point on, Pierce and Szczerbiak take 10 of the final 12 shots they’re able to generate over that span. The Celtics are outscored 20 to 7 over that time period. The Celtics offense stagnated significantly after the Nets made their run. Up until that point, the team was relying on Sebastian Telfair to distribute and create, allowing the rest of the team to concentrate more on movement. This created a more diverse distribution of shots and was the primary factor in the Celtics being able to build a 15 point lead in the third period of play. While Pierce and Szczerbiak still took 14 out of the 20 shots during their time on the court, there were more shot opportunities created by the movement of the both ball and feet. The result was better shot selection and increased effectiveness.


Despite the poor record and inconsistent play, the team has improved steadily over the course of the season. The individual contributions from the supporting players have increased substantially from the beginning of the season and that should help to alleviate the burden placed on Pierce and Szczerbiak early on. Here is a breakdown of each of the top 5 players by production:

1st4Gms-41 67% 28% 72% 13 4.8 1 27.3
Lst5Gms-39 45% 35% 81% 6.8 4.6 1.8 28.8

Szczerbiak:MPG FG% 3P% FT% REB APG PPG
1st4Gms- 35 60% 47% 88% 4.8 2.0 26.8
Lst5Gms- 32 45% 32% 96% 2.8 1.2 17.8

1st4Gms-28 50% 46% 83% 1.6 2.2 0.2 10.3
Lst5Gms-34 47% 23% 92% 2.4 5.4 0.8 12.2

1st4Gms- 32 41% 67% 6.8 4.0 0.5 7.0
Lst5Gms- 33 55% 76% 8.0 2.2 0.6 12.4

1st4Gms- 27 56% 57% 7.0 0.3 1.33 11.3
Lst5Gms- 18 60% 78% 7.5 0.3 0.75 7.8

The numbers indicate what was stipulated above, more productivity from the younger three supporting players. Pierce and Szczerbiak came out of the gates like gangbusters, but the team was 1-3 during that initial stretch. But, over the past five games, the distribution and production has begun to normalize and the team has gone 3-2 over that period.

The final step for this team offensively is to be able to maintain that balance throughout a full 48 minutes of basketball. The team has had difficulty maintaining continuity down the stretch of single possession games, often over-relying on their two veteran leaders to carry them home to victory. As the season progresses, look for an increase in responsibility from these key young supporting players, especially in the fourth quarter of highly contested games.

Next Month: Analysis of fourth quarter production…

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