NBA

Celtics’ drastic improvement in crucial category is one of many reasons why they’re NBA title favorites

Celtics drastic improvement in crucial category is one of many



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There are a lot of reasons to think that the Boston Celtics can win the NBA championship this season. Jayson Tatum has elevated his game to new heights to the point where he is in serious contention for MVP. Jaylen Brown continues to prove that the hierarchy in Boston goes 1A and 1B between him and Tatum. Joe Mazzulla has coached the Celtics to the best record in the league despite the offseason drama that surrounded the team. That’s all before getting to Sixth Man of the Year candidate Malcolm Brogdon, the ageless wonder of Al Horford’s game still proving crucial for Boston and so many other reasons that would take some time to list here.Β 

The point is, Boston is built to win a title, and the C’s have shown so far this season that they may be the team to beat. For much of the season the Celtics have sat atop the Eastern Conference rankings, stringing together wins at a rate unlike any other team in the league. In fact, the Celtics own two of the top-five longest winning streaks this season, racking up nine consecutive wins on two separate occasions. But it’s not just that Boston keeps adding to the win column, it’s how they’re getting these victories that stands out.

Of the 35 wins Boston has this season, 15 of those have come in clutch situations, meaning the Celtics are winning games within the last five minutes of games where the point differential is within five points or less. In total, Boston has played 20 clutch games this season, and have only lost five of them, which equates to a .750 winning percentage. That number alone is an impressive feat, but when you compare it to last season’s numbers, it’s an even bigger accomplishment for the Celtics.

2022-23

20

15

5

75%

2nd

2021-22

35

13

22

37.1%

29th

For a team that was near the bottom in the league in clutch win percentage, this turnaround is an important one for the Celtics’ championship aspirations. You can just add it to the list of many reasons why Caesars Sportsbook has them listed as NBA title favorites right now.Β 

Too often last season we saw Boston unable to finish off close games, and that reared is ugly head in Game 4 of the NBA Finals where the Celtics failed to close out the Warriors while leading by four points in the final five minutes of the game. Boston went on to lose the next two games, and while that can’t all be blamed on the Game 4 loss, the Celtics were up 2-1 in that series and would’ve been just one more win away from an NBA title.Β 

But so far this season, the Celtics have shown great poise in close games, often portraying a bend, don’t break mentality. One of the best examples of that came in Boston’s heated overtime win against the Warriors last week. The Celtics were down one point with five minutes remaining after climbing out of an 11-point deficit in the second half. Boston managed to force overtime and pull out the win on a night where four of Golden State’s five starters scored 20+ points. This came despite late-game turnovers and errors by the Celtics that almost cost them the win. If that was last season, Boston probably would’ve lost that game, getting frazzled by their own mistakes too much to focus on the win. But the Celtics have proven countless times — 15 to be exact — that this isn’t last season, and this team is showing improvement from those mistakes a year ago.

One area that stands out the most in that improvement is their field goal percentage. Boston shot just 40 percent from the field in clutch games last season, with an offensive rating of 97.7. The Celtics have since boosted that number to 46.3 percent, the seventh-best mark in the league, with an offensive rating of 115.9 this season.

While championship banners aren’t hung based on regular season stats, building these habits now are an important step in the process of winning a title. The Celtics are already considered one of the best, if not the best, teams in the league, and the progress they’ve made in winning close games this season only adds to the many reasons why they’re considered the favorites to win it all in June.

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