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Tuesday, April 1, 2014
Pressey a bright spot in a gloomy March

By Chris Forsberg

The Boston Celtics' most encouraging player for the month of March? You could make a case that, in limited floor time, it was rookie point guard Phil Pressey given the way he often spearheaded a second unit that played some of Boston's most inspired basketball.

Brian Babineau/NBAE/Getty ImagesRookie Phil Pressey made the most of his minutes in the month of March.
Small sample size aside, what both the stats and eye test tell you as the calendar shifts to the final month of Boston's basketball season is that Pressey is making obvious progress in an often-frustrating season for the Celtics.

Consider this:

* Over 177 minutes of floor time in 13 appearance in March, Pressey was a team-best plus-35 in plus/minus, one of only five players -- all limited-minute reserves -- to finish in the positive. Starting point guard Rajon Rondo was minus-113 over 442 minutes in 12 appearance (while Jeff Green was a team-worst minus-120). Given Boston's lack of success -- the team finished 3-12 for the month -- it's no surprise that the starters were in the negative, but Pressey's number simply reflects positively on the team's performance during his court time.

* Maybe the more encouraging numbers come in Boston's ratings (points scored/allowed per 100 possessions) with Pressey on the court in March. Pressey owned a team-best offensive rating of 109.7, which was nearly nine points higher than the team's average (100.8) for the month. What's more, his defensive rating was 98.7, or 9 points less than the team's cringe-worthy average (108.2).

Again, we'll stress that these are very small samples and that increased floor time against opposing teams' top units would almost certainly cause a downturn. But Pressey is thriving in his limited role and showing the sort of progress that must help coach Brad Stevens sleep at night given the team's record.

One night after DJ Augustin went off for a career-high 33 points during Chicago's win in Boston on Sunday, it was Pressey who the Celtics tasked with slowing him when the second units were on the floor. Pressey struggled at times to stay in front of the speedy Augustin, particularly in the pick-and-roll, but more than held his own.

According to defensive data logged by Synergy Sports, Pressey is credited with defending five possessions finished by Augustin. Those plays accounted for three missed shots, a turnover, and a foul when Kelly Olynyk was whistled for bumping Augustin while shuffling over with help defense.

For the month of March, Synergy data reveals that Pressey allowed only a mere 0.717 points per possession, with opposing players shooting just 32.7 percent against him. For the season, players with a minimum of 350 possessions defended (Pressey's total through 62 appearances), Indiana's David West tops the league at 0.745 points allowed per play.

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