One "half" in the books for Celtics

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One "half" in the books for Celtics

It was a random, up-and-down, but ultimately inspiring "first half for your Boston Celtics. There were great wins, despicable losses, devastating injuries and medical miracles. There were dazzling dunks and basketball bloopers (but sadly, no Frank Layden). Theres so much well always remember, so much we cant wait to forget and only so many ways that I can tease out this intro so lets get this party started.

In the spirit of this season, I'm just going to roll with some random thoughts, observations and statistics from the first 52 games.

Ten different players have started for the Celtics this season. Can you name them? Or maybe it's better to do it this way:

Only three players on the current active roster have NOT started a game this year. Name them instead.

The first is obvious: Mr. Fab Melo, who let's be honest, is just lucky to have a green uniform and his head still attached to his neck.

The second: Chris Wilcox, who's stuck behind Kevin Garnett and his simultaneously cranky yet bionic body. And also, often stuck in Doc Rivers dog house. (Which I think we should all start calling the doc house. What do you think? No? OK, fine.)

The third: Jeff Green.

Ahh, Jeff Green. What can we say about Jeff Green? Has he finally arrived? Is this the 9M machine that we've all been waiting for? All we can say for sure is that February has been hands down Green's best month as a Celtic. Sure, it's only been seven games, but he's averaging a season-best 14.4 points and four rebounds (OK, rebounds still have ways to go). He's also shooting 85 percent from the line, .503 from the field and .462 from deep. He's playing with purpose and attitude and not just when he feels like it. He's playing defense!

Pierce and KG garner most of the credit (and for good reason), but in the wake of Rondo's (and Sullinger's) injury you can't ask for much more than what Green has given the Green.

So far this season, there are 11 Celtics line-ups (doesn't have to be a starting line-up) that have yielded a positive offensive rating (points minus opponents points per 100 possessions). And here's the question: Not including Fab, can you name the only two Celtics who dont show up in any of those 11 units?

The first one makes sense: Jason "The Enforcer" Collins.

The second: Brace yourself . . .

AVERY BRADLEY

In fact, the OnOff stats reveal that the Celtics have actually been worse with Avery Bradley on the court (in the games he's played) than with him on the bench. Of course, that number is only -1.6. And of course, he's only played in 21 games, and hasn't been 100 percent the whole time. Still, I found that kind of shocking.

Staying with the OnOff Court numbers (all courtesy of the heroes at Basketball Reference, by the way), can you name the player with the best - rating on the team?

Of course you can: It's Kevin Garnett. Through 52 games, the Celtics are 6.3 (again, that's points per 100 possessions) with Garnett on the floor.

Not surprisingly, that all comes from defense. In fact, the Celtics offense has actually been less efficient (-2.6) with KG in the line-up. But the defensive numbers are insane.

With KG on the bench, opposing teams have an offensive rating of 107.8. With KG on the floor? That number plummets to 98.9. Whether that's more a matter of Garnett's sustained defensive dominance, or a result of the Celtics not having another defensive option on the block . . . we can't be sure. But there's no doubt that KG is still at the center of any defensive success.

So, KG's No. 1. But who's No. 2?

That would be Jared Sullinger, but that would also be depressing. Who's No. 2 among the active?

Paul Pierce? Nope. Jarvis Varnado? Come on.

It's Jason Terry, who finished the first half at 3.9. Pretty impressive considering how down he was for most of the season, and very promising when you consider that he's finally found a rhythm.

Of the Celtics regulars, Brandon Bass has been the least efficient player at -9.3, and he's an equal opportunity offender. The Celtics offense is 4.0 with Bass on the bench, while the defense is a 4.5. But that being said, and numbers aside, you've got to commend Bass for his energy and effort in the wake of Sullinger's injury. (Note: Rondo finished his year at -5.6)

Good wins count more than bad losses. At least in my book. I put far more stock in a team's ability to beat the best than their ability to have a momentary lapse against the worst. So, here's another question while keeping in mind that the Heat and Thunder played in last year's Finals, and will most likely face off again this year: How many teams have beaten BOTH Miami and OKC this season?

I don't expect anyone to know that the answer is five, but you're well aware that the Celtics are one of them. Boston, Memphis, Washington, Golden State and Utah. That's the list.

As for bad losses, can you name the only Eastern Conference squad that the Celtics have NOT beaten this year?

"Now everybody from the 313 Put your m------ing hands up and beat the Celtics with me!"

Yeah, it's the Pistons. And that's very sad.

The C's will have one more shot against Detroit on April 3 at the Garden. And if they lose? It will mark only the second time A.KG. that the Celtics are swept in the regular season by an Eastern Conference opponent. The only other instance occurred back in 2009-2010 when Boston lost all four match-ups with Atlanta.

And then made the Finals.

OK, last one: In which month have the Celtics as a team averaged the most assists per game this year?

You probably already know where I'm going with this one, and you may take issue with the fact the month is barely halfway over. Still, here it is:

In November, the C's averaged 23.3 assists per game. In December, it was 22.8. In January, 22.9. So far in February, a month played without the NBA leader in assists per game, Boston's averaging 25.3 dimes a night.

Do you realize that in the last six years, there have only been two times total when Boston averaged more than 25.3 assists in a given month?

Naturally, that stat's filled with more variables than I can even count, but on the surface, it's certainly interesting.

And no doubt, so will be the "second half" of this Celtics season.

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

Celtics' team plane receives bomb threat

Celtics' team plane receives bomb threat

BOSTON -- There was a bomb threat to the Boston Celtics’ team plane to Oklahoma City on Saturday afternoon, but no one was injured.

The incident will be investigated by NBA security which will work in conjunction with the FBI on this matter which was one of several hoaxes called into airports across the country on Saturday.

News of the bomb threat was first known when Celtics forward Jae Crowder posted an Instagram photo showing players departing the plane with the caption, “BOMB THREAT ON US”.

Celtics officials declined to comment on the matter and instead referred all bomb threat-related questions to the league office.

Messages to the league office were not immediately returned.

Celtics' ball movement among NBA's best, with or without Thomas

Celtics' ball movement among NBA's best, with or without Thomas

BOSTON – When it comes to winning basketball, keep it moving – the ball that is – has become a staple of the Celtics this season. 
 
And lately they’ve had to do it without Isaiah Thomas, the team’s leading scorer at 26 points per game as well as their top assists guy (6.2) who will miss hish third game in a row Sunday in Oklahoma City because of a right groin injury.
 
The Celtics have split their first two games without Thomas, with the most recent being a 101-94 home loss to Toronto on Friday.
 
When it comes to this team and ball movement, fans are just as divided when it pertains to whether the Celtics move the ball better without the high-scoring Thomas in the lineup. 
 
Regardless of what fans think they know about this team and how they move the ball, the numbers paint a very clear picture that this team’s ball movement is among the best in the NBA, with or without Thomas in the lineup. 

And that will be important on Sunday against an Oklahoma City team that doesn’t rely on the ball swinging from one side of the floor to the other, nearly as much as the Celtics. 
 
The Thunder, led by MVP candidate Russell Westbrook, are dead-last in the NBA when it comes to passes made per game (267.1). 
 
Meanwhile, the Celtics are at the opposite end of the passing game spectrum, averaging 331.7 passes per game, which is second in the NBA (Philadelphia, 354.3).
 
And in the two games without Thomas, Boston has averaged 347.0 passes per game, which ranks second in the NBA in that period of time. 
 
In addition to missing his points and assists, the Celtics must also find ways to make plays in filling the void left by a player who has the ball in his hands a lot of the time. 
 
Thomas’ usage percentage (percentage of plays used by a player while he’s on the floor) of 32.9 percent ranks seventh in the NBA, ahead of notable stars such as San Antonio’s Kawhi Leonard (30.9 percent), Portland’s Damian Lillard (30.8 percent), New York’s Carmelo Anthony (29.5 percent), as well as Cleveland’s LeBron James (29 percent) and Golden State’s back-to-back NBA MVP Stephen Curry (28.2 percent).
 
So, considering how involved Thomas has been in the team’s offense, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the numbers in terms of passing and ball movement are better without him than they are when he’s on the floor playing. 
 
What should be surprising is that the gap statistically without him, isn’t greater. 
 
Boston has been a top five team when it comes to assists this season, currently third in the league with 24.7 assists per game. In the past two games without Thomas, the Celtics’ assists numbers have risen to 26.5 per game, but that only ranks fifth in the league in that span.
 
When it comes to potential assists and secondary assists (a.k.a. the “hockey” assist), Boston’s numbers have improved slightly without Thomas as well, but in each category Boston is ranked second in the league. 
 
And that ranking is with, and without Thomas in the lineup. 
 
While it’s not clear if Thomas knows just how close the numbers in terms of ball movement are with and without him playing, he is acutely aware that there are some who believe they are a better team in terms of keeping the ball moving without him.
 
“I can’t control that,” Thomas told reporters on Friday. “At this point, I laugh about it. I know what I mean to my teammates. I know what I mean to this organization, to Brad Stevens.”