The Boston Celtics’ 50th game of the season came and went in a 120-117 overtime loss against the New York Knicks. This was the third loss in a row for Boston. Injuries have started to slow the team’s progression down as we approach the All-Star break.
We rallied to force overtime against the Knicks, but we weren’t able to hold them off for the win. pic.twitter.com/OgSCAJNPZG— Boston Celtics (@celtics) January 27, 2023
After 25 games, we took a look at where the Celtics stood in specific areas using some key stats. Now at the 50-game mark, we will be doing the same. If you would like to read my first 25 game analysis, you can click here.
Where We Stand
When the Celtics had reached 25 games, they had a league leading 20-5 record. After 50, they still remain atop the league with a 35-15 record. They currently are 2.5 games ahead of the second place Philadelphia 76ers in the Eastern Conference.
After 25 games, the story of the Celtics was the offense. Mainly the three point shooting, which was first in the league with a 40.2% three point percentage.
Fast forward to today, that is now down to 37%, which ranks ninth best in the league.
Through 25 games, the Celtics were also the best offense in history with a 120.0 offensive rating. That has also taken a dip and now sits at 116.6, which is the third best in the league.
Let’s take a look at where Boston stands in terms of offense.
Boston Offensive Review
Let’s take a look at where Boston currently ranks in some key offensive categories:
- Points Per Game: 117.6 (4th)
- Field Goals Made: 41.8 (14th)
- Field Goals Attempted: 88.5 (14th)
- Field Goal Percentage: 47.2% (15th)
- Three Pointers Attempted: 41.7 (2nd)
- Three Pointers Made: 15.5 (2nd)
- Three Point Percentage: 37.0% (9th)
- Assists Per Game: 26.5 (6th)
- Turnovers Per Game: 13.6 (5th fewest)
When looking at these numbers in comparison to earlier in the season, one thing stands out. The shots simply aren’t falling the same way.
Boston has cooled off considerably compared to where they were 25 games ago. To be fair, this was always inevitable. The Celtics were shooting at a historic rate. It didn’t seem realistic that the team would shoot 40% from three all year. Especially at the rate that they chuck up threes.
That’s not to say the offense isn’t good anymore. The team is still one of the most efficient offenses in basketball. They just aren’t playing like one of the greatest offenses of all time anymore.
Jayson Tatum with a huge three. pic.twitter.com/EJJU12BB8r— Jamie Gatlin (@JamieGatlin17) January 20, 2023
It’s not just three point shooting, either. Across the board, shots aren’t falling like they used to. Boston went from 3rd in the league in total FG% to 15th in a 25-game span.
The team falling off on offense has definitely had an impact. After going 20-5 through the first 25 games, Boston has gone 15-10 since. Not bad at all, but not as good as it was.
There is a silver living, though.
As the league leading offense has slightly fallen off, the defense has slightly picked up. Perfect example of Yin and Yang in basketball. Offense begins to drop off, defense picks up the slack.
Celtics defense vs. Warriors – A Thread.— Adam Taylor (@AdamTaylorNBA) January 20, 2023
How could we not start with this transition block from Al Horford!?
In case you didn't know, this man is 36! pic.twitter.com/TX6J913QDq
It’s the reason why Boston has been able to keep pace as a league leader. Had the defense not picked up, this 25-game stretch could have gotten a little ugly.
Speaking of which, let’s now look at how Boston’s defense is performing:
Boston Defensive Review
- Defensive Rating: 110.9 (5th)
- Points Allowed Per Game: 112.1 (9th)
- Opponent Field Goal Percentage: 46.8% (10th)
- Opponent Three Point Percentage: 35.7% (12th)
- Opponent Second Chance Points: 12.9 (8th)
The defensive stats have all improved since the 25-game mark. Especially a big jump in defensive rating, from 15th to 5th.
Just like it was predictable that the offense would cool down, it was also predictable the defense would heat up. Boston was the best defensive team in basketball last season. It was only a matter of time that they found that form again.
Now, this defense is still not close to what last year’s was. Still has a ways to go to get there. However, the team is on the right track defensively.
That was of course, until the Marcus Smart injury. Injuries are truthfully one of the big reasons for the defensive regression this year. Most of the season, it’s been big man Robert Williams‘ absence that has hurt the defense.
It still is, as Williams struggles to stay on the court. Now, with the Smart knee injury thrown in, the defense could begin trending back down. I believe you’re already seeing it begin. Hopefully this won’t be the case, especially seeing as the defense has finally picked up
Boston Celtics since Marcus Smart got injured:— NBA Muse (@NBAMuse24) January 27, 2023
— 0-3 Record
— 25th in offensive
— 14th in defense
— 2nd in Turnovers
— 29th in FG%
— 18th in 3P% pic.twitter.com/EPDb8P8ejP
The Rob Williams Effect
When I wrote this article at the 25 game mark, the Celtics were yet to play with starting Center Rob Williams.
I said that two weakness points at the time were offensive rebounding and overall rebounding in totality. I also noted not to worry about that too much, because the addition of Rob would surely help that.
Through 25 games the Celtics stood at 25th in the league with 42.4 rebounds per game. They were also 27th in the league with 8.2 offensive rebounds per game.
The Celtics now sit at 7th in the league with 44.7 rebounds a game, and are 22nd in the league with 9.7 offensive rebounds per game. Safe to say, Rob has helped fix that problem.
The Celtics also had a slight bump from 12th in the league to 5th in the league in blocks, with 5.4 blocks per game. This of course another domino of Rob returning.
It’s become very evident how important Rob is to this team’s success. Boston proved they can maintain without him, but he’s a difference maker. When he’s on the court, Boston is clearly the best team in the NBA.
Keeping him healthy must be a priority. The team’s championship hopes honestly depend on it.
With 32 games left, the Celtics are still the favorite to win the NBA Finals at +390 odds, according to FanDuel.
Sitting atop the league at 35-15 with both a top five offensive rating and defensive rating, the Celtics are still rolling through 50 games. Even if they are currently on a three game losing streak and showing slight signs of decline.
Leading the league in wins was not, and is not the goal for the 2022-23 Boston Celtics though. It’s a cool thing for sure, but the mission has been clear from Day 1.
This team is focused on a championship, and won’t be satisified with anything less. That’s what the goal is, and it’s an achievable one for this team. The road to the Finals carries on.
Until then, 32 more regular season games await. Starting tomorrow night against the longtime rival Los Angeles Lakers, the home stretch of the season officially begins.
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