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

First-place Celtics continue to focus on playing well, not standings

First-place Celtics continue to focus on playing well, not standings

WALTHAM, Mass. – When it comes to NBA standings, no Celtic pays closer attention to it than Isaiah Thomas.
 
But the 5-foot-9 All-Star is quick to say that while he’s aware of what’s happening with other teams record-wise, Thomas, like his teammates, isn’t obsessed with it, even with the Celtics (48-26) now in first place in the East following Cleveland’s loss at San Antonio on Monday.
 
“It’s a good feeling,” Thomas said. “It’s still not the end of the year; anything can happen. It’s a nice feeling to be the number one seed for once, but we just have to continue to control what we can control.”

The fact that Boston is even in position to finish with the best record in the East is amazing when you consider injuries and illnesses have forced them to use 13 different starting lineups this season.
 
And the preferred starting five of Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley, Jae Crowder, Al Horford and Amir Johnson has played together 31 times and posted an impressive 24-7 record.
 
Celtics coach Brad Stevens has been consistent in his message that while having the best record in the East is nice, he’s more consumed with the team continuing to improve.
 
“It doesn’t mean a whole lot right now,” Stevens said of being in first place. “The whole idea is to make progress, get better every day and stay in the moment. You do that if you’re in last place trying to build up or whether you’re in a position where you’re fighting for seeding. Ultimately, we’ve been able to grow and get a little bit better. But I still think we can play a lot better. That’s where my focus is.”
 
And the same holds true for his players. Thomas knows how unusual this season has been for the Celtics, who continue finding ways to win despite frequently being short-handed.
 
The latest example of that involves forward Jonas Jerebko, who is questionable for Wednesday’s game against Milwaukee because of a sore left knee that limited him in Tuesday’s practice.
 
“It’s a long season. A lot of things can happen whether they be good or bad and we know that,” Thomas said. “We just try to withstand the storm we’ve had a few times this year, and continue to try and stay as positive as possible and we’ve done that. We’re in a good position right now. We just have to continue to take care of business.”
  
And that means steadily improving while piling up the wins, particularly against teams such as the Bucks (37-36), who are among a handful of teams that could potentially be Boston’s first-round opponent.
 
Milwaukee comes in having won 11 of its past 14 games.

“It makes the game that much more important,” said Celtics guard Avery Bradley. “Just like the Miami game. We want to let the teams know now, they go up against us in the playoffs, it’s no mercy. We’re going to play hard. We’re going to bring it every single night. We’re going to play Celtics basketball every single night. Them knowing that, we can scare a lot of teams if we’re playing the right way.”

Jerebko questionable for Wednesday against Bucks

Jerebko questionable for Wednesday against Bucks

WALTHAM, Mass. – The Celtics have spent most of this season playing short-handed and Wednesday’s game against Milwaukee will potentially be another one of those games.
 
Veteran forward Jonas Jerebko has a sore left knee and is considered questionable for the Bucks’ game.
 
“Jonas went through about half of [Tuesday’s] practice,” said Celtics coach Brad Stevens.
 
Jerebko has missed two games this season due to illness.
 
Because of Milwaukee’s length at seemingly every position, Jerebko’s ability to play both forward positions will be something the Celtics will surely miss if he’s unable to play.
 
This season, Jerebko has appeared in 69 games while averaging 3.9 points and 3.4 rebounds while shooting 44.1 percent from the field and 35.0 percent on 3’s.