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20-game rule: The Celtics are officially great (Part 2)

Sometimes statistics don’t lie - the case for greatness through 20 games

Boston Celtics v Cleveland Cavaliers Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images

“I like math.” - Joe Mazzulla

This is a continuation of my 20-game rule article where I wanted to focus solely on statistics (because there are a lot of them). All stats from the stats site.

Starting with the team’s record. 16-4 means they are winning 80% of their games. That puts them on pace for 65.6 wins (feel free to round up) over an 82-game schedule. They are first in the standings for the whole NBA. Not too shabby.


The Celtics offense is (as the kids say) a wagon.

  • 120.4 points per game (1st)
  • 119.9 Offensive Rating (1st)
  • 62.5 True Shooting % (1st)
  • 58.5 Effective FG% (1st)

via John Schuhmann

The Celtics’ 119.9 points scored per 100 possessions are 2.6 more than the highest mark in league history (that of the 2020-21 Nets) and 8.1 more than the league average, what would be the third biggest differential in the 27 seasons of play-by-play data. Though this has been the most efficient season in NBA history league-wide, there are two teams — the Hawks and Bulls — who’ve only once scored at least 119.9 per 100 in a game this season.


Much has been made (including by myself) about the step back in defensive prowess. What that really means is that the Celtics were historically great last season and ...are not this season. Some of that is due to missing Robert Williams III and some of it seems to be the emphasis and effort devoted to offense this year.

  • 112.2 Defensive Rating (17th) - note: they are 9th in the league over the last 15 games
  • 5.6 Steals (30th)
  • 5.4 Blocks (11th)
  • 15.7 Opponent points off turnovers (5th)
  • 13.2 Opponent second chance points (12th)
  • 12.0 Opponent fast break points (7th)
  • 48.0 Opponent points in the paint (14th)

Net Rating

  • 7.7 Net Rating (1st)
  • 7.1 Plus-Minus (1st)


  • 49.0% FG% (4th)
  • 40% 3 pt FG% (1st)
  • 47.4% Percent of shots taken from 3 pt (3rd)
  • 16.4 3 point makes off of 40.9 attempts (both 2nd in the league behind the Warriors)
  • 85.2% FT% (1st)

Ball Movement

  • 26.7 Assists (11th)
  • 62.9% Assist % (10th)
  • 2.03 Assist to Turnover Ratio (2nd)


If there’s room for improvement anywhere, it might be in team rebounding (something Robert Williams III might help a bit with).

  • 41.8 Rebounds (25th)
  • 49.2% Rebound % (21st)
  • 22.5% Offensive Rebound % (29th)
  • 73.4% Defensive Rebound % (6th) - silver lining there


I know that turnovers are still a sensitive subject given how the Finals played out. Sometimes they still crop up from time to time, but in the aggregate the numbers are very respectable.

  • 13.2 Turnovers (4th)
  • 13.1% Turnover % (4th)
  • 15.7 Opponent points off turnovers (5th) - repeated from above

Bottom Line

There are some nits you can pick and areas of growth you could point to with this team. Sometimes winning in the regular season can cover over bad habits that could bite us in a playoff series. That will be up to the coaching staff to work on over the last 34 of the season.

Still, a fully healthy Celtics team could be quite the force in the playoffs. They’ve shown that they can beat teams in a variety of ways. They’ve shown their offense is a machine. There’s even reason to believe that (when they need to) they can reach back and capture that smothering defensive identity from last year as well.

Overall, it is hard to find fault with a 1st place team. But that’s just the first 20 games. Here’s hoping they can win the last game of the playoffs this time through.

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