76ers, Celtics headed in different directions

Kevin C. Cox

Despite the 76ers and Celtics both missing star players, the teams are headed in very different directions. The Celtics are 11-4 since Rajon Rondo went down for the season and in firm grasp of a playoff spot.

After the 76ers beat the Knicks on January 26th, the Sixers were 18-25, a mere 2 games behind the Boston Celtics at 20-23. Rajon Rondo was out for the remainder of the year with a torn acl.

The Sixers, despite going through a rough stretch of basketball, looked like they had a reasonable shot to maintain a playoff spot. The Celtics, hanging on to to a playoff spot by a thread with their floor general out of the year, looked doomed.

Since that time the Celtics have gone 11-4, in stark contrast to the 76ers 5-10 over the same stretch.

With both teams dealing with the loss of injured stars, one team is thriving. The other, not so much.

The Celtics overall are the same Celtcs we've come to know over the years. They're not all that good of an offensive team, ranking 24th in the league in offensive rating. They don't get any offensive rebounds (29th in the league), don't get to the free throw line all that much (19th), and don't attempt much from three (27th in attempts, 26th in three pt %).

Overall, their offensive shot distribution looks eerily similar to the 76ers. Not enough from 3 or at the line, way too many long range two's.

Two things that make the Celtics stand out from the Philadelphia 76ers:

  • The shoot the long two a lot better. The 76ers connect on 33.9% of their shots between 16' and 23', the Celtis 43.8%. 10% difference is substantial. It's not a particularly good shot even at that rate (the Celtics are 2nd best in the league at that shot), but it's slightly more palatable.
  • They defend the heck out of the ball. Even in their advanced age, the Celtics are 6th in the league in defensive rating. The 76ers have actually climbed back up to 12th in the league, a somewhat surprising figure considering how much the team has struggled of late and how low they were earlier on in the season. They're 2nd in the league (in terms of points per possession) defending isolation attempts, 2nd in the league defending pick and rolls, and 5th in the league defending post-ups.
In terms of on-court/off-court splits, Boston hasn't really felt much of an impact from Rondo's departure. Their offensive rating is actually up very considerably, from 100.9 when he is on the court to 104.0 when he is off the court, a very interesting figure considering the minutes he's played (1422) and the minutes he hasn't (1437) are so close.

Not only that, but their defensive rating has dropped, from 103.5 with him on the court to 101.6 with him off the court.

Could all of this be sustained long term? That's an interesting question, but not really one that relates to this blog, at least not tonight. The point is, the Celtics are playing very good basketball right now.

Tale of the Jrue

One of the keys tonight (assuming you want the Sixers to win, of course) will be getting Jrue Holiday quality looks. We already mentioned how good Boston is at defending isolation and the pick and roll, and so far Jrue is shooting only 38.3% in 3 games against Boston on the season. The 76ers don't have the offensive firepower against this defense to win without Jrue playing well.

Game thread coming up later tonight.
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