Stats & Info: Boston Celtics

2014 NBA Draft recap

June, 27, 2014
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Brad Penner/USA TODAY SportsAndrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker went at the top of this year's draft.
The 2014 NBA Draft is in the books. Here are the stats you need to know about the top seven picks.

No. 1 Cleveland Cavaliers – Andrew Wiggins
Wiggins became the 2nd Canadian-born player to be drafted No. 1 overall, joining Anthony Bennett last season. There are now three Canadian-born top-5 picks in the common draft era, and all are on the Cavaliers (Wiggins, Bennett, Tristan Thompson).

Wiggins also joins Danny Manning, who was drafted by the Los Angeles Clippers in 1988, as the only players in Kansas history picked first overall.

No. 2 Milwaukee Bucks – Jabari Parker
Parker became the sixth Duke player drafted in the top five since 1999.

He should be an immediate help for the Bucks in the post. Milwaukee averaged 5.9 post-up points per game, 27th in the league. Parker averaged 3.6 post-up points per game on 55.4% shooting.

No. 3 Philadelphia 76ers – Joel Embiid
Embiid gives the 76ers a good two-way post player. On offense he shot 55 percent on post-ups this season, best in the Big 12 (minimum 50 plays).

In the last 15 games he played with Kansas, Embiid held opponents to 29% shooting in the post.

No. 4 Orlando Magic - Aaron Gordon
Gordon is the fourth Arizona player drafted in the top five in the common draft era, joining Mike Bibby, Sean Elliott and Derrick Williams.

The Magic also pick up the youngest player in this draft class. Gordon does not turn 19 until September.

No. 5 Utah Jazz – Dante Exum
Exum joins Kyrie Irving and Andrew Bogut as the only Australian-born players picked in the top five in the common draft era.

The only other international point guard drafted in the top 10 was Ricky Rubio.

No. 6 Boston Celtics – Marcus Smart
Smart is the highest drafted Oklahoma State player since Bryant Reeves in 1995.

The last time the Celtics took a point guard this high in a draft was in 1997 when they drafted Chauncey Billups third overall.

No. 7 Los Angeles Lakers – Julius Randle
Last season the Lakers ranked last in both defensive and offensive rebounding percentage. Enter Randle, who led the nation with 24 double-doubles last season.

How prolific was Randle? The only freshman in Division I history to ever record more double-doubles in a season was Michael Beasley, who had 28 for Kansas State in 2007-08.

Future outlook: Knicks, Lakers, Celtics

April, 17, 2014
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This season marked the first time in NBA history that the Knicks, Lakers and Celtics all failed to make it to the postseason.

So where does each franchise go from here?

New York Knicks
The Knicks’ win percentage dropped from .659 last season to .451 in 2013-14.

They only have $31.8M in guaranteed contracts next season but that does not include Carmelo Anthony ($23.3M), Amar'e Stoudemire ($23.4M) or Andrea Bargnani ($11.5M). All 3 players have early-termination options (it’s the player’s option to opt out), but it's a virtual certainty that Stoudemire will remain with the Knicks as no team in the open market would pay anywhere near that number. Bargnani staying in New York seems highly likely as well.

If Carmelo leaves this summer, the Knicks would still likely be over the projected salary cap of $62.9M in 2014-15, but they likely wouldn’t be a taxpaying team.

The result? Their best tool would likely be the non-taxpayer mid-level exception. In 2014-15, that exception allows teams to sign any free agent to a contract with a starting salary up to $5.305M.

Los Angeles Lakers

The Lakers’ .329 win percentage was their second worst in franchise history and worst since moving to Los Angeles. The Lakers’ 55 losses were their most in franchise history.

Mike D’Antoni's first full season as a NBA head coach came with the Phoenix Suns back in 2004-05. In four full seasons in Phoenix, he guided the team to a .707 win percentage and two Conference Finals appearances. In six combined seasons with the Knicks (four) and Lakers (two), he’s posted a .425 win percentage while failing to win a playoff game.

Kobe Bryant signed a two-year contract extension for $48.5M in November, maintaining his status of the highest-paid player in the league. This summer looms large for the Lakers, who currently have just three guaranteed contracts in 2014-15 for a total of $34.1M.

The projected salary cap for next season is $62.9M and the Lakers could gain around an additional $6.5M in space by using the stretch-provision on Steve Nash (he would be released and his $9.7M contract would be spread over three seasons).

Note: the only Lakers player that has a player option for next season is Nick Young ($1.2M).

Boston Celtics

The Celtics’ .305 win percentage was their third worst in a single season in franchise history.

The only other instance in which both the Celtics and Lakers missed the postseason in the same year came in 1993-94. Following that season was the only year in which both teams had lottery picks (the lottery era dates back to 1985; Celtics took Eric Montross ninth and the Lakers selected Eddie Jones tenth).

Looking ahead to the 2014 draft, the Celtics will have two first-round picks – their own lottery selection and the Nets (17th or 18th overall). it is important to note that Boston also receives a 1st-round pick in 2015 from Philadelphia should that pick fall outside of the lottery (15-30).

The Celtics have $44.7M in guaranteed contracts on the books for 2014-15. The projected salary cap line is $62.9M. While they will have a little wiggle room this offseason, it looks like Danny Ainge has his eyes set on the summer of 2015 as Gerald Wallace’s $10.1M contract is the only guaranteed money Boston has on its books in 2015-16. The only player that could bump that number up significantly is Jeff Green, who has a $9.2M player option in the final year of his contract.

Lakers and Celtics rivalry hits historic low

January, 17, 2014
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The Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers, teams with a combined 33 NBA titles, are used to playing each other as two of the best teams in the league, but on Friday their rivalry hits a historic low.

The Celtics and Lakers are a combined 28-51 this season (.354). According to the Elias Sports Bureau, it is the lowest combined win percentage entering a game between these teams in their series history (min. five games into season).

No team has a worse record than the Lakers (1-12) and the Celtics (2-11) since December 21. The Lakers win percentage (.359) this season is on pace to be their worst since they moved from Minneaplis and the Celtics (.350) would be their fourth-worst in franchise history.

Despite the bad seasons, there is a flurry of activity surrounding each team.

Rondo Returns
Rajon Rondo will return Friday in his first game since January 25 last season when he tore the ACL in his right knee. That is potentially good news for the Celtics, depending on how you look at it.

Rondo led the NBA in assists per game in each of last two seasons. His 3,943 assists before his age 27 season rank ninth all-time, between Oscar Robertson and John Stockton.

On the other side, Coach Mike D’Antoni said last week he hopes Steve Nash and Kobe Bryant (each played six games this season) will return January 28 against the Pacers after a seven-game road trip.

However, the Lakers have fallen to 8.5 games back of the eighth spot in the Western Conference and there may be no need to rush their stars back.

Trade activity and future outlook
The Celtics traded Jordan Crawford and MarShon Brooks to the Warriors on Wednesday in a three-team trade, receiving Joel Anthony and two draft picks. They also traded Courtney Lee for Jerryd Bayless’ expiring contact January 5 to better position themselves for the offseason.

This summer also looms large for the Lakers, who currently have three guaranteed contracts in 2014-15 for a total of $34.1 million (Pau Gasol’s $19.3 million salary comes off the books after this season).

The projected salary cap for next season is $62.9 million and the Lakers could gain more space by using the stretch-provision on Nash (he would be released and his $9.7 million contract would be spread over three seasons).

Boston and LA could be prime markets for the promising free agent class.

Both teams are currently in position to have lottery picks next year. The only year that both the Lakers and Celtics had lottery picks was 1994 when the Celtics took Eric Montross ninth and the Lakers took Eddie Jones tenth. Both teams made the playoffs the following season.

The Celtics could be in better position for the 2014 NBA draft. They potentially have three first-round picks as they will receive one from Brooklyn, and have the 76ers lottery protected pick.

The Lakers are guaranteed to have their first-round pick this year, as it is untradeable due to NBA rule stating a team cannot trade first-round pick in back-to-back seasons.

Celtics and Sixers exceeding expectations

November, 10, 2013
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Remember all of that talk before the season about tanking? How the Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers were expected to lose a lot of games in order to position themselves for a top pick in the 2014 NBA draft?

Well, apparently the players and coaches didn’t get the memo.

Boston buzzer-beater
The Celtics went to Miami and upset the Heat on a Jeff Green buzzer-beater.

That’s not normal -– at least with LeBron James in the lineup.

The Heat had won 24 consecutive regular-season home games with James in the lineup entering Saturday. They hadn’t lost a home game with him since Jan. 4.

The Celtics somehow overcame 58 percent shooting by the Heat, making 10 3-pointers to notch their third straight win after starting 0-4. Perhaps first-year head coach Brad Stevens is already figuring this NBA thing out.

Green’s game-winner was his seventh career game-tying or go-ahead field goal in the final 5 seconds of a game. His 64 percent shooting on those shots (7-for-11) is the highest percentage for any player with at least 10 attempts since he entered the league in 2007-08.

Philly facts
The Sixers are another team with a first-year head coach, Brett Brown. After opening 3-0, including an upset win over the Heat to start the season, they lost two straight and looked like they were coming back to earth.

But their performances the past two nights against the Cleveland Cavaliers suggest the Sixers are going to compete night in and night out.

After a 94-79 victory versus the Cavs on Friday, the Sixers went for the home-and-home sweep Saturday in Cleveland. The Sixers extended the game to double overtime and almost earned another period but for a Kyrie Irving game-winning shot in the final second.

At multiple points down the stretch, the Sixers could’ve handed it to the Cavs. But a Thaddeus Young game-tying shot with 5 seconds left in the fourth quarter, an Evan Turner layup with 8 seconds left in the first overtime and a Michael Carter-Williams game-tying 3-pointer with 11 seconds left in double overtime kept the Sixers alive time and time again.

Turner set a career high with 31 points, Young was three points shy of his career high with 29 points, and Carter-Williams had a career-high 13 assists.

MCW for ROY?
Carter-Williams has distinguished himself as the early favorite for the Rookie of the Year award. He is the first player with at least 21 points, 13 assists and 7 rebounds within his first seven career games since Jay Williams for the Chicago Bulls in 2002.

Carter-Williams joined Hall of Famer Oscar Robertson as the only players in NBA history with at least 130 points and 50 assists in their first seven career games.

With college stars like Andrew Wiggins, Julius Randle and Jabari Parker potentially up for grabs in the 2014 NBA draft, teams like the Celtics and Sixers were expected to be in position to acquire as many pingpong ball combinations as possible. But seven games into the season, the Sixers sit in first place in the Atlantic Division with the Celtics just one game back.

Age nothing but a number for Brad Stevens

July, 3, 2013
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AP Photo/Steve Helber
Stevens will become the NBA's youngest head coach, ahead of Jacque Vaughn.

When Brad Stevens shakes hands with opponents on the court this season, he'll be greeting players his own age.

Stevens was born in 1976. He's 36 years old now and will turn 37 on October 22, just a few days before the NBA season will start.

One could fashion an NBA starting lineup out of active players born in 1976: Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett in the frontcourt, Antawn Jamison the swingman and Andre Miller and Chauncey Billups in the backcourt.

And there are several active players born before 1976: Ray Allen, Steve Nash and Derek Fisher to name a few.

Stevens will likely have more NBA players near his age than NBA coaches. Stevens will become the NBA's youngest active head coach, ahead of Jacque Vaughn (age 38) and David Joerger (age 39). All other NBA coaches are in their 40s or above.

Pitino's pathway
It's easy to make the Stevens connection to the Boston Celtics' hiring of Rick Pitino in 1997. And there are some similarities: Pitino had a .734 winning percentage as a Division I coach with two appearances in the NCAA championship game. Stevens has a .772 winning percentage and also has a pair of title game appearances.

But Pitino had two full seasons of NBA experience under his belt, coaching the New York Knicks in 1987-88 and 1988-89. And he had 16 seasons as a Division I head coach when he was hired by the Celtics. Stevens has six.

The closer comparison might be Pitino when he was hired by the Knicks. Pitino was 35 years old and had seven years of Division I experience. Stevens is 36 with six years of Division I experience.

Celtics don't mind first-time coaches
A head coach without previous NBA head coaching experience hasn't been a barrier for the Celtics.

Of their last seven head coaching hires not counting interim coaches, five of them have been first-time head coaches.

The only exceptions were Pitino, who previously coached the Knicks, and Doc Rivers, who previously coached the Orlando Magic.

Jrue Holiday emerging as elite point guard

December, 6, 2012
12/06/12
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Mark L. Baer/US PresswireJrue Holiday (left) and the 76ers will face Rajon Rondo (right) and the Celtics on ESPN Friday night.
Jrue Holiday might be ready to insert his name into the list of elite point guards in the NBA.

Holiday, who will lead the Philadelphia 76ers into their division matchup with the Boston Celtics on Friday (ESPN, 7 ET) is averaging career highs in points per game (18.2), assists per game (9.3) and player efficiency rating (18.5) this season.

If he keeps up this pace of 18 points and nine assists per game, he would be one of four players since 2000 to have those averages along with Chris Paul, Steve Nash and Deron Williams.

Even though Holiday is leading the NBA in turnovers with more than four per game, the 76ers as a team have the second-lowest turnover percentage (12.6). With a career-high usage rate percentage of 26, the turnovers are expected to be high. At his current averages, Holiday would join Hall of Famers Isiah Thomas (1986-87) and Magic Johnson (1988-89) as the only players with 18 points, nine assists and four turnovers per game for a season.

No team is dependent on one player to create their offense as much as the 76ers are on Holiday. He has been responsible for 43 percent of his team’s total points this season, which leads the NBA. The “points responsible for” statistic includes offense generated from assists and points scored.

Holiday also leads the NBA in efficiency on isolation plays with a points-per-play average of 1.17 (minimum 30 plays), up from .89 last season.

Holiday is creating high-percentage opportunities for himself and his teammates. Last season he had a 47 effective field goal percentage (gives extra weight to 3-pointers) on isolation plays. This season he’s at 59 percent.

The pick-and-roll is a big part of every point guard’s repertoire to go along with isolations. Holiday is no different, as 59 percent of his offense either comes from the pick-and-roll or isolations, compared to last season when 46 percent of his offense came from those plays.

With high usage rate in those play types Holiday has made drastic improvement in his shooting percentage from 42 percent last season to 46 this season on pick-and-rolls and isolations.

The 76ers are 10-8 without a single former All-Star active on their roster. Key offseason acquisition Andrew Bynum is still not healthy enough to suit up. However, Holiday almost singlehandedly has kept the 76ers in the playoff hunt.

It will be interesting to see how Holiday fares with a national audience against a superstar point guard, Rajon Rondo, who is also top five in points responsible for and leads the league in assists at nearly 13 per game.

An inside look at the 2012-13 schedule

July, 26, 2012
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No lockout means a return to normalcy in this year's schedule, where each team visits each city at least once and no team has to play a back-to-back-to-back. Last season, there were 40 back-to-back-to-backs.

Also this year, the regular season will start almost two months earlier (October 30) and will end nine days earlier (April 17) than last season.

SCHEDULE TIDBITS
• NBA Finals rematches: Christmas Day in Miami, Valentine's Day in Oklahoma City.

• Eastern Conference Finals rematches: October 30 in Miami, January 27 in Boston, March 18 in Boston, April 12 in Miami.

• Western Conference Finals rematches: November 1 in San Antonio, December 17 in Oklahoma City, March 11 in San Antonio, April 4 in Oklahoma City.

• Check out the notable "return" games this season in the chart at right, including Carmelo Anthony making his first trip to Denver this year. Because of the lockout-adjusted schedule, the Knicks did not play at the Nuggets last season.

• Teams appearing the most frequently on ESPN networks: Los Angeles Lakers (16), Miami Heat (15), Oklahoma City Thunder (15), New York Knicks (15), Los Angeles Clippers (14), Chicago Bulls (12), Boston Celtics (11).

DEFENDING THEIR TITLE
• The Heat and Celtics will play each other on Opening Night, October 30 in Miami. Not only will it be Ray Allen's first game against his most mates, LeBron James is 0-3 vs Celtics in season-openers (0-1 with the Heat in 2010, 0-2 with the Cavaliers in 2008 and 2009).

• Based on last season’s records, the toughest months of the season schedule-wise for the Heat will be the start of their season in October-November. But they'll follow that with their easiest month in December. And that includes a Christmas Day showdown with the Thunder.

• It hasn’t been easy for teams to defend their title recently. There’s been only one repeat champion in the last 10 years (Lakers 2009 and 2010). The last two teams defending their titles were bounced in the 1st Round (2012 Mavericks) and Conference Semifinals (2011 Lakers). The last time the Heat defended their title, in the 2006-07 season, they were dealt injuries to Dwyane Wade and Shaquille O’Neal and knocked out in the 1st Round.

Why Ray Allen will succeed in Miami

July, 7, 2012
7/07/12
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ESPN.com IllustrationRay Allen has agreed to join LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami.
With Ray Allen agreeing to sign with the Miami Heat, the NBA champions have added one of the greatest shooters in league history.

How will Allen fit in with the Heat?

Using Synergy Sports Technology to analyze Allen’s potential role with the Heat, it seems that he will fit in just fine.

OPEN JUMPERS FOR THE HEAT

The acquisitions of LeBron James and Chris Bosh created more open jumpers for the Heat. The year before the Big Three formed, only 41 percent of the Heat's catch-and-shoot jumpers were unguarded, the fifth lowest percentage in the league. But that percentage has increased over the past two seasons.

During the 2010-11 season, 57 percent of the Heat’s catch-and-shoot jumpers were unguarded, the second highest percentage in the NBA. And last season, 63 percent were unguarded, which ranked third.

Four of the Heat's current players that were in Miami prior to the Big Three era -- Mario Chalmers, Dwyane Wade, James Jones and Udonis Haslem -- have received a significant increase in unguarded catch-and-shoot jumpers over the past two seasons as compared to the season before the Big Three formed.

Only 30 percent of Wade's shots were unguarded in 2009-10, but that percentage doubled to 60 percent last season. Nearly four of every five Chalmers catch-and-shoot jumpers last season were unguarded.

LeBRON & BOSH MAKE TEAMMATES BETTER

Chalmers, Wade, Jones and Haslem saw an immediate improvement on catch-and-shoot jumpers after LeBron and Bosh arrived. The most dramatic improvement was Wade, who went from a 28 percent shooter on catch-and-shoot jumpers in 2009-10 to 37 percent in 2010-11.

RAY ALLEN CATCH-AND-SHOOT JUMPERS

Allen has improved his field goal percentage on catch-and-shoot jumpers over the past two seasons as compared to the previous three seasons. He shot less than 43 percent and ranked outside of the top 50 (among the 200-plus players with at least 100 attempts) in each season from 2007-08 to 2009-10, but he shot 45 percent and ranked in the top 25 in each of the past two seasons.

Allen has also improved his field goal percentage on unguarded catch-and-shoot jumpers in each of the past two seasons. In 2009-10, he shot 42 percent on those shots. That percentage jumped to 51 percent in 2010-11 and 52 percent last season, which ranked sixth of the 68 players with at least 100 attempts.

Over the past few years, Allen has been left open more often on catch-and-shoot jumpers. In 2005-06, only 31 percent of those shots were unguarded. That percentage increased in each of the next three seasons. In 2010-11, he was left open on 49 percent of his catch-and-shoot jumpers, and last season 53 percent of those attempts were unguarded.

CONCLUSION

The Heat have had more open jumpers since LeBron and Bosh came to Miami. And the Heat’s most prominent shooters that were in Miami prior to the Big Three era became better shooters after LeBron and Bosh arrived. Allen was just as good of a shooter (if not better) last season as he was a few years ago. Part of this is because Allen has been left open more over the past two seasons.

If the pattern continues, expect Allen to receive even more open jumpers in Miami.

Why MKG doesn't make sense for Bobcats

June, 30, 2012
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The most popular post-draft topic is always determining who were the winners and losers. But nobody can predict immediately which players will succeed and who will be busts.

However, we know which teams best addressed their statistical weaknesses and which teams made picks that didn’t address those needs.

CHARLOTTE BOBCATS: MICHAEL KIDD-GILCHRIST

The Bobcats needed offense. They ranked last in the NBA this season in field-goal percentage (41.4) and 3-point percentage (29.5). They also ranked last in points per play on jump shots, catch-and-shoot jumpers, spot-up plays and overall offense.

Kidd-Gilchrist doesn’t seem to fit those needs. He shot 25 percent this season on catch-and-shoot jumpers and 20 percent on jumpers off the dribble. Of the 501 college players with at least 100 spot-up plays (includes jumpers and drives to the basket that aren’t isolation or pick-and-roll), Kidd-Gilchrist ranked 491st in points per play.

WASHINGTON WIZARDS: BRADLEY BEAL

The Wizards had an inefficient starting backcourt last season. Of the 40 players with at least 1,000 plays, John Wall ranked last and Jordan Crawford ranked 38th in points per play.

In order to upgrade their backcourt, they drafted Beal to possibly take some pressure off Wall and take minutes from Crawford.

Beal wasn’t incredibly efficient during the regular season, averaging 0.96 points per play. He shot 51.6 percent on 2-point attempts and 32.9 percent on 3-point attempts.

But Beal improved during the NCAA tournament. He averaged 1.15 points per play, which would have ranked among the top-3 percentile during the regular season. He shot 78.9 percent on 2-point attempts and 42.1 percent on 3-point attempts. His 71.1 adjusted field-goal percentage would have ranked best in the country during the regular season.

CLEVELAND CAVALIERS: DION WAITERS

The one area in which Waiters will help the Cavaliers is their transition game. The Cavs ranked 23rd in points per transition play this season. Waiters averaged 1.43 points per transition play, which led all draft-eligible players with at least 100 transition plays.

TORONTO RAPTORS: TERRENCE ROSS

The Raptors scored the third-fewest points this past season. Offense was a priority and they addressed that with Ross. Only two players drafted after Ross averaged more points per play and shot a higher field-goal percentage this season with at least 350 plays against man defense: Andrew Nicholson and Mike Scott.

Ross also could help at the defensive end. The Raptors allowed the second-most points per isolation play. Ross held opponents to 22 percent shooting on those plays. Among players who defended at least 35 isolation plays, Tyshawn Taylor was the only draftee who was better than Ross.

BOSTON CELTICS: JARED SULLINGER

The Celtics had the third-lowest rebounding percentage this past season and the lowest offensive rebounding percentage. Not a single player drafted in either round had a higher offensive and defensive rebounding percentage than Sullinger.

Statistical support for this story from NBA.com.

After loss, free agency could end Celtics era

June, 10, 2012
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The Boston Celtics fell short of the NBA Finals for the second straight season, bowing out to the Miami Heat in back-to-back seasons. With Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen entering free agency, is this the end of an era in Boston?

Possible players on the move
Garnett is an unrestricted free agent after making $21.2 million this season. He turned 36 last month, but was the key for the Celtics on both ends of the court this postseason.

In the 737 minutes he was on the court in the playoffs, the Celtics outscored opponents by 138 points. They were outscored by 118 points in the 238 minutes he was off the floor. That wasn’t a fluke, as the Celtics were +267 with Garnett on the floor during the regular season compared to -101 with him on the bench.

Allen is also an unrestricted free agent this summer and will turn 37 years old in July. He wasn’t as productive in the playoffs this year as he was the past four years. He averaged nearly 17 points in 39 minutes per game from 2008-11, but in 2012 those numbers declined by six points and five minutes.

Brandon Bass, who just finished his first season with the Celtics, has a $4 million player option for next season. Bass set career highs this season, averaging 32 minutes, 13 points and six rebounds per game.

Even if they have played their last game together, Paul Pierce, Garnett and Allen have already cemented their legacy in Boston. This is the fourth memorable era in Celtics history.

1957-69
Red Auerbach failed to make the NBA Finals during his first six years as head coach of the Celtics, but Bill Russell’s arrival for the 1956-57 season was the beginning of one of the greatest dynasties in sports history. The Celtics went on to capture 11 championships during Russell’s 13-year career.

1972-76
After Russell’s retirement in 1969, the Celtics missed the playoffs in 1970 and 1971, but it wasn’t long before they were back on top again.

John Havlicek, Dave Cowens, and Jo Jo White helped lead Boston to titles in 1974 and 1976. The Celtics also made it to the Conference Finals in 1972, 1973 and 1975.

1980-92
Boston was eliminated in the Conference Semifinals in 1977 and missed the playoffs entirely the next two seasons, but Larry Bird landed in Boston for the 1979-80 season and the rest was history.

The Celtics made five NBA Finals appearances and won three titles during Bird’s 13-year career, which ended in 1992 with a 4-games-to-3 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Conference Semifinals.

2008-12
After experiencing a 21-season championship drought, Pierce, Garnett, and Allen guided the Celtics to a title during their first season together in 2008.

Garnett missed the playoffs the following year due to injury and the Celtics lost in the Conference Semifinals, but Boston made it back to the Finals in 2010, falling to the Los Angeles Lakers in a hard-fought seven game series.

The Celtics couldn’t get by the Heat the last two seasons, losing in five games in the 2011 Conference Semifinals and coming up just short this year in the Conference Finals.

Celtics have trouble closing series

June, 6, 2012
6/06/12
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Steve Mitchell/US PresswireThe Celtics are just 11-13 since 2007-08 with the chance to clinch a series.
A veteran squad such as the Boston Celtics have plenty of experience in closing out series, and will have the opportunity to do so against the Miami Heat in Game 6 on Thursday (8:30 ET, ESPN). But the Celtics haven't been as successful as fans might think when it comes to eliminating opponents recently.

Since Boston's Big 3 (Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen) formed entering the 2007-08 season, the Celtics have in fact struggled closing out postseason series. When having the opportunity to clinch, Boston is just 11-13 in those games over that span. This postseason, the Celtics are 2-2 in such games but just 0-2 in the first opportunity. The one silver lining, however, is that Boston is 9-2 in such chances at home.

LeBron James, however, has trailed 3-2 in a best-of-seven series four times in his postseason career. Each time, his team went on to lose the series, including suffering defeat at the hands of the Celtics twice. Only once out of those four times has a James-led team been able to force a Game 7.

What's more, James is usually at his postseason worst when trailing in a series. When his team is tied or leads the series, James is averaging 28.5 points per game while shooting 47.6 percent from the floor. Compare that to when his team trails the series; in those situations, James is putting up 27.4 points per game with a field goal percentage of just 42.8. His turnovers per game also increase from 3.2 to 5.3.

Miami now has Chris Bosh back in the lineup, but his addition did not help the Heat in Game 5, as they were outscored by 12 points in the 14 minutes with Bosh on the court. In addition, Miami was 20.8 percent from the floor with Bosh in the game and had more turnovers (seven) than field goals (five).

Heat return to comfort zone vs Celtics

June, 5, 2012
6/05/12
1:05
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Credit: Steve Mitchell/US PresswireThe Game 5 winner has gone on to win the series 83.5 percent of the time when tied 2-2.
The Boston Celtics and Miami Heat (ESPN, 8:30 ET) will square off in Game 5 tonight with the winner taking a 3-2 lead in the series. The Celtics have put themselves in a good position to take control, because in the Big 3 era (since 2007-08 season), Boston is 8-0 in Game 5s when the series is tied 2-2.

The Heat, however, have been very comfortable at home against the Celtics recently. Miami is 6-1 at home against the Celtics in the postseason all-time, and according to Elias, Miami’s current six-game home postseason win streak against Boston is its longest against a single opponent in franchise history.

The Game 5 winner has gone on to win the series 83.5 percent of the time when tied 2-2.

Miami has certainly been more comfortable at home this postseason, averaging 100.4 points compared to 91.0 on the road. That's crucial, considering the Heat are 7-0 this postseason when scoring at least 100 points, and were 25-4 in such games during the regular season.

The focus for Miami will again likely be in the closing seconds. Dwyane Wade and Udonis Haslem each missed game-tying and go-ahead attempts with under 24 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter and OT in Game 4, and the Heat are now 0-for-10 on such shots in the last two postseasons. Overall, Wade is now 2-8 on game-tying or go-ahead shots in the final 24 seconds of the fourth quarter or OT in his postseason career, below the league average of 26.9 percent. By comparison, LeBron James is 5-14 (35.7 percent) in those situations.

What's more, Wade has been a slow starter this series. He is averaging just 5.5 points on 25.8 percent shooting in the first half of games against the Celtics, his lowest points average for a first half for any round in his postseason career.

The Heat are also hoping to activate Chris Bosh for Game 5. His status could be pivotal, as Miami is 5-1 this postseason in games Bosh has played, with a +13.2 points differential in that span.

On the other side, the Celtics have relied heavily on Rajon Rondo in this series. Boston has been much better with Rondo on the court, averaging more than 19 points per 48 minutes compared to when he’s been off the floor. According to Elias, Rondo has 13 double-digit assist games this postseason and 38 for his career, and when he takes the court tonight, he'll be looking for his 39th 10-assist game, which would break the all-time Celtics record originally held by Bob Cousy.

Rondo's postseason performance has also placed him in great company this year. He's averaging 17.4 points, 6.8 rebounds and 11.9 assists in 16 games this postseason, and according to Elias only one player in NBA history has averaged at least 17 points, six rebounds and 11 assists in 10+ games played in a single postseason (Magic Johnson did it six times).

Statistical support for this story from NBA.com.

History heavily favors the Miami Heat

June, 1, 2012
6/01/12
12:32
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Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE/Getty ImagesThe Miami Heat have never lost a seven-game series when they've won the first two games.
(The Boston Celtics host the Miami Heat in Game 3 of the NBA Eastern Conference Finals, Friday at 8:30 ET on ESPN.)

If history is any indication, then the Miami Heat will be in the NBA Finals for a second consecutive year.

Overall, teams that lead 2-0 in a best-of-seven series advance 94.3 percent of the time. Miami’s percentage in such scenarios is even greater. In franchise history, the Heat have never lost a seven-game series after winning the first two games (7-0).

As for the Boston Celtics, they have lost eight of nine best-of-seven series when losing the first two games. The only seven-game series they won after dropping the first two games was the 1969 NBA Finals against the Los Angeles Lakers.

However, Boston gets the next two games at home, where they are 6-1 this postseason. The Celtics have outscored their opponents by eight points per game at home, and, the Heat are averaging 91.0 points per game on the road this postseason -- almost a 10-point drop from what they are averaging at home (100.4).

Since losing back-to-back games against the Indiana Pacers in the conference quarterfinals, the Heat have won five straight games. And it’s how the Heat have come out of the locker room after halftime that has played a big part in their win streak.

In each of the last five games, the Heat have outscored their opponents by at least 10 points in the third quarter. In the first two games of the conference finals, Miami is +24 points in the third quarter, but has been outscored by six points the rest of the game.

As for LeBron James, he continues to put up big numbers. He’s had at least 30 points and 10 rebounds in the first two games of this series, and has five 30-10 games this postseason.

In his career, James has scored at least 35 points in four playoff games at the TD Garden. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, that is the most playoff games with at least 35 points for any player in that arena. Paul Pierce has scored at least 35 points in three playoff games at TD Garden.

However, much was made about the two go-ahead field goals James missed in the final 24 seconds of Game 2. James now has missed his last four game-tying or go-ahead field goals in the final 24 seconds of the fourth quarter or overtime of playoff games, dating back to his time with the Cleveland Cavaliers.

James is 0-for-3 on such shots with the Heat, but 5-for-14 (35.7 percent) in his postseason career. Not only is that percentage better than his teammate Dwyane Wade (2-7, 28.6), it’s much higher than the league average (27.0) over the last 16 seasons.

-- Ernest Tolden and Alok Pattani contributed to this post.

Game 1 crucial for both Celtics and Heat

May, 28, 2012
5/28/12
3:03
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Greg M. Cooper/US PresswireLeBron James averages 30.2 points in his postseason career in the Conference Finals.
The Boston Celtics and Miami Heat square off in Game 1 tonight (ESPN, 8:30 ET) in what is the third postseason meeting all-time between these two squads. Boston defeated Miami 4-1 in the 2010 First Round, while the Heat beat the Celtics last season 4-1 in the Conference Semifinals.

Tonight will be crucial, as the winner of Game 1 in the Conference Finals has gone on to win the series 80.0 percent (88-22) of the time in NBA history. The Celtics won the 2011-12 regular season series 3-1, but Mario Chalmers is the only one of the projected Game 1 starters to have started in all four meetings this season.

The Heat have performed well in these situations under coach Erik Spoelstra. According to Elias, Miami is 5-0 in playoff-series opening games at home under Spoelstra, and only four other head coaches in NBA history were 5-0 or better in series-opening home games: Doug Moe (8-0), Mike Dunleavy (6-0), Fred Schaus (5-0) and Bill Russell (5-0).

More good news for Heat fans: LeBron James averages 30.2 points in his postseason career in the Conference Finals, his highest scoring output of any postseason round. James has also averaged 27.1 points per game in 18 career postseason games against the Celtics.

Teammate Dwyane Wade has been even better against Boston, however. In 10 career postseason games, Wade averages 31.7 points against the Celtics, his highest against any team.

One aspect to watch for will be when the duo is in transition. James (72) and Wade (57) are ranked first and second in individual transition points this postseason, and the Heat are 7-0 this postseason when they score at least 14 transition points.

Boston, meanwhile, has had to combat history to even reach this stage in the playoffs. According to Elias, the Celtics are just the fourth team since the ABA-NBA merger in 1976-77 to make the Conference Finals after entering the All-Star break under .500. The last team to accomplish the feat was the Phoenix Suns in 1983-84 (lost to the Los Angeles Lakers 4-2 in the Conference Finals).

Much of the Celtics' postseason success has been thanks to Kevin Garnett, who has increased his offensive production this postseason. He is averaging a double-double, and has already recorded six games this postseason with at least 20 points and 10 rebounds.

Teammate Rajon Rondo has also been key, having recorded at least 11 assists in nine of his 12 games this postseason. Rondo also has nine career postseason triple-doubles, second-most among active players and tied for the fourth-most all-time. Rondo's nine triple-doubles have all come in the last four postseasons, and are more than all other NBA players combined over that span (seven).

Celtics, 76ers no strangers to Game 7

May, 25, 2012
5/25/12
9:30
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Brian Babineau/NBAE/Getty Images The Celtics and 76ers meet in a winner-take-all Game 7 in Boston on Saturday night.
The Philadelphia 76ers and Boston Celtics continue their storied playoff rivalry as they meet Saturday night (ABC, 8 ET) in Boston for the seventh all-time Game 7 between these franchises.

The Celtics own a 4-2 advantage in the previous six matchups, but the 76ers won the most recent game three decades ago in the 1982 Eastern Conference Finals.

Game 7 Stats To Know
History appears to be on the Celtics’ side as they are 17-4 all-time at home in Game 7s. They did lose their last such game in 2009 against the Orlando Magic, but they have never lost consecutive Game 7s at home. The Celtics are also 20-7 overall in Game 7s, the most such wins and second-best record in NBA history (min. five games).

The 76ers, on the other hand, are just 1-7 all-time on the road in Game 7s and haven’t played one since 1986. The franchise is 6-8 overall in Game 7s; the eight losses are tied for the most in NBA history.

Celtics Keys to the Game
The Celtics have yet to lose back-to-back games this postseason, having won all four contests following a loss. However, the Celts have not fared well trying to close out a series since the "Big 3" was formed entering the 2007-08 season. They are 10-13 in potential series clinchers (1-2 this postseason).

Kevin Garnett’s jump-shooting has kept the Celtics in this series. Garnett has made 26-of-55 (47 percent) jump shots from 15 feet and beyond. The rest of the Celtics have combined to shoot 30 percent from that distance this series.

The absence of Avery Bradley, who underwent season-ending shoulder surgery on Friday, is significant for the Celtics, as it takes away their best five-man lineup this postseason.

When Bradley, Rajon Rondo, Paul Pierce, Brandon Bass and Garnett have been on the court together, the Celtics have outscored opponents by 53 points. Their next-best lineup has outscored opponents by only 18 points.

76ers Keys to the Game
Philadelphia is looking to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time since 2001 and is trying to become the first No. 8 seed to reach the conference finals since the Knicks in the lockout-shortened 1999 season.

However, they will need to overcome history in order to make it to the next round.

The 76ers have lost each of the last 13 best-of-seven series in which they have trailed 3-2. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, that is the longest such streak in NBA history.

One of the deciding factors in this series has been the 76ers' ability to establish the pick and roll. In their three wins, they’re averaging 11 points running the pick and roll. In their three losses, they’re averaging eight points on 29 percent shooting.

Offense has been an issue in the playoffs for the 76ers, who are scoring 86.6 points per game, the fewest among remaining teams. The 76ers haven’t scored more than 92 points in their last 10 games, the longest single postseason streak of its kind since the Pistons in 2006 (11 games).

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