New first unit in focus

April, 8, 2013
4/08/13
12:12
PM ET
For the first time this season, the Boston Celtics trotted out their preferred starting 5 (well, of the remaining healthy bodies, at least) during Sunday's win over the Washington Wizards. After behind-the-scenes tests runs for much of the year -- and a mere 13 minutes of actual in-game action -- the return of Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce, coupled with the recent ascension of Jeff Green, allowed coach Doc Rivers to pair the trio with Avery Bradley and Brandon Bass.

The unit played 10 minutes together overall and finished plus-7 in plus/minus. How did Rivers think the unit looked in the short glimpse at the start of each half?

"I liked it at times; I didn’t like it, honestly, in the third quarter," said Rivers. "[The Wizards] started running a lot of guard action and we were getting lost... Early on in the first half, we kept losing one of their shooters because Jeff and Paul are not used to pulling in and getting back out. So what did we give up, 50 points in the first half or whatever? Fifty-two? And the second half was better. So we have to be better defensively with all the guard action then we were tonight.

"Other than that I liked it because it creates [mismatches for] one of the two guys [Pierce or Green]. I am surprised that, so far, even with Paul and Jeff at the 2 and 3, even without Kevin, [opponents have] put the smaller guy on Paul. Every time. And that surprised me."

Here's a look at the base statistics for Boston's first unit during Sunday's game:


The more encouraging numbers come in the advanced stats. Boston had an offensive rating (points per 100 possessions) of 111.2 and a defensive rating of 77.8. That's a sizzling +33.5 differential. Boston also had a solid defensive rebound rate (77.8 percent) during that unit's floor time, taking advantage of the overall size on the floor (all without sacrificing ball security with a low turnover rate).

But clearly we need a larger sample before forming any firm opinions (including against a team that's not as offensively anemic as the Wizards). But here's a look at the group's total base statistics in 23 minutes together this season (the unit is plus-1 in that span):


The advanced numbers through 23 minutes: An offensive rating of 116.2 and a defensive rating of 101.5. The emphasis now for that unit has to be on tightening up the defense and getting Pierce and Green comfortable in their new roles.

Here's a sampling of reaction from the players on the first unit about their first start together.

Said Bass: "I think it’s cool, man, for us to be big. It helps us with rebounding. I don’t know, we’ll see how it goes."

Said Pierce: "That’s gonna be up to Doc, whoever he decides he wants out there, but the key for us is to develop that consistency over the next week and a half, what we want to do and who we want to be going into the playoffs, and tonight is an example of that when we play the right way, when we defend, we score 107 points, score in the paint and we can limit the other team."

Said Garnett: "It doesn't matter what lineup's on the floor, as long as we're playing the right way. That's all my concern is. We need to make sure we're sharing the ball, playing as a team, giving up for each other, playing defensively, being one voice, one sound. Those are the things that're most important."

Statistical support for this post provided by NBA.com.

Chris Forsberg

Celtics reporter, ESPNBoston.com

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TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Jeff Green
PTS AST STL MIN
16.9 1.7 0.7 34.2
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsJ. Sullinger 8.1
AssistsR. Rondo 9.8
StealsR. Rondo 1.3
BlocksB. Bass 0.9