The most encouraging stat for Boston Celtics' title hopes

Philadelphia 76ers v Boston Celtics
Philadelphia 76ers v Boston Celtics / Adam Glanzman/GettyImages

The Boston Celtics have been consistently good all season long, which is reflected in their 46-12 record, and they’ve been impressive on multiple fronts. They currently average 120.7 points per game, good for fifth-most in the NBA, while having the best offensive rating and second-best defensive rating.

Those stats signify that the offseason moves made by the Celtics have been worthwhile, and that’s why they’re the favorites for the title. But the most encouraging number to look at should be their record against teams above .500, which is 24-11. That is a winning percentage of 68.5, which is currently the best in the NBA. The next closest teams are the Minnesota Timberwolves (23-12) and Oklahoma City Thunder (22-12.)

This record sets the Celtics apart from other contenders in the Eastern Conference. Out of the top six teams in the East, only the Celtics and Bucks hold positive records against these winning teams. 

The second place Cleveland Cavaliers are 14-17, and even the New York Knicks, who, in the eyes of many, have emerged as contenders in the East, are 12-22 in such games. The Western Conference, which is objectively strong, is more competitive when looking at these numbers.

Out of their top 6 teams, the Phoenix Suns are the only ones to be even (16-16) against teams above .500. Luckily for the Celtics, that's something they wouldn't have to worry about until the NBA Finals, if they were to make it.

Why is this important for Boston Celtics' title hopes?

In the playoffs, the Celtics could have a chance to play a team like the Bulls or Hawks, who are both under .500 but would be in the Play-In Tournament if the season ended today. But outside of that, the Celtics are obviously going to match up against teams with a winning record. Even if they weren’t, their 22-1 record against teams below .500 is maybe even more impressive. 

Every sport has teams that have successful regular seasons but then falter come playoff time when the competition increases. In the NFL, you can look at the Miami Dolphins or Dallas Cowboys, in the MLB, it’s the Los Angeles Dodgers; and in the NBA, you can just look back at last year's playoffs.

In the West, the Memphis Grizzlies were the second-seeded team, taking on the seventh-place Los Angeles Lakers. If we look back at the Grizzlies record against teams above .500 for that season, they were just 24-23. They ended up losing that series against the Lakers four games to two.

In that same round, the third-place Sacramento Kings were up against the sixth-place Golden State Warriors. The Kings were 22-26 against winning teams and, despite taking it to 7 games, lost the series. 

You can make the argument that those teams were young and were playing against LeBron James and Steph Curry-led teams that have obviously been there before. Regardless, it can’t be overlooked as you simply need to be able to beat good teams when it matters.

The Celtics, however, are equipped with both playoff experience and in season success against good teams. This 24-11 record is impressive and very encouraging for the Boston Celtics as they look to acquire banner 18.