Advanced Scouting: Boston Celtics at San Antonio Spurs – Injury Updates and Ewing Theory statistics


Boston Celtics at San Antonio Spurs 7:00 CST March 31, 2011

The Spurs have picked up 4 consecutive losses while Tim Duncan is resting his ankle. Manu Ginobili contributed practically nothing to 2 of these contests while Tony Parker and Antonio McDyess sat out one game each. Although the Spurs have “struggled” finding wins as of late, it can be argued that they have played well and, in my opinion, face more manageable long-term issues than their opponent tonight.

The Boston Celtics are losers of 7 of their last 12. Their last 4 games consist of losses to Indiana, Charlotte and Memphis. Their only win over that stretch was a 3 point win over a Kevin Love-less Minnesota. Generally speaking, the big 4 have played in these contests. Rather, it appears that injuries to the bench and the downward-trending play of the starters, especially Rondo, has triggered many of Boston’s problems. (Jermaine O’Neal hopes to return tonight.)

Rondo’s assists per game have dropped from 16.7 in October (albeit over 3 games) to 13.4, 13.1, 11.1, 10.5 and finally 8.6 in March. He has averaged merely 7.2 APG over his last 10 games. Surprisingly, he has even relinquished his APG lead to Nash. His turnover rate has decreased moderately, but his ability to hit the jump shot has caught up to him over the past two months and his inside attempts are not falling at the same rate he enjoyed earlier in the season. Consequently, his +/- per game has dropped from around 10 prior to February to 2.5 over the past two months. (All stats courtesy of It is also worth noting that Rondo has been haggled by a hurt pinkie lately.

Spurs Injury Updates

Jeff McDonald reports that both Tony Parker and Antonio McDyess will return to the Spurs lineup for tonight’s game. Parker is officially listed as probable.

Manu Ginobili and Tim Duncan both participated in team practice on Wednesday. They were upgraded to questionable for tonight’s game.

The Spurs also play the Rockets tomorrow. I doubt all players involved will be full participants in both games, but it’s nice to know they seem available and there is a decent chance we can see some action from everyone.

Ewing Theory statistics

Bill Simmons popularized the term “Ewing Theory” to reflect a tendency of some teams to play better when their best player is out. (Ironically, Graydon Gordian touched on the subject a couple months ago.) There are some aspects of the Ewing Theory that are backed by statistics. Typically, as a player’s playing time increases, his production per minute improves. Often times the same happens when a player is given the time to fit into the offense and defense. However, it is important to remember that these factors are a very underwhelming part of the total picture and should only be expected in extreme circumstances. The Spurs have experienced this first hand in the absence of Duncan, etc.

Ironically, even looking at Ewing, I wonder how this theory was formulated. (Admittedly, I didn’t really follow the Knicks closely at the time.) Looking at time he missed, the Knicks generally fared much worse:


The most often quoted instance is the playoffs for the strike shortened 1999 season. That year, Ewing played well as the Knicks stunned the top seeded Heat in the opening round. They proceeded to sweep the Hawks in the following matchup. After splitting the first two against Indiana in the conference finals, Ewing missed the last 4 contests and the Knicks won in 6. They proceeded to get spanked by San Antonio 4-1 in the NBA finals. The Knicks 3-1 record against Indiana without Ewing is often viewed as the prime example of Ewing theory. Although the performance showed the Knicks were still capable without the 36 year old Ewing, it should be noted that the series could easily have turned if it wasn’t for a controversial 4 point play from Larry Johnson. As I said, I’m not the best source on this matter, but it just seems like an ironic twist to me.

Other identifiable potential sources of the Ewing theory:
1) The Knicks went 4-0 in games Ewing missed from 1988-1993
2) The Knicks were 3-0 without Ewing when he was a darkhorse MVP candidate in 1995.

Here are career Win/Loss records for several superstars split by games played and games missed during active seasons. Every situation I observed resulted in a better record for games in which the superstar played.

PlayerW-LW%DNP W-LDNP W%Difference

It is important to note that this is a very quick easy measurement. I would trust on/off +/- numbers much more than the above figures (or even same-season point differential in games missed).

For an example, here are just two of the many factors that should be considered:
1) Michael Jordan missed most of his time on terrible teams early in his career and no time when playing for the best team of his career during his first comeback. This causes his figure to be overstated. (Obviously, he’s still pretty good.)
2) Kevin Garnett missed most of his time while playing for the best teams of his career (the Celtics) and after his prime. His figures are therefore understated.
3) It’s tougher to improve a team that is already great.

Key Statistics

SRS ranks:

Boston: 5.13 (5th)
San Antonio: 5.91 (4th)

Player summary statistics from and

Boston Celtics Player Ratings 3-29

PlayerGMPGUSG%OrtgDRtgWS/482 Yr APM
Rajon Rondo6137.317.81041000.128-1.02
Ray Allen733620.11171040.1743.85
Paul Pierce7334.623.81161010.24.42
Kevin Garnett6431.522.3109950.194.76
Glen Davis6929.321.21001000.102-0.7
Kendrick Perkins1226.115.597990.0890.1
Nenad Krstic1725.118.31141020.163-2.31
Jeff Green172320.51091020.136-5.22
Shaquille O'Neal3620.719.9111980.174-0.23
Marquis Daniels4919.115.11021000.105-0.8
Delonte West1618.617961010.068-2.01
Jermaine O'Neal1718.116.794990.0742.25
Semih Erden3714.413.8107990.129N/A
Carlos Arroyo913.213.5941050.042-7
Troy Murphy1110.413101980.113-5.82
Sasha Pavlovic108.78.2661020.007-8.67

San Antonio Spurs Player Ratings 3-29

PlayerGMPGUSG%OrtgDRtgWS/482 Yr APM
Tony Parker7132.525.41131080.155-0.47
Manu Ginobili7330.726.31161040.1975.18
Richard Jefferson7330.615.51151080.113-0.55
Tim Duncan6928.3231101000.1656.32
George Hill6828.3181161070.136-1.94
DeJuan Blair7321.8201061000.135-0.81
Matt Bonner5821.7131271070.1493.83
Gary Neal7220.820.61091090.099-2.48
Antonio McDyess6718.614.91051030.1043.05
Tiago Splitter5312.417.51121030.145N/A
James Anderson2310.715.21141090.099N/A
Steve Novak188.4161451090.226N/A

Player trends, based on Efficiency per 48 minutes:

Boston Celtics Player Trends 3-29

PlayerSeasonLast 10Increase
Glen Davis19.921.81.9
Jeff Green19.520.40.9
Delonte West27.927.4-0.5
Ray Allen21.719.7-2
Paul Pierce26.924.8-2.1
Carlos Arroyo13.39.5-3.8
Nenad Krstic21.917.7-4.2
Kevin Garnett31.727.4-4.3
Sasha Pavlovic5.50-5.5
Rajon Rondo24.516.8-7.7

San Antonio Spurs Player Trends 3-29

PlayerSeasonLast 10Increase
Tiago Splitter23.729.65.9
James Anderson15.220.85.6
Steve Novak25.530.55
Tim Duncan32.735.83.1
DeJuan Blair27.9280.1
Antonio McDyess23.123.20.1
Manu Ginobili28.327.9-0.4
Gary Neal18.616.1-2.5
George Hill21.518.4-3.1
Richard Jefferson17.614.5-3.1
Tony Parker26.823.3-3.5
Matt Bonner19.815.2-4.6

Lineup data
Most valuable/utilized lineups:

Rondo, Allen, Pierce, Davis, Garnett +124 in 419 minutes (+16.2 per 100 possessions)
Rondo, Allen, Pierce, Garnett, Kristic +24 in 247 minutes (+6.7 per 100)

Parker, Ginobili, Jefferson, Blair, Duncan +147 in 669 minutes (+10.4 per 100)
Parker, Ginobili, Jefferson, McDyess, Duncan +36 in 161 minutes (+11.1 per 100)
Hill, Neal, Ginobili, Bonner, McDyess +67 in 105 minutes (+35.3 per 100)
Parker, Hill, Ginobili, Bonner, Duncan +49 in 55 minutes (+39.0 per 100)
Parker, Hill, Neal, Bonner, Blair +9 in 40 minutes (+16.5 per 100)

The Pick


The Spurs might not be 100%, but apparently neither are the Celtics. If neither Ginobili nor Duncan plays, I would lean towards the Celtics.

  • Hobson13

    March 31st, 2011 at 5:55 pm
    “Man, this is the same thing that happened in Boston. The Celtics just hit jumpshot after jumpshot after jumpshot. It’s unbelievable”

    Those jumpers were so open that I could have hit 80% of them. You can’t give a terrible team that many open 17 footers and the Celtics aren’t terrible. Point: It wasn’t great shooting, it was bad defense.

  • Flavor

    I like it when it supports my theory, but its total crap when it supports yours. =)

  • Titletown99030507d


    “Just change the friggin’ record. Yea we would all like to see Tiago play, we all know he’s a quality big and I understand that everyone has their own opinion but please there’s more to talk about on this team than Tiago”

    What a dumb a$$ don’t read my posts then, skip it, ignore it, go play with the cat do something but don’t come here and tell me what to post. And again excellent coaching by your coach. Classic! going back to the same ol sh*t. And I have to keep reminding people like you that Bonner can’t hit the side of a barn unless the farmer’s gone. 2 shots from 3 point land and he got them when there was nobody with in 10 ft of him. Are we going to have to wait 20 plus minutes for him to be wide open just to see him make two 3’s while his defense totally sucked and gave up more points than he made all for his grand total of 20 minutes? Hell no I don’t want to see it. I’m glad I did’nt spend money tonight on a crappy showing especially by the grand puba himself. What a waste. YES! 4 frikin minutes for Splitter not until almost the midway point of the 4th down by 9. Nice going Pop. Try warming him up earlier in the game like everybody else. No excuses for Pop/Bonner/ and Blair. That’s why Blair only played 10 minutes because he was also getting eaten up in the paint and getting shot over and can’t even make a shot under the rim. I could see if someone blind sided him and blocked his shot. NO the guy can’t even score under the rim. Your probably one of those Bonner /Blair fanatics. Well how do you feel now? As far as I’m concerned now they can play the whole da*n game from here on out because that’s what your getting.
    And I was right again – Splitter 4 stupid minutes as soon as Timmy gets back. Read everybody’s posts maybe you’ll learn something.

  • Titletown99030507d


    “I disagree. We need to get those 2 on track as the playoffs approach. What you are suggesting is to kill our depth to play your man crush the whole game…..which makes no sense.”

    Sarcasm dude, not the whole game how about at least 20 minutes? And uh man crush? Just want the better players on the floor. And oh by the way, your gonna have to give up that “Ménage à trois” with Blair and Bonner. Just aint working out man. Read the posts after this game.

  • DorieStreet

    Ray Allen plays 41 minutes, makes 3 baskets (1 3pter) and 6 FTs for 13 pts.

    Celtics hit only 2 3’s but still get 101 pts. somehow.
    Spurs shot almost 3 times as many 3’s – 29-11 -but only make 6 more- 8-2.
    24 points on 3’s but still lose by 10.

  • Titletown99030507d

    My glass was half full before the game , but after what I saw my glass happened to slip out my hands coming to total crash with pieces everywhere. What part of the 4th quarter did Pop not learn from his mistakes? I keep seeing Bonner and Blair in there game after game letting the lead disappear. What is this? Groundhog day? Stop it already. I won’t mention a certain 7 footer who only saw 4 minutes and comes from a country that’s south way south of the border and won an MVP in an other pro league because that would only infuriate I think maybe two posters here out of hundred’s. I’m not going to do it……Splitter.

  • DorieStreet

    March 31st, 2011 at 2:56pm

    RE: National media/TNT game coverage

    EJ, Kenny and Charles are on assignment covering the NCAA tournament per TNT’s new partnership with CBS Sports. Barkley would have torn the Spurs a new one with their effort in the 2nd half.
    After 1 minute into the 3rd- let the Celtics go 8-0; battled back to get a 4 point lead halfway through, then give up 14 straight points to fall down 10. And even though it was only a 7 pt. deficit to start the 4th, the Spurs never got back into it.

  • MSteele

    Dude you’ve got me all wrong I totally agree with you in the sense that I think Tiago should play ahead of Bonner and Blair, what I’m saying is that it gets a repetitive reading everyone of your posts and they’re always about Tiago. I get it Tiago is a good player and everyone knows it, you don’t need to keep bringing it up.

  • MSteele

    I know Pop doesn’t wanna risk injury but with a game like this Tony should be playing 40 mins, the Celts couldn’t stop him, if he wasn’t finishing he was atleast collapsing the defense and getting other players easy looks.
    On the other end of the court our defense was abysmal. PnR defense was embarassing at times. Yea you could say they were hot but on maybe 10 of their makes (jumpshots) there was not a SA player with 10 feet of them.
    I think we lost this game because we stopped being agressive and started settling for 3s. We had a few of their players in foul trouble early and then we started taking jumpshots. That being said a lot of the shots we were taking were open shots so it’s hard to get too annoyed at them.
    Why didn’t we go to hack-a-rondo earlier, their offense was clicking and that might have disrupted it. I’m not gonna say our season is over cause it’s not, we just need to pick up the energy on defense.

  • Titletown99030507d

    Since the time Timmy left the Golden State game to after this game these are the minutes, rebounds, and pts for the 3 bigs not named Duncan or Dyess.

    Bonner: 139 min, 23 rebounds, 42 pts

    Blair: 99 min, 25 rebounds, 30 pts

    Splitter: 118 min, 44 rebounds, 46 pts

    Bonner would have to play almost 270 minutes to equal Tiago’s rebound production. And Tiago still has him on points and Bonner gets his in threes. There is more disparity between Bonner’s and Tiago’s numbers. I’ll give Blair another 5 rebounds and 6 points because that’s what he’s been averaging in the last 5 games to make up for the one he missed and Tiago still has him on rebounds and points. It’s what has been happening lately what matters not the 3rd week of the season. That’s over with folks. Its time to really think about who you want on the court and much you want them on the court. Numbers don’t lie. For people bitching about Tiago posts get used to it or get a hobby.

  • MSteele

    Your preachin’ to the preacher here buddy, everyone knows he a good player and I agree with you that he needs to play a lot more than Bonner and Blair, my only point is that it gets pretty boring reading the same stuff since the start of the season. I’m not trying to be nasty or anything but this is a blog about the San Antonio Spurs not Tiago Splitter.
    And as you so correctly pointed out before this is a hobby.

  • Bry

    I don’t care how many shooters Boston has, that was just awful to watch. Rondo is absolutely not a mid-range shooter and he was hitting them like it’s his specialty. Just look at the numbers. They were not far apart in rebounds, turnovers and fouls. Just shooting… again. When Garnett and Rondo are killing you from outside, something is very wrong. I’m also thinking that Ginobili needs some rest. He’s looked nothing like the dangerous player he was early in the season as of late.

  • betsyduncan

    Tiago still looks lost out there. If he wants more playing time, he needs to be more intense and determined. Not being able to gather in that rebound and put it back was pretty weak.