NBA

Tatum and Boston's dynamic trio – Celtics season review in Stats Perform data

By Sports Desk October 14, 2020

The 2019-20 season saw the emergence of Jayson Tatum as a genuine star.

Tatum – the third pick in the 2017 NBA Draft – turned potential into performance as he capped a memorable campaign with All-Star honours for the first time in his career.

An elite scorer, Tatum was at the forefront of everything good about the Celtics before and after the coronavirus pandemic.

But, the Celtics still lost in the Conference finals for the third time in four years – beaten 4-2 by the Miami Heat at Walt Disney World Resort – after finishing third in the east with a 48-24 record.

The Celtics are yet to reach the NBA Finals since 2009-10, while the historic franchise have not got their hands on the Larry O'Brien trophy since the Doc Rivers era in 2007-08.

As the Celtics reflect after watching the Los Angeles Lakers equal their record for most championships (17), we review the team's 2019-20 campaign using Stats Perform data.

 

Boston's dynamic trio

Kemba Walker's arrival in Boston helped create a formidable trio alongside Tatum and Jaylen Brown.

After spending his entire NBA career at the Charlotte Hornets, four-time All-Star Walker opted for a new challenge via free agency by committing to a four-year, $141million contract with the Celtics.

As a result, Terry Rozier left the Celtics for the Hornets in a sign-and-trade last year.

Since investing in Walker, the Celtics have put together a stellar trio, which became just the second group of three team-mates in NBA history to average 20-plus points and 2-plus three-pointers made per game apiece in a season (minimum 50 games played).

Walker averaged 20.4 points and 3.2 three-pointers made per game during the regular season, to go with Tatum (23.4ppg and 2.9 3pm) and Brown (20.3ppg and 2.3 3pm).

The only other trio to do so were the Golden State Warriors' Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson in 2017-18.

 

Tatum joins elite list

It was a coming of age for Tatum, much to the delight of the Celtics and all those connected with the team.

Tatum cemented himself as one of the best players in the league by averaging 23.4 points, 7.0 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game – up on his 2018-19 averages of 15.7ppg, 6.0rpg and 2.1 apg.

The 22-year-old also enjoyed a fine playoff campaign, becoming only the third player in NBA history to average 25.0-plus points, 10.0-plus rebounds and 5.0-plus assists per game in a single postseason with 15 or more games played.

Lakers superstar LeBron James (in 2014-15 and 2019-20) and Boston's Larry Bird (in 1983-84 and 1986-87) are the only other players to reach the feat.

 

Lack of depth

For all of Boston's good work and impressive starting five, their lack of depth was exposed in the playoffs.

The Celtics relied on their starters more than any other team in the postseason at 83.3 per cent with 1,549 of their 1,859 points scored by the starting five, ahead of the Philadelphia 76ers (83.1 per cent), Indiana Pacers (82.6 per cent), Houston Rockets (77.3 per cent) and Portland Trail Blazers (76.5 per cent).

As for the portion of minutes played by starters in the postseason, the Celtics (75.0 per cent) again topped the list ahead of the Pacers (72.2 per cent), 76ers (72.0 per cent), Utah Jazz (71.8 per cent) and Rockets (70.9 per cent).

The Celtics had fewer than 25 bench points in each of their last 15 playoff games this year, one of the longest streaks in a single postseason in the past 35 years, only behind the Detroit Pistons (19 in 2005) and Pacers (17 in 2013).

The problem of a thin bench was likely exacerbated by the number of close games the Celtics played in, since teams usually need their best players on the floor for longer periods of time in tight encounters.

Boston had eight playoff games decided by five points or less, tied for second most in a single postseason in franchise history.

Also, this was the second consecutive year the Celtics had some issues with turnovers in the playoffs. After going plus-1.4 for turnovers in the regular season, Boston were then minus-1.4 in the postseason.

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    Zlatan Ibrahimovic has had a greater impact on Italian football than Cristiano Ronaldo, according to former Milan and Juventus head coach Alberto Zaccheroni. 

    The 39-year-old has made a considerable impact since rejoining Milan in January, scoring 11 goals in 20 appearances in the second half of the 2019-20 campaign.

    He has been in equally impressive form this season despite missing almost a month after contracting COVID-19, taking his tally to four goals in just two games with a double against Inter at the weekend. 

    One of the best strikers of his generation, Ibrahimovic spent two years with Milan earlier in his distinguished career, a stint that included securing the Serie A title in 2011. 

    Ronaldo, meanwhile, has been just as prolific since he joined Juve from Real Madrid in 2018, scoring 68 goals in 91 appearances across all competitions. 

    Zaccheroni, though, is in no doubt which player has had more influence on Serie A. 

    "I have coached great champions in my career, from [Oliver] Bierhoff to [George] Weah up to Adriano but the only regret I have is that I never trained Ibrahimovic," he told Il Giornale.

    "He is eternal and I still don't understand why he never won the Ballon d'Or.

    "In Italy, he has shifted the balance more than Ronaldo. It is no coincidence that many young players have grown exponentially since his arrival.

    "He doesn't just score. He transmits confidence to all his team-mates, carrying the team on his shoulders in difficult moments."

  • Was Lampard right to single out his keepers amid Chelsea defensive woes? Was Lampard right to single out his keepers amid Chelsea defensive woes?

    When Frank Lampard was questioned over Chelsea's poor defensive record in his tenure as manager, he suggested his goalkeepers were to blame.

    Ahead of Tuesday's home game against Sevilla, which will kick off the Blues' Champions League campaign, it was put to Lampard that his side were conceding enough goals for him to rank him among the club's worst bosses ever in that category.

    Indeed, Chelsea have conceded nine goals in their first five Premier League games this season – three coming in Saturday's 3-3 home draw with Southampton – and leaked 54 in the 2019-20 top flight, more than any other team to finish in the top 10.

    "I'm aware of the stats and the other stat is we have conceded second least shots," said Lampard.

    "That helps to narrow down the issue. It's something we are aware of with our recruitment and on the pitch with the players to make sure we set up well.

    "We want to concede less, as do all teams at the moment."

    As Lampard referenced with recruitment, Chelsea hope the signing of Edouard Mendy for around £22million from Rennes can solve their goalkeeping issues.

    But is the statistic he cites correct and to what extent can the other keepers, Kepa Arrizabalaga and Willy Caballero, be blamed for the club's woeful defensive record? We have used Opta data to find out...

    CHELSEA RANK HIGHLY IN PREVENTING SHOTS

    Since Lampard took charge at the start of last season, Chelsea have conceded 89 goals in 62 games across all competitions, an average of 1.44 per game.

    Of the 17 sides who played in the Premier League last year and this year, that puts Chelsea in the bottom half (11th of 17).

    The best two records, by comparison, are held by the two Manchester clubs, with City (61 in 65) and United (63 in 67) both averaging 0.94 goals conceded per game. West Ham are the worst, with 1.58 (79 in 50 matches).

    But, as Lampard suggests, there is a significant difference when it comes to shots faced.

    Taking all competitions into account, the Blues have faced 590 shots across their 62 games, an average of 9.52 per game.

    That ranks third of the 17 teams, only narrowly behind Manchester City (7.34 shots per game) and Liverpool (9.46), with Leicester City (9.76) the only other team facing less than 10.

    Of the shots Chelsea have faced, 215 have been on target, an average of 3.47 per game which ranks fifth of 17. 

    So, Chelsea have been reasonably effective in limiting the shots they face and the attempts their keepers have to save.

    However, 15 per cent (89) of opposing teams' shots have resulted in a conceded goal and by that metric, Chelsea are worst of all 17 teams.

    The best is Arsenal (eight per cent) and Manchester United also rank in single figures (nine per cent), so it seems Lampard has a point that his goalkeeping is the primary concern.

    KEPA STATS MAKE ABYSMAL READING

    Delving deeper into Opta's advanced goalkeeper metrics, we can look at expected goals and how their keepers rank in the goals prevented statistic.

    Unfortunately, it makes abysmal reading for Kepa. 

    There were 43 shot-stoppers who played a Premier League game since Lampard took charge of Chelsea and Kepa ranks last in goals prevented differential.

    In his 36 league matches for Chelsea since Lampard took charge, Opta's expected goals system projects the Spaniard should have conceded 39.21 goals. The actual figure was 51, giving him a goals prevented ratio of minus 11.79.

    For context, the next worst of those who played at least 25 matches in that time period, were England duo Nick Pope (minus 4.31) and Jordan Pickford (minus 4.17).

    Caballero also has a negative differential (minus 3.73), conceding nine Premier League goals from his six matches when his expected figure was 5.27.

    The best goalkeeping performance in that time has come from Tottenham captain Hugo Lloris (plus 9.87 goals prevented), closely followed by Martin Dubravka (plus 8.57), Dean Henderson (plus 8.35) and Vicente Guaita (plus 7.97) – with those four ranking well clear of the rest.

    As a team, Chelsea have conceded 63 in the league since August 2019, while the expected figure is 44.74, their minus 18.26 differential being far and away the top-flight's worst.

    Southampton are next worst at minus 9.91, while the best record is held by Sheffield United, who conceded 46 when they were expected to concede 56.59, giving them a plus 10.59 ratio.

    The poor goalkeeping is highlighted further when looking at Chelsea and their big six rivals.

    Chelsea (44.74), City (44.34), Liverpool (44.67) and United (46.61) all rank similarly for the Premier League goals they would have been expected to concede since the start of last season.

    By contrast, Arsenal (62.73) and Tottenham (62.72) rank more poorly.

    However, the actual figures show Chelsea (63) conceded the most of the big six, more than Arsenal (54) and Spurs (55), who were boosted by the positive differentials and fine performances of Bernd Leno, Emiliano Martinez and Lloris.

    City (42) fared best, with Ederson (plus 4.47) ranking well, while Liverpool (46) United (48) finished up relatively close to their expected figures, all highlighting just how badly Chelsea have been let down between the sticks compared to their nearest competitors.

    Chelsea will hope Mendy, once fully fit and settled, can resolve their goalkeeping woes, as it is clear the data backs up Lampard's statement.

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