Small Ball: Some Early Findings

When the pre-season started we were told that the Celtics had some very clear goals in mind: (1) score more baskets; (2) score easier baskets; and (3) rely on the bench and younger role players more for minutes and production. To accomplish these goals, the Celtics would shuffle the starting lineups, run the ball more often, and redouble their efforts to attack the paint for rebounds and points.

How is the game plan working out after six games?

The Celtics tallied an amazing 27 fastbreak points against the Heat, but have since averaged a meager 13 per contest, while giving up 15.1 per game. The Celtics outrebounded Miami 41 to 36  (7 to 5 on the offensive end) in the opener, but have since been outrebuonded by an average of 43.6 to 37.2 (10.4 to 6.4 on the offensive end). Boston outscored Miami 46 to 42 in the paint, but have since been outscored 45.6 to 32.8. One bit of good news is that the Celtics' bench is scoring 30.2 points per game, compared to 21.4 last year (second to last). However, Mssrs. Rondo (41.3 minutes per game), Pierce (35.8 minutes per game), and Garnett (30.5 minutes per game) are still playing above their target goals for playing time, despite a team record of just 3-3.

What conclusions can we draw from this information?

The Celtics made a concerted effort to run in game 1, but have since seemed to shelve the idea. The Celtics can rebound with shorter teams like Miami, but against the rest of the league, sporting a shorter lineup will typically result in a significant disadvantage on the glass at both ends of the floor, and an even bigger disadvantage in defending and scoring from the paint. So, in short (pun intended), small ball has yet to yield many of the forecast benefits, and may have resulted in the Celtics making it easier for their opponents to control the paint and score baskets from inside.

I don't think this means we abandon the idea of small ball. It does mean, however, that we continue to evaluate the data as it rolls in from game to game. At some point, I do think Doc need to start experimenting with bigger lineups. Let's see what Doc does tonight against Joakim Noah, Carlos Boozer, and the Chicago Bulls.

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