By Rich Levine
The season is only 23 games old, which means it's way too early to reach any conclusions based on the numbers being posted by your Boston Celtics.
There's so much basketball to be played, and everything's sure to change at least a little. But with more than a quarter of the campaign in the books, it's worth noting some of the statistical trends that are developing. Just to know they're there.
For this first round of Celtics by the Numbers, I just focused on team statistics, as well as a few notes on the Big Four or whatever you'd like to call them.
The Celtics currently lead the NBA in team field-goal percentage at .509, "miles" ahead of second-place Phoenix, which is shooting. .472.
So the C's are the only team in the league shooting better than 50 percent, but even more impressive is that if they can keep it up they'll become the first Celtics team in 20 years to finish a season above 50 percent.
(Of the regulars on that 1990-91 team, Robert Parish led the way at .598, Kevin Gamble was second of course with .587 and Kevin McHale finished at .553.
A 34-year-old Larry Bird led that team in scoring (19.7) but shot only .454 from the field.
OK, back to reality.
Given their ridiculous shooting percentage, it's no surprise the C's also attempt fewer three-pointers a game than anyone in the league. Even though their .386 team three-point percentage is tied for fifth-best in the NBA.
The Celtics' 'D' is among the league leaders. They're giving up the fewest points, at 91 a game, and have the fourth-best field-goal percentage allowed, at .433. Over their first 23 games, the Celtics have given up more than 100 points only eight times or, as many times as they did in the final nine games of last regular season.
But while the Celtics' defensive success is expected, what you might not realize (mostly because no one likes to talk when they're doing well), is that the Heat are tied with the C's defensively, at 91 points a game, and on top of that, also have the best field-goal percentage against in the league. They're currently holding opponents to .427.
Pierce is leading the Celtics in scoring average with 18 points a game, and if he can finish this season on top, it will be his 11th straight year leading the team in scoring.
Yep, that's a record. But Pierce will only be breaking his own. Larry Bird is second all-time, having led the C's in scoring for nine straight seasons (1979-88). No other player in team history has even done it for more than five straight years, although John Havlicek and Sam Jones came close.
Pierce is also averaging a career-low 1.7 turnovers a game although that's more a matter of him not having the ball as much as he used to.
Some other numbers that might support that?
He's attempting fewer fouls shots (5.0) than he has in any season since his rookie year. Although as a testament to Pierce's work ethic, he shot .713 during that first season, and is now at .843. Hopefully Rondo's paying attention.
Pierce is also attempting fewer three pointers (3.2 a game) than he has at any point in his career. Not that Pierce jacking up the long ball is necessarily a bad thing in the 12 games where he's attempted four or more, the C's are 12-0.
Not surprising given the team's overall success, but Pierce also boasts the best field goal percentage of his career at .497. Before this, his best was .472 (last year).
I'm sure you noticed, but Ray Allen is lighting it up from three-point range this season. His .435 three-point percentage is the best of his Hall of Fame career, and, if he can keep it up, would be good for the third-most efficient three-point shooting season in Celtics history. Eddie House has the all-time record with the .444 he shot back 2009. Some guy named Danny Ainge is second with .443 in 1987.
Also, heading into Wednesday's game at MSG, Allen is nine three-pointers away from 2500 for his career, and 70 away from breaking Reggie Miller's all-time record for career threes.
Like Pierce, Allen is also shooting a career-best from the field at .484.
Garnett's resurgence has already been well documented this season, but here's a quick review:
He had 10 rebounds 12 times in 69 games last season. This season, he's done it 12 times in 23 games.
Last year, Garnett had 10 double-doubles on the season. This year, he already has 12.
Those two stats pretty much say it all.
Also, while KG is best known for his defense, Doc Rivers always talks about how much better the Celtics are when KG's more involved on offense, and even with the small sample size this stat supports that.
In the Celtics 19 wins, Garnett's shooting .557. In the four losses he's at .453.
Rondo already hold the Celtics' single-season record for assists per game he set it last year with a 9.6 average but this year he's set to become the first Celtic in history to average 10 a game.
His current 2.4 steals per game average would also break the single season record (2.3 that he set last year).
Like most of his teammates, Rondo's also shooting a career best from the field .530.
If there's one negative story with Rondo (aside from his health), it's of course his foul shooting. He's shooting a career worst .432 this season. In fact, that would be the lowest percentage in the NBA if not for what might be considered a bigger problem. Rondo hasn't even attempted enough foul shots to qualify.
To that, you might say "Great! He can't shoot them anyway!" but another way to look at it is to wonder whether the poor shooting has affected how aggressive Rondo is around the rim.
Last year, Rondo averaged career-best 3.5 FTs a game, this year, it's a career-low 1.9.
That's all for now. We'll check back around the All-Star Break with another look at the Celtics by the Numbers.