The Boston Celtics are off to a blistering start to the 2022-23 NBA season. They hold the league’s best record at 11-3 and are riding a seven-game win streak after Monday’s triumph over the Oklahoma City Thunder.
The win over the Thunder was an eye opener for sure. After trailing for the majority of the game, by as many as 15 points, and looking completely lethargic on the parquet, Payton Pritchard and Marcus Smart lit a spark for the C’s and led them to a 126-122 victory.
Boston’s execution down the stretch on both ends of the floor pushed them across the finish line. During the fourth quarter alone, they forced OKC into seven turnovers, creating 10 points off of the giveaways. On the offensive side of things, the Celtics shot an efficient 66% from the field and made half of their three-point attempts.
Monday’s win encapsulated one of the biggest improvements that the Boston Celtics made so far in this young season, their ability to win close games. For the entirety of the 2021-22 NBA season, Boston was a team that fans couldn’t put a lot of faith in during tight contests. They ranked 29th (second worst) in the league during clutch time, which is defined as a game being within five points during the final five minutes. The C’s were a dismal 13-22 in such games last year, winning just 37% of the time. So far in the new campaign, they’ve won six of their eight clutch games. The only two losses came in overtime thrillers against the Cleveland Cavaliers. During the small sample size the 6-2 record is good enough for third in the NBA.
The statistical difference that jumps off of the page when comparing this season to last is the boost in field goal percentage. Boston bumped the number up nearly 13% from 40% last season to about 53% so far this season.
As far as improvements go, this may be the best category to make a jump in. Being able to win close games is a championship trait for sure. Teams tend to find themselves in more competitive games when playoff time rolls around in the spring. Late game execution was something that plagued Boston during the deep playoff run the team made last year, most prominently in Game 4 of the NBA Finals when they let a chance to go up 3-1 over the Golden State Warriors slip through the cracks. The writing had been on the walls throughout the season according to the aforementioned statistics. Even when the Boston were red hot during the closing months of the regular season they weren’t winning close games. They just kind of steamrolled whatever team was on the other end of the floor.
Now they are, and it could be indicative of something very positive for the Boston Celtics come June 2023.