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The Celtics: A terrible offensive rebounding team by design

RedsArmyAdmin April 28, 2011 Uncategorized 12 Comments

Stat geeks, cover your eyes… you're not going to like what you're about to see.

Actually… scratch that.  Open your eyes.  Focus your attention on this post.  Because it is the proof that the numbers lie… or at least don't tell the whole story.  Sometimes, you need to look beyond the numbers and find out WHY they are what they are. 

This was born from yesterday's Dump… where we quoted the argument that the Celtics "had the Celtics had the lowest offensive rebounding rate in the league this year. Historically, that would mark them as possible playoff underperformers."

Yes.  The Celtics are not a great offensive rebounding team.  But that, dear number-cruncher, is part of the plan.  They don't grab a lot of offensive rebounds because they don't care to.  They only crash in certain situations, and are happy to simply retreat most others.  Here is the proof, courtesy of the Celtics two easiest wins against the Knicks.

Watch the first three shots go up.  Long two's (which the Celtics hit at an unreal rate… another thing that drives the stat-nerds nuts).  And in every situation just watch the rest of the Celtics gaze at the shot and start to run back before it even reaches the rim.  The only player who sniffs around for an offensive board is Rajon Rondo at the :17 mark.  The only player in that entire video (aside from Rondo creeping in to maybe steal a board) to try to get a rebound on a long jumper is Nenad Krstic.  I'll attribute that to old habits.  At 1:55, KG goes to the board, but it's on a short jumper.

Why?

Watch in the instances where we let the play run.  Look specifically at the 2:28 mark when Jeff Green takes the free throw line jumper.  Everyone except for Rondo retreats.  New York grabs the rebound, pushes it out to Bill Walker, and he's met by a wall of defenders by the time he gets to the free throw line.  They run a little pick and pop and Walker tries to drive, but ultimately it's a missed shot.  

The Celtics retreat by design on long jumpers because that's part of their transition defense.  Long jumpers produce longer rebounds.  If everyone's crashing the boards, the run a great risk of those jumpers flying over their heads, and leading to fast break opportunities.  KG crashed on the short jumper because those tend to just fall off the rim… and you can try to tip those in without much risk.  

Let's look at it again in Game 4

The trend continues with the Celtics retreating on long jumpers.  When Rondo attacks at :28, KG sticks around and gets the put-back.  

The few instances where the Celtics hang around on long jumpers is when they're already in position (like Krstic at 2:35).  

What happens when the C's get caught behind the ball?  At 3:23, KG launches a long two.  Stop it at 3:25 and count how many Celtics are behind the play when a Knick touches it.  I'll help you:  it's four. The result of the play?  A Carmelo Anthony breakaway dunk.  At 3:32, Paul Pierce takes a shot and instead of retreating, they get lazy.  Melo peels off and its another breakaway.

The Boston Celtics, by design, sacrifice offensive rebounding so they can just play defense.  They rely on their ability to hit shots (they had a 51.89 eFG%) and were a league best +4;97 in eFG% differential.  They hit their shots, and they force their opponents to miss. They were 5th in the league from 16-23 feet… so they feel good about making the long jumpers more than most teams. 

Meanwhile, on defense, the Celtics gave up the 5th fewest shots at the rim (3rd lowest percentage at 60.8%) and the 3rd fewest shots from 3-9 feet (12th lowest percentage at 38.7%).  By contrast, the Celtics gave up the 3rd MOST 10-15 foot jumpers, but the 2nd lowest field goal percentage from that spot (35.9%).  They were in the middle of the pack (16th) in 16-23 foot shots given up, but allowed the 3rd lowest percentage (37.1%).

That's a lot of low percentages.  That must mean there are a lot of rebounds available on that end.  And that would explain why the Celtics are NINTH in defensive rebounding rate (74.68).  

Yes, the Celtics are a top 10 team on the defensive glass.

Get it? 

The Celtics willingly sacrifice offensive rebounding, get back on defense, and force teams to take lower percentage shots rather than give up easier shots in transition or closer to the rim (except for the occasional crash by Rajon Rondo, who can gamble that way because he's (a) fast enough to get back and (b) not defending the rim anyway).  They clean up a large percentage of those defensive rebounds and get back to work on the offensive end where they shoot a higher percentage than most teams. 

So the next time people throw an offensive rebounding stat in your face to discredit the Celtics, throw all those numbers at them.  Numbers can lie if you don't know why the numbers exist.

Big thanks to Jay, a.k.a. MrTrpleDouble10 for compiling all the video evidence.

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  • http://profile.typepad.com/jacobnoble Jacob Noble

    Has anyone given you a standing oviation before on an article? I am standing and clapping right now. Great Scott! (Office reference)

  • http://profile.typepad.com/campbellpaul Paul Campbell

    Great post. Awesome job on finding the clips.

  • http://profile.typepad.com/alexcosta Alex Costa

    One of the best Red’s Army blog articles this season.

  • http://profile.typepad.com/bradchampagne BradChampagne

    Agreed with everyone above, that was very informative.
    – BRADinLA

  • http://profile.typepad.com/lakaiordie555 Nathan

    possibly the best post ive ever seen here, for real.

  • http://profile.typepad.com/celtsfan33 Celtsfan33

    That post is why this blog is the best Celtics blog around. Straight up killin’ it. Good work boys!

  • http://profile.typepad.com/trsjr91 BleedGreen34

    i mean i get what ur saying but i wouldnt mind the celtics pulling down a few more offensive rebounds per game even if that means hitting the offesensive glass and maybe giving up a transition basket here or there.

  • http://profile.typepad.com/licktheglassitol Classless

    Great post. I just wish the C’s wouldn’t get murdered on the opposing team’s offensive glass

  • http://profile.typepad.com/paulmkane2001 Paulmkane2001

    I think that shooting has improved in the NBA to the point that offensive rebounds are not as important as they used to be. I don’t necessarily mean that percentages are so much higher, because defenses are tougher too, but that players can flat out shoot much better. Rondo is probably a better shooter today than some top shooters were decades ago.
    In the past, part of the reason for shooting a longer shot was to go after the carom. Now, a well run offense need not assume that there WILL be a rebound, or that they need to try to go after it to make the long shot a good option. It makes more sense for a well run good shooting team today to focus on running the play well and then getting back on d.

  • http://profile.typepad.com/rtcoaster Shawncvd

    This article is your best analysis ever. A fine collaboration with Mr 10. I’ve always been impressed with the C’s transition D and it makes perfect sense that some aspect of the game gets sacrificed as a result. Limiting Miami fast breaks and Boston win this easily. Hopefully this time off has allowed Krstic to buy into getting back.

  • http://profile.typepad.com/redsarmy Red’s Army

    Thanks everyone. Glad you liked it.

  • http://profile.typepad.com/iamsaws iamsaws

    I don’t care about our offensive rebounds (they are a bonus) what I do care about is giving up OFFENSIVE rebounds.
    If we rebound the ball we win. I am surprised we are ninth btw.