THE SCOUTING REPORT
Ladies and gentlemen, heeeeere's HighTops:
If this were a Texas Holdem card game, Boston would be going All In, and I don’t think we could call. Boston entered All-Star Weekend, 1st in the Atlantic Division, and 4th overall in the Eastern Conference with a record of 32-17. Their record is actually better on the road 17-8 than at home 15-9, although since Jan. 1st their record hasn’t been that good, going 9-10 at home and 4-5 on the road. Their road wins have come against such offensive juggernauts, as NJN, WAS, TOR, and MIA, while they lost to ORL, ATL (twice), NOH, and DET.
Injuries had a major impact on Boston’s record in January and February. Marquis Daniels missed 2 months following surgery to repair a thumb injured against Oklahoma City on Dec. 4. Garnett was out with a hyper-extended right knee, injured against the Golden State Warriors Dec. 28, and he didn’t return until Jan. 22nd. The knee wasn’t the same one that kept him out of the Playoffs last season, but his recovery has been slow and his performance hasn’t been anywhere near his career numbers of 20.0/10.9. In the 10 games since his return he’s number are 12.4/6.4 on .500 shooting. Ray Allen missed the NOH loss because of back spasms, but should have plenty of time to recover during the All-Star break. And, Paul Pierce missed 2 games in February with a foot injury, but recovered sufficiently to play in the NOH game and to compete in the All-Star Game and the 3 Point shooting contest.
Offensively, Boston is 13th in scoring at 98.7 PPG. Their FG% is the 4th best with a .474 average on 64% assisted baskets. The Celtics are only an average 3PT shooting team, attempting only 18 per game and hitting only 34.7% or slightly below the Kings 35%. However, when Paul Pierce (winner of this years 3pt shooting contest) and Eddie House (who hit 8 of 9 against us a year ago) shoot 3’s; expect them to hit over 42%. Boston’s one glaring weakness is turnovers. The Celtics have the leagues worst Turnover to Possession ratio of 15.3% or 15.7 TO’s per game. In their last game before the All-Star break, Boston and NOH combined for 45 turnovers, 22 by the Celtics and 23 by the Hornets.
The importance the Celtics place on defense is expressed in this statement by Doc Rivers.
"If we made anything clear today, it was that you can make 10 threes in a row, but if you're not getting stops, you're gonna sit next to me, and that's the way it has to be," Rivers said. "We have to get back to thinking of ourselves as a defensive team."
Defensively, Boston allows the fewest PPG in the league at 93.7 per game. Their tough defense allows the 6th lowest FG% and 4th lowest 3P%, and they’re also 2nd in Steals. Boston allows the 7th fewest Rebounds, which probably has more to due to their slow pace and high shooting efficiency then their own rebounding prowess. Because the Celtics are a below average rebounding team, 18th in DRR and they’re 27th in ORR, while the Kings are the 3rd highest in ORR and 23rd in DRR. (Offensive & Defensive Rebounding Rates).
Boston plays at the 7th slowest pace, 93.6 possessions a game. Their slow pace, their great defense, and their high FG% means that you can’t afford to shoot poorly or fall behind early, because there aren’t as many opportunities to mount a comeback. The Kings have the 6th fastest pace, so getting the Celtics to play at the Kings pace may be an advantage for the Kings.
When the lineup of Kendrick Perkins, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Rajon Rondo starts for the Celtics they have a record of 109-33 (76.8%) going back to the 2007-08 season…The Celtics have posted a record of 57-15 (79.2%) at home and a record of 52-18 (74.3%) on the road during those 142 games. But, Garnett and Pierce saw reduced minutes during the All-Star game, so maybe they’re not completely healthy.
Although beating Boston may seem like a daunting task, GSW, LAC, PHX, NOH, LAL, and DAL, all have beaten them this season. Sacramento is younger, doesn’t know the meaning of the word ‘quit’, and our backcourt is starting to produce. So far, in February we’re averaging over 108 ppg, our FG% and 3P% are some of the highest we’ve had this season, and our RPG are the highest they’ve been all season. If we play under control, limit turnovers, win the battle of the boards, there’s a chance the Kings can extend the winning streak to 3. We just might hand the Celtics a bad beat if we can get lucky on the River.
THE KEY BATTLE
Kevin Martin vs. Ray Allen. You can safely say that Boston is better than Sacramento at each of the frontcourt positions. Rajon Rondo and Tyreke Evans might be even right now. But at shooting guard? Kevin Martin is clearly the advantage. Ray Allen has struggled from deep (by his standard) this season, and Martin's jumper isn't quite wet. But we all felt special things in the depths of our soul in those back-to-back wins last week, and while Boston is a tougher foe, the venue is right and it's time for Martin to go ballistic.
Big Baby Glen Davis will make an assortment of smart and not-smart plays.
"Whoops, I forgot to take off my brass knuckles during warm-ups. HOW YA DOIN' KENDRICK?"
7 PM in Natomas, friends. Two game threads (7 and 8:15) and a post-gamer, to be followed by a recap in the morning.