The Boston Clinic: Free Throw Defense

After Friday's Celtics-Heat thriller, a lot of print was inked about the Celtics' offense. This was reasonable to me. After all, it was the 7th game the Celtics had played against the Heat this season, and the Celtics had done a remarkably good job on offense against the Heat. In seven games, the Celtics posted offensive ratings of 104, 101, 129, 86, 96, 119, and 116. For a team who averages an offensive rating of 100, that's above average for all but the last game of the regular season and the first game of the Eastern Conference Finals. Normally this wouldn't be all that weird -- after all, teams have irrationally good offensive performances against certain opponents all the time, right? True.

Except that the Heat are the 4th best defense in the league, and the Celtics the 27th worst offense. If the Celtics averaged what they average against the Heat -- again, the 4th best defense -- they'd average an offensive rating of 107 over the full season. That would be the 5th best offense in the league. And the sample size is now 8 games -- so small sample size is no longer a reasonable excuse. THAT'S absurd, and I understand why that was the story. However, as an avid reader of NBA Playbook and the like, I'd like to direct your attention to an unheralded factor in the Celtics’ Game 3 win last Friday: the absolute clinic the Celtics put on defending foul shots. Continue reading

On the Demise of "the Streak" and the San Antonio Spurs

Here's the run, in my eyes. On game nights, I felt that I was vicariously solving some great problem through my Spurs. Every night, they solved some advanced geometry problem with methods the world has never seen. In the mornings, I'd get the glorious feeling of stillness and placidity that accompanies triumph. My favorite team has been fun, likable, and virtuous, at least in my view. I've been quite pleased with what this team has offered up in the previous 20 games. I don't know if any fan of the sport wouldn't be pleased with a run like this.

It probably helps that at the same time this was going on I - a mostly sedentary individual that has always seemed just a bit depressed and cynical and vaguely way-too-reserved - lost something like 25 pounds during the winning streak and developed hitherto unexplored levels of maturity and self-confidence, as well as the vague overtones of a workout routine. The Spurs have reinvented basketball less than I've reinvented my life, and that might not be obvious just talking to me. This blog is as successful as it has ever been, which probably has at least something to do with my editorial mind being as sharp and direct as ever. And I know as much as I ever have about basketball, because for me every other night has been a clinic in the sport, not just as it is today but as it shall be 5 years hence in some optimal future. Most of all, I finally have some mental picture of the end, the culmination, of all my recent work and struggles.

The timing is coincidental, of course. But it's also uncanny: I can't deny that the streak probably helped. Continue reading

1 2