Sunday, December 4, 2011

Celtics and the Short Season - Nov. 26, 2011

Posted on Twitter - November 26, 2011

To commemorate today, the return of the innocuous Celtics stat. One that starts the debate on whether a short season helps or hurts.

The first, is the sobering realization that the Celtics (and everyone else I suppose) have lost the first two months of the season, a period of the season they have dominated at historic levels the last four years.

CELTICS – NEW BIG 3 ERA (2007-2011)

Games before Christmas: 94 -14 (.870)

Games after Christmas:  140-80 (.636)

Translation; They Celtics have been a 71-win team before Christmas, and a 52-win team afterwards.

Now, is that a factor of the lights, home-heavy early schedule, fresh bodies?  It will be interesting to see which pattern holds in the first few weeks.

We still haven’t seen the new schedule, but it will likely feature a healthy diet of back-to-back games.  For the first two-plus years of the New Big 3 Era, there was a misconception that the older Celtics struggled.  It wasn’t the case, but in the last two years, and in particular the second half of last year, it seemed to be catching up with them.

Back to backs 2007-2009: 29-6 (.829) (.767 with rest)

Back to backs 2009-2011:  19-28 (.404) (.744 with rest)

Last 10 back to backs: 2-8

So while most have felt the short season would help the Celtics, I’ve been skeptical given the struggles last year in back-to-backs.  But let’s remember that the last time we had the truncated season, in 1999, the regular season was more like the NHL’s, a race just to make the playoffs where momentum, not home-court, ruled the day,  The Knicks, an 8-seed, went all the way to the Finals.

So does the 66-game season, in the Celtics 66th NBA season, help or hurt?

The real answer is, we have no idea because we don’t know what the Celtics will look like after the free-agent frenzy begins in two weeks.  But what we do know is that there’s NBA basketball again, so let debates like this begin.

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