Print and Go Back ESPN.com: Boston Celtics [Print without images]

Saturday, December 7, 2013
Turning over a new leaf

By Chris Forsberg

BOSTON -- The Boston Celtics entered Friday's game against the Denver Nuggets ranked 25th in the league in turnover percentage at 17.3 percent. Giveaways have plagued the team for much of the year, particularly early in the season with Boston hovering near the league basement over the first 14 games.

But the Celtics are taking better care of the basketball in recent games. Over the past seven outings -- a span in which Boston has posted a 5-2 mark -- the team's turnover percentage has dipped to 15.2 percent overall, ranking Boston tied for 12th in the league in that span. Narrow it down to the past three contests and that number plummets to a mere 12.8 percent, tied for sixth in the league in that span.

During Friday's 106-98 win over the Denver Nuggets, Boston matched its season low by turning the ball over just 10 times (leading to a mere 11 points).

Asked before the game about the downturn in turnovers, Celtics first-year coach Brad Stevens quipped, “We went through some color tests with throwing [the ball] to the right color and trying to avoid throwing it [to the other team]. I was thinking we were really going to get screwed up last week when we went [with road] green [uniforms] at home, but we did well with that."

Turning serious, Stevens added, “No, it’s just learning guys’ strengths and, again, putting them in position to be successful, running better stuff because you understand them better, throwing it to the right guys at the right times, throwing the ball in the post more, playing inside-out -- that has all added up. And certainly I think playing more ball handlers on the court at once -- everyone talks about Jordan [Crawford] being out there at the point, but then you have two guys [with shooting guard Avery Bradley] that are really primary ball handlers in the game at once. And same thing can be said when Phil [Pressey] and Courtney [Lee] are in the game together. That’s helped quite a bit.”

No Boston player had more than two turnovers in Friday's win, and those four guards combined for a mere three turnovers overall. Boston jumped out to an early lead by fueling its offense with ball movement, something hammered home by putting up 25 assists on 43 field goals.

A look at individual turnover rates of the Celtics' players over the first 14 games compared to the past seven:


The only two players with a noticeable increase are Brooks and Bogans, the two guys playing the least. Most everyone else has brought their number down, with notably significant drops from the likes of Bradley and Crawford, the team's primary ball handlers. What's more, big men are handling the ball better and Gerald Wallace, plagued by a case of the fumbles early in the year, has done a nice job bringing his own turnovers down. Stevens went out of his way to note Friday that he wants Wallace handling the ball without worrying about those early-season turnovers.