Bucks Diary

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Have the Zebras hamstrung the Celtic road defense?


During the regular season the Boston Celtics were the best road team in the NBA. So far in the postseason they are one of the worst. Why? What has changed?

To quote Joe Louis (or was it Max Schmeling analyzing Joe Louis?), "I see something."

During the regular season, both at home and on the road, Celtic opponents shot free throws at a rate equal to about 45% of their two point baskets attempted. That's high, but given the Celtics physical style, not out of proportion.

Likewise during the home portion of the Celtics' postseason, Celtic opponents have shot throws at about the same rate, 45% of their 2Pt FGA.

However, since the Celtics lost Game 3 of their Opening Round series to the Hawks in Atlanta, Celtic road opponents have shot free throws at the astounding rate of nearly 70% of their 2 point field goals attempts. No one, not one team in the NBA, gave up free throws at that rate during the regular season... not even the Bucks... and the refs gave the Bucks no quarter on the road. So a leap to 70% by a top-flight defensive unit like the Celtics is an astounding turn of fortune, and it could be the reason the Celtics are suddenly an ineffectual road defensive team. It seems they've been neutered by a band of Zebras.

Now let me caution that this is just a circumstantial hypothesis. Its not based on any objective call-by-call evaluation... its just based upon my analysis of the postseason numerical data. Nevertheless, it makes logical sense.

After all, numerous academic studies have established that basketball referees' decisions are, to some extent, affected by the home crowd's level of enthusiasm. And after the Hawks drew Celtic road blood in Game 3, opposition fans have seen Kelly Green vulnerability and they've clearly amped the anti-Celtic enthusiasm way up.

And perhaps that has made a difference in the referees collective perception of what is and isn't legitimate defense. Perhaps, through their new looking glasses, the refs are seeing illegal handchecks were they used to see only good, physical defense. And if that is the case, one likewise expect to see a chilling effect on the overall aggressiveness of the entire Celtic defensive scheme.

Again, it's all just a theory. But, as I say, it makes sense. If the Celtics can't play their normal defense on the road, they can no longer expect their normal results. And that's been the case since Game 4 of round one (Game 3 was just a lousy effort by the Celtics... one that... if my theory is correct... they may well live to regret). They haven't been the Celtics.

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