Statistical Anomalies in Sports: Boston Celtics & Burnley FC

Statistical Anomalies in Sports: Boston Celtics & Burnley FC


When it comes to shooting, a Premier League
club like Burnley FC and an NBA franchise Boston Celtics shouldn’t have much in common.
In football, players uses their head and feet to weave a ball past 11 defenders into a goal
8 years wide and 8 feet tall. In basketball, players need to dribble and pass around 5
defenders before flicking the ball into a hoop 10-feet off the ground that’s just
18-inches in diameter. Yet despite these massive differences in the
sports, Burnley and Boston have one key thing in common: an unexplainable ability to make
opponents worse at shooting. In football, expected goals is a metric made
up of thousands of shot results to help us see when our favorite clubs are riding a hot
streak or simply just getting unlucky. For the past five seasons, Sean Dyche and his
famous low-block defense have been making this immensely valuable predictive stat look
foolish. With the exception of this year, Burnley has consistently outperformed their
defensive xG marks by a notable margin. In their impressive run to 7th in the table,
Burnley conceded just 39 goals despite an expected goals tally of 52.16. The year before
that, Dyche’s squad ran under an expected goal tally of 55.9 by conceding only 51 goals.
In the 2015-16 season, when Burnley was fighting their way back to the Premier League, the
club once again massively outperformed an expected goal tally of 49.3 by conceding just
35 goals across their 46-match campaign in the Championship. The previous year where
the club was relegated from the Premier League still saw them concede nearly six fewer goals
than expected — 50 to 55.6. No team in English football has consistently
overperformed their expected goal margin to such an extreme degree than Burnley has over
the four season previous to this one — the first in almost a half-decade where Dyche’s
team is actually conceding MORE goals than expected (43 as opposed to 40.98). Though those already skeptical of advanced
metrics will simply point out this is the problem with adding numbers to the beautiful
game, there was clearly something mystical about Burnley’s defending that the expected
goals metric wasn’t able to account for — allowing for Dyche to appear to be some
kind of defensive wizard. In reality, Burnley has clearly done something
different to defy expected goals the way they have. Things like how often Burnley defenders
block shots or pressure shooters offer partial explanations; as does Dyche’s emphasis on
simply putting as many bodies as possible between the shooter and the goal. But none
of those things completely explain how consistently opponents become worse shooters when sharing
a pitch with the Clarets. That same phenomenon holds true for the Celtics
as well, but almost to an even more puzzling degree. Over the past decade, the analytics
explosion has shown that when it comes to the NBA, 3-point “defense” is essentially
random — meaning no team or approach provides a consistent detrimental effect when it comes
to an opponent’s percentage on those shots. Yet go back to the start of this decade and
you’ll see Boston near the top of the league season after season in 3-point defense. From the 2010-11 season to this year, Boston
has never finished below 5th in the category. No other team has come even close to matching
the Celtics success when it comes to creating wayward attempts on the NBA’s most valuable
shot. During this nine year stretch, the most a franchise has finished in the top 5 is four
times — with the Golden State Warriors, Chicago Bulls, Houston Rockets and Indiana Pacers
— sharing that consolation feat. The natural reaction to this is to once again
credit the coach, an individual who must possess the same defensive dark arts as Burnley’s
English manager. The problem is this Celtics streak has persisted over two coaches. Doc
Rivers helmed the team from 2004-2013 and was followed by the club’s current coach,
Brad Stevens, currently in his sixth year in charge. One perhaps could assume that Stevens was
a Rivers disciple who took the reins from his old mentor, but that’s not the case.
Stevens was plucked from Butler University to oversee a rebuilding project in Boston
as Rivers and his staff found a new home with the L.A. Clippers. Along with that coaching shift came a drastic
turnover in personnel. Not a single player from Stevens first year in charge is currently
with the franchise. In fact, only one player — guard Marcus Smart — remains with the
team from even Steven’s second year on the sidelines. The next stop would likely be something environmental,
in this case, Boston’s home arena: The TD Garden. Whether it’s the floor, the lights
or seating, perhaps the Celtics had a built in home-court advantage. Generally, opponents have shot worse against
the Celtics this decade at the TD Garden than their own arenas. Rivers also experienced
some extreme home/road splits back to back seasons. During the 2011-12 campaign under
Rivers guidance, the Celtics ranked 1st in 3-point percentage defense at home and just
13th on the road. The following year, the last under Rivers, that split was even more
drastic, with the team ranking 19th away from the TD Garden compared to 2nd overall in their
cozy confines in Boston. The problem with associating the Celtics rebuke
of the norm to their home arena comes in the Stevens era. During the 2014-15 season, Boston
only ranked 14th in 3-point defense at the Garden while finishing second on the road.
And last year, the Celtics boosted the best defensive mark on 3-point shots away from
home in the entire league. As with Dyche’s Burnley club, explanations
for this statistical anomaly only get you part of the way there. The rest is open to
a wide range of possibilities. Including the fact that a football club in central England
and a basketball team on the east coast of the United States just might share a secret
quality to make their opponent’s shots go awry more than we should expect.

100 Replies to “Statistical Anomalies in Sports: Boston Celtics & Burnley FC”

  1. Great video , as a burnely season ticket holder I see the team week in and week out. The organisation and tactics can be seen from the stands , the back 4 are always bang in line to prevent through runs. The wingers join the full backs to give extra width in defence forcing the ball to midfield players outside the box. And yes teams take a lot of shots against us, but they are usually half chances and off target. This season has been hard with inconsistency in the back 5 , now Tom heaton is back and the back 5 is established the blockade has returned , coincidence I think not. Heaton is a vocal keeper again you can hear his shouts of "get up" "push" from the stands compared to Pope and Hart. For me this Is almost like a quarter back in American Football calling plays on the field, but Tom Heaton has an influence in the defensive line and formation with thr captains armband adding that motivation. Again great video , it's weird to be compared to one of the top Basketball Franchises of all time, we are only a small town team fighting with the big boys! And p.s Central England ain't us WE ARE SUPER BURNLEY FROM THE NORTH !!!!!

  2. Boston have lengthy athletic wings and a moving center that are defensively astute. So, they are able to switch onto any given
    opposition ball player and contest shots. They dont necesserily steal the ball. Also, the Boston celtics Culture of never say die at
    home is legendary. Players will literallly say over my dead body and in ine case meant it too.

  3. Burnley's low block was an efective defense against the league then. But now with fast attacking with precise passing across the
    lines and a VERY bad gk in joe hart, they have floundered. Sean dyche is not a magician, hes a manager who lacks the know-how
    to put in a creative offense or coach any offensive talent

  4. You may compare Kobe Bryant to Johan Cruyff in your next video. Kobe is a known critic of the AAU and has favored the youth academy system for basketball in Europe.

  5. I never thought I’d see the day when Marcus Smart and Sean Dyche we’re in the same video. I’ll be damned. Go Celtics.

  6. No wonder The Celtics got me interested with them when I was randomly watching basketball for god knows why and fell in love with how they played! Didn't have any knowledge about Basketball but really love how they're shaped up to defend and when attack as well! Really similar to Burnley! As a Fan of Burnley, the criteria mentioned about The Celtics resonates a little with Burnley. Coincedental? However great explainatory based video, enjoyed it! 😁

  7. Tifo Football is my favourite football channel. Now they're covering two of my favourite sports. Tifo Boxing next please

  8. do a vid on how dolan ruined the knicks by not letting d'antoni create a team around Jeremy Lin in 2012 instead of sticking with melo

  9. The Boston Celtics and Burnley FC, there are two teams I would of never imagined to be mentioned in the same sentence let alone share so many mutual qualities.

    Very, very well done video. Please keep it up.

  10. Oh wow – the brilliant Tifo football team have now made a channel on a sport I love equally if not more. I can't wait for more videos! If you guys want any inspiration, I recommend checking out 'inerdsome' – he does these brilliant, succinct timelines on NBA stories that I feel might interest you. Andy Hoops has also done a bunch of quality videos on a myriad of topics that are worth seeing.

  11. they have a smaller hoop. There is barely a regulation for hoop size. The hoop is just smaller, NBA players talked about that. And Burnley – their pitch is garbage. Random bounces etc add much more randomness to everything, so scoring goals becomes harder and is more about strength and headers and stuff like that, which most technically gifted teams simply don't have available.

  12. Quite a surprise to see Burnley FC compared to the great Boston Celtics. Couple of points: Since the turn of the year, Burnley FC are UNBEATEN in all Premier League games, recording 4 wins and 3 draws (a new club record for the Premier League). Many Clarets supporters (Burnley's nickname due to their shirt colours) point to the swap-in of Tom Heaton, one of THREE England Class goalkeepers in the Burnley squad. Whatever the reason, the stats are beginning to resemble those of earlier seasons where shot blocking, disruptive outfield pressure and outstanding goalkeeping make for a great defensive record. My second point is that Burnley are from the North of England, not central. You could say Burnley is in central Great Britain. Sorry for being pedantic. Keep up the good work!

  13. As an NBA fan from Burnley who has supported my football team all my life………. this video will do just nicely.

    ALTHOUGH we are in the north/north west of England. DEFINITELY not the centre 😝😝

  14. The most obvious explanation for why a team would be over performing their expected goals allowed would be that their keeper is better than commonly recognized.

  15. Unexplained ability?..it's called match fixing and bookmakers evil influnce on the game , particularly in the Premier League

  16. Compare Ole Gunnar Solskjær to Mike Budenholzer and José Mourinho to Jason Kidd. The changes for both teams have been somewhat similar in the incredible uptick in success with similar personnel using a different philosophy.

  17. The fact he's making this video and Burnley have already conceded 47 goals (at the time of me typing this) by February. Plus, they're only 3 points away from the relegation zone…

  18. The real reason is Tom Heaton, so unrated, should be England's number one. We were letting goals in for fun until he came back 7 games ago and haven't lost since (in the league)

  19. Honestly, numbers are the worst thing about basketball not because they're unimpressive, but because they don't tell the whole story. Like Russell Westbrook gets the rebound, but by being out of position on the transition, a slower player becomes the "link" player on the break and allows the opposing team to get back into position. As the PG/Playmaker, Westbrook should be out on the run when someone slow like Adams jumps up for the ball to allow the outlet pass to happen and to lead to a better scoring opportunity via the break. But does the number record that? No. It just records: "Defensive Rebound – Number 0, Russel Westbrook".

  20. I already loved your football channel, so the fact that you've made a basketball channel as well is great. Keep it coming guys. 🙂

  21. It's about hard nose defending, Rivers had Tom Thibodeau as his defensive coach who was considered the best defensive mind in basketball. Stevens is also a great defensive coach making his teams play physical defense and not allowing the opposition to run freely with open looks

  22. thank you so much. as someone who lives in NYC football and basketball are my top 2 favorite sports. the ignorant foreigners who bitch and complain and act like there’s only 1 sport is just as bad as the dumb americans who claim Football isn’t a sport. 2 sides of the same coin. very good work man keep it up. sooner or later basketball is gonna be really popular globally

  23. There is no secret to Dyche's methods, he does not allow his players to turn away from the incoming shots, if they flinch and turn away they will be on the bench next match. It has long been known that Burnley players have to accept that they will be required to put themselves in harms way to defend Heaton's goal and they practice it, a lot.

  24. Burnley: really above average goalkeeping? A way of defending that encourages late blocks?? I’d say a combination of Heaton and their defensive style.

  25. I'll tell you why I'd be worse at shooting against the Clarets. Because I'd be fucking terrified of those cunts ending my career in a clattering tackle. That's all there is to the video. Break a few people's legs and everyone will be too afraid of you to play well…

  26. Video has aged terribly. Lakers break franchise record on 3's made on the same day and Burnley has the second most goals allowed in the league. UR SHIT!!!

  27. This was all about "statistical anomalies" without any assessment of tactical approaches, as if statistics aren't driven and created by decisions made by the coaching staff and players. Can you show that this is a statistical anomaly and not the result of good defensive strategy and execution? No. Did you try? No. Did you explain your basic premises and assumptions, like that all three point defense essentially produces random results? No. Pretty poorly argued cases.

  28. well done video, excpet three point defense isn't random. Good, hard closeouts to shooters, or forcing poor three point shooters to shoot contested shots makes for good three point defense. as does running shooters off the three point line. Boston has always had good, rugged perimeter defenders, Rondo, Bradley, Crowder, Smart, Rozier, Brown. etc. Boston is a defensive team, and gameplans around outworking their opponents. Idk anything about soccer tho. lmao. that guy a wizard

  29. Considering how the Celtics are as I am writing this comment, sweeping the Indiana Pacers in the first round with an Indianan coach and an Indianan SF….it would be cool if you did a video regarding Hoosier Hysteria and Indiana's love affair with basketball.

  30. Comparison forced as hell. Better to stick talking about one single sport in order to be relevant.

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