The Little Engine That Could.
The Tortoise & The Hare.
Your 2022 Boston Celtics.
But maybe the story of this season shouldn’t be the subject of parables. There were some ugly parts not suitable for children. In the beginning, there was Smartgate and a public undressing of the team. A 10-5 stretch after a team meeting/dinner/gathering righted the ship. Then a west coast trip sank them. Omicron in December kept them barely treading water.
But at the turn of the new year, everything changed. Yes, the schedule lightened up, the team got healthy, and the trade deadline netted Derrick White and Daniel Theis. A 20-8 run since January 1st anchored by the league’s best defense and buoyed by a top-10 offense has FiveThirtyEight and Basketball Reference listing the Celtics with the highest probability of winning the Eastern Conference.
“I think I can, I think I can, I think I can...”
“Slow and steady wins the race.”
Well, the bettors have a different opinion.
According to our friends over at DraftKings Sportsbook, Boston’s outlook isn’t that much different than their current standings. Despite their strong play, the Celtics still sit sixth in the conference based on wins and losses and are in a similar pecking order odds-wise. They’ve separated themselves from the play-in tournament and added their name as a feisty East contender, but betting odds still see them as a bit of an outsider. DraftKings has them as a +950 (on March 1st) to rep the East in The Finals.
So, there seems to be a disconnect between how advanced metrics view Boston's dramatic improvement from the start of the season and bettors' outlook of their postseason chances. The Ringer’s Zach Kram suggests that Boston’s poor record in the clutch (11-18) and inconsistent offense could doom them come playoff time. They’re a relatively young squad in a conference littered with veteran-laden teams.
However, despite all the nitpicking, it’s hard to argue that the defense we’ve seen over the last two months won’t translate in April, May, and June. And for what it’s worth, what gets largely unmentioned is their development offensively. Since January 1, the Celtics sport an offensive rating of 113.9, nearly six points better than their effort through their first 36 games. They’re also the only team in the East with a winning record against teams that are above .500. Whether you believe in the computers or Vegas, that has to amount to something.
Check out DraftKings Sportsbook, the official sportsbook partner of SB Nation.