BOSTON – Down 0-2 to the New York Knicks, the Boston Celtics are in a desperate situation. If they don’t win Game 3 on Friday (8 p.m. ET, ESPN), they can start packing for their summer vacations.
The good news is that the Celtics were a much better team at home than they were on the road this season. In terms of winning percentage, only three teams had a bigger home-road discrepancy. And in terms of point differential, only five teams had a bigger discrepancy. One of those five was the Knicks, so that’s more good news.
Biggest home-road discrepancy, NetRtg (point differential per 100 possessions)
Here’s the bad news: The difference between the home Celtics and the road Celtics has been mostly on the defensive end of the floor, where they were 9.0 points per 100 possessions better at TD Garden than they were elsewhere.
Celtics efficiency, home vs. road
OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions
Over the course of the season, Boston was an elite defensive team in Boston and a mediocre defensive team outside The Hub.
Why is that bad news? Because the Celtics were pretty darn good defensively in New York, holding a team that scored almost 115 points per 100 possessions over its last 18 regular season games to just 100 per 100 in the first two games of this series. It’s hard to believe they can defend much better than that going forward. The Knicks scored 32 points in the third quarter of Game 2, but the Knicks are going to have their 32-point quarters, no matter who’s defending them.
If the Celtics are going to win at least one of these next two games, they need something close to a 32-point quarter for themselves … or at least something close to a 40-point second half. But playing at home hasn’t given them much of a boost on that end of the floor. They’re really a bad offensive team no matter where they play.
Back to some good news: 82 games of regular season data says that the Knicks aren’t nearly as good defensively as they were in the first two games. They regressed and ranked 16th on that end of the floor this year. And New York’s defense was 4.2 points per 100 possessions worse on the road. In particular, they didn’t force turnovers or defend the 3-point line as well as they did at Madison Square Garden. And those are two areas where the Celtics really struggled in Games 1 and 2.
The Celtics also have some guys who shot better at home. Jason Terry, in particular, seems to like the gym on Causeway St.
Celtics effective field goal percentage, home vs. road
Effective field goal percentage = (FGM + (0.5*3PM)) / FGA
So there is some hope for the Celtics to break through offensively, take care of the ball, make some shots, and score more than 25 points in the second half on Friday.
If they don’t, you can break out the brooms.