30 March 2012

A Statistical Comparison of the 1975-76 and 2011-12 Boston Celtics Teams

30 March, 2012 11.45 p.m. by Darcy Ireland.

In an anomalous twist to the general flow of this blog, I present a statistical analysis of the 2011-12 Boston Celtics team.

After winning tonight at Minnesota, the 2011-12 Boston Celtics team is 29-22 (in a lockout-condensed, 66-game schedule), one game ahead of the Philadelphia 76ers for the Atlantic Division lead, and has 15 games out of 66 yet to be played. At 29-22, the current win-loss percentage is 56.9%.

The 1975-76 Boston Celtics team, which was considered to be an aging, veteran one and won both the Atlantic Division title and the NBA title that season, finished the regular season at a record of 54-28 in a regular, 82-game schedule. At 54-28, the win-loss percentage here is 65.9%.

I found that the rough equivalent between the 66-game schedule and the 82-game one when the 2012 Celtics have 15 games yet to be played would be 19 games yet to be played for the 1976 Celtics. This finding would mean that the 1976 Celtics had already played 63 games when they had 19 games yet to be played. After the 63rd game, the 1976 Celtics, at 42-21, were at a win-loss percentage of 66.7%.

What I would like to know is what win-loss percentage should the 2012 Celtics accrue over the last 15 games of the season so that the total win-loss percentage for the 66-game regular season closely matches that of the 1976 Celtics.

So far, we know that:

(i) The 2012 Celtics (29-22) are at 56.9% after 51/66 games played;

(ii) The 1976 Celtics (42-21) were at 66.7% after 63/82 games played;

(iii) 51/66 very closely equals 63/82, thus justifying choosing the 63rd game of the 1976 Celtics regular season to use for this exercise; and

(iv) The 1976 Celtics (42-21), with 19 games yet to be played, finished the regular season (12-7), which is a win-loss percentage of 63.2%, for a total record of (54-28).

We wish to discover the answer to (v), which is what the 2012 Celtics must do to roughly equate their total regular season win-loss percentage to that of the 1976 Celtics, at 65.9%.

After some calculations, I found that the 2012 Celtics cannot do so, but can come close to doing so. One of two highly unrealistic possibilities could occur:

(a) The 2012 Celtics could close the regular season at 14-1 to close the regular season at (43-23), which would leave a win-loss percentage of 65.2%.

(b) The 2012 Celtics could close the regular season at 15-0 to close the regular

season at (44-22), which would leave a win-loss percentage of 66.7%.

By (a), the 2012 Celtics (65.2%) would finish slightly below its 1976 counterpart (65.9%). By (b), the 2012 Celtics (66.7%) would finish slightly above its 1976 counterpart (65.9%). As already stated, the chance that the 2012 Celtics can equal the win-loss percentage of the championship-winning 1976 Celtics is non-existent, but the current Boston team could come quite close to doing so.

As I said in passing, the chances that the 2012 Boston Celtics finish its last fifteen games at a pace of either 14-1 or 15-0 are non-existent, despite this team not only wresting control of the Atlantic Division title lead from the Philadelphia 76ers, but also winning six of its last seven games. I merely found a spontaneous opportunity to perform an exercise in statistical analysis regarding the Boston Celtics too good to pass up, especially considering the similarities between the 1976 and 2012 Celtics. How shall this season end? As the maxim goes, "Only time will tell."