An interesting trend has developed with this team in the early goings of this season. They tend to come out cold (in some cases falling behind by double digits) but finish strong (often in dramatic fashion).
That isn’t just anecdotal either, the stats bear it out (small sample size disclaimer).
But what we’ve seen thus far is a group that will struggle on the boards, but play a scrappy brand of basketball that will keep them in most games. And as the game goes on, their play at both ends of the floor seems to get better. One of the more telling stats about this Celtics team is the stark contrast between their offensive rating in the first half of games (91.4, dead-last in the NBA) versus the second half (122.7, tops in the league).
Even though the offensive goes from worst to first from one half to the next, the defense has been solid, with a defensive rating that ranks among the top 10 in both first and second-half play and overall, and is ranked ninth (101.4) in the NBA.
I think that this is one of the reasons why this team is establishing a reputation for being strong willed and resilient (not to mention FUN). The pragmatist will point out that if the team simply didn’t struggle early on, they wouldn’t need to push so hard to come back. However, I think these early season pendulum swings have bonded the team faster than a few easy wins would have.
This is the part of the article where I am contractually obligated to compare this year’s team to last year’s. Insert your own colorful analogy describing the way the team handled pressure last season (house of cards, wet paper bag, etc.).
It is still early and there’s a lot of miles between now and the start of the playoffs, but this ability to buckle down and finish strong is a great potential sign of things to come.