Five Years of Division Domination

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Five Years of Division Domination

"I'm not about to go pop some champagne bottles or anything like that, like I know they do in baseball. It's a good accomplishment, I guess. But all we care about around here is a championship banner."

That was Paul Pierce after last night's Atlantic Division-clinching victory, and you understand where he's coming from.

Can you imagine how awkward it would have been if the Celtics really celebrated last night's win? If the final buzzer sounded, and everyone stormed the court. If Pierce hopped up on the scorer's table, five fingers in the air. If KG ran out, kissed the floor, and then broke down in tears during his post game interview: "This one's for you, Ray! This one's for Jermaine, and Jeff and Chris. This one's for everyone, man! Now go to sleep, Boo Boo!"

No, you can't imagine it. Because it would never happen.

It doesn't matter that this was far and away the most difficult division title of the Big 3 era. It doesn't matter that it was more than likely the last (with everyone still intact). It doesn't matter how many times they were counted out along the way. These Celtics don't celebrate division titles. At least not in public. Pierce saying, "it's a good accomplishment, I guess" is about as celebratory as we're going to get.

BUT because winning even one division title, never mind five straight, is still a more than impressive feat. And since, like I said, this is more than likely the final time the Big 3 will win one together, I spent some time putting together this list:

Fun Facts About the Atlantic Division Five-Peat.

Enjoy.

Their first division game together was November 4, 2007, with the Celtics beating the Raptors, 98-95 in OT. Ray Allen had 33 point in 49 minutes. KG had 23 and 13. TJ Ford scored 32 points for Toronto, followed by Rajon Rondo spending the night tied to a pipe in Tom Thibodeau's basement. (Note: I'll always remember this game because it was on at the same time as the PatriotsColts. I have nothing more to add on that)

The most points they've scored in a division game is 124, in a win against the Knicks on December 21, 2008. Rondo led the way with 26, Ray Allen had 18 and Brian Scalabrine fouled out in 14 minutes. The win was Boston's 18th in a row, and improved them to 26-2, which tied the best start in NBA history for a team with two losses.

The fewest points they've scored: 71. That happened all the way back on March 7, 2012, in a 32 point loss to Philadelphia. Remember that? OK, good. No need for details.

Since the Atlantic Division was created in 1970, no team has ever won more than five titles in a row. But this is the third time the Celtics have won exactly five (72-76 and 84-88). Also, the Celtics have now won a total of 21 Atlantic Division titles. The next closest team is Philadelphia, with 5.

If this is the end for the Big Three, they'll finish their five year run with a combined 63-15 record in the Atlantic. Over that time, they lost only four division home games Toronto, New Jersey and Philly x2.

Not that this is remotely important, but how about the fact that the Celtics lost consecutive division games only twice in five years? The most recent stretch came last month with two losses to Sixers (with no division games in between). Before that, the only other time was last March, when the C's followed up a loss to the Sixers with a disgusting loss in New Jersey. Judging by the box score, this was right in the middle of the "Rondo misses Perk and got burned by Obama" era. Good times.

The list is now over.

So, congrats to the Celtics on a fifth straight Atlantic Division title. It's been an unbelievable run, and regardless of what happens next, it's one that we'll always remember and respect, and at some point maybe even celebrate.

But for now there are more important things on everyone's mind.

Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrich_levine

Fast-break points aren't necessarily a good thing for Celtics

Fast-break points aren't necessarily a good thing for Celtics

BOSTON – Conventional NBA wisdom tells you that getting out to score in transition is a good thing, usually serving as easy points scored, which is what every team wants, right?
 
But bundles of transition points have been nothing but trouble for the Celtics this season.
 
They are coming off a game against the New York Knicks in which they scored 22 fast-break points, which was their second-best showing this season. But the final score, a 117-106 loss, wasn’t all that unusual from what has happened this season when their transition game has generated a decent amount of scoring.
 
Boston has a 2-6 record this season when they score 16 or more fast-break points. On the nights when Boston’s fast-break offense generates 10 or fewer points?
 
They’re 11-5.
 
While there are several possible reasons why this is, here’s what you have to remember.
 
The Celtics are a ball-movement, 3-point shooting team.
 
Often that means they’ll pass up potential shots in transition, to instead work the ball around from one side of the floor to the other, until they get what they deem is the best shot to take (usually it’s a lightly contested to wide open 3-pointer).
 
The Celtics average 329.6 passes per game, which ranks second in the NBA (Philadelphia, 354.8). Not surprisingly, that has led to them ranking among the league’s leaders in assists (24.9, third in the NBA).
 
And that has led to Boston being ranked among the top-3 in several other key passing statistics, such as secondary assists (7.1, 2nd in the NBA); potential assists (49.5, 2nd); and assists points created (60.8, 3rd);
 
Here are a few more stats to crunch on, courtesy of CSN Associate Producer Andy Levine.
 
PAINT BY NUMBERS: When the Celtics score 40 percent or less of their points in the paint, they are 19-5 this season. When Boston gets 40 percent or more of its points in the paint, they are just 7-11.
 
BROWN IN THE FOURTH: Jaylen Brown has been among the better rookies this season, especially in the fourth quarter. Among rookies who played in at least 20 games in the fourth quarter, Brown is second in fourth quarter shooting at 54.9 percent. With those same standards, he’s sixth in shooting 3’s in the fourth at 38.5 percent.
 
CROWDER BOUNCES BACK: The past four games has seemingly brought out the best in Crowder. In that span, he has averaged 18.5 points and 6.8 rebounds while shooting 57 percent from the field and 48 percent from 3-point range. Crowder’s 3-point shooting of late has elevated him to seventh in the league while connecting on 42.5 percent of his 3-point attempts (minimum 150 attempts).

OUCH! It has not been a smooth start for Evan Turner with his new team, the Portland Trail Blazers. This season, Turner’s plus/minus is -234, which is the fourth-worst plus/minus in the NBA.
 
 

Stevens: Bradley, Zeller, Jerebko out vs. Trail Blazers

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Stevens: Bradley, Zeller, Jerebko out vs. Trail Blazers

BOSTON – Before Brad Stevens addressed the media before the Celtics faced the Portland Trail Blazers on Saturday afternoon, he had to take a moment to make sure he wouldn’t forget anyone who wasn’t able to play.
 
Yeah, the list was a pretty long one.
 
Tyler Zeller, Demetrius Jackson and Jonas Jerebko will not play tonight due to sickness. And Avery Bradley (right Achilles strain) will also be out with a timetable that’s starting to feel like it’ll be longer than anyone would want.
 
“I don’t anticipate Avery this week at all,” Stevens said. “He still has some soreness. Obviously we’re concerned about the long-term impact of a sore Achilles; what it means on that foot but also what it means when you compensate off it. But he’ll be back when he’s ready but I think he’s still a little bit away.”
 
Bradley, the team’s top on-the-ball defender and No. 2 scorer this season at 17.7 points per game, will be out for the sixth time in the Celtics’ last seven games because of the Achilles injury.
 
Replacing him in the starting lineup will be Marcus Smart whose status for tonight’s game wasn’t a sure thing.
 
On the Celtics’ pregame notes package, Smart was listed as probable with a sore right ankle injury. I asked Stevens about Smart’s status a few minutes ago, and he said the 6-foot-4 Smart will play tonight.
 
In his 15 starts this season, Smart has averaged 10.9 points, 3.9 rebounds and 4.5 assists while shooting 38.4 percent from the field and 31.7 percent on 3's - all of which are better than what he produces when coming off the bench.