It certainly hasn’t taken very long for the Boston Celtics to prove that last season’s run to the NBA Finals was no fluke. The Celtics have been far-and-away the best team in the Eastern Conference since the start of the 2022-23 regular season. Led by the dynamic All-Star duo of Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, and anchored by Marcus Smart, Al Horford and newly-acquired Malcolm Brogdon, the Celtics once again look poised for another deep postseason run.
After a perfect 3-0 start, the Celtics proceeded to drop three of their next four games, but followed up their third loss of season with a nine-game winning streak. After that winning streak ended at the hands of the Chicago Bulls on Nov. 21, Boston rallied for victories in eight of their next nine and they’ve been cruising ever since.
There is optimism that Massachusetts sports betting will launch in the first quarter of 2023, with March looking like a realistic time frame. Once it goes live, customers will be able to place wagers on their favorite teams like the Celtics, New England Patriots, Boston Bruins and Boston Red Sox.
The available sportsbooks in Massachusetts will include DraftKings, BetMGM and FanDuel. Interested customers should keep an eye on the special sign-up bonuses/promo codes that these sportsbooks usually offer upon launching in other states.
Offense, Not Defense, Is Driving The C’s This Season
There’s been one notable change in the team’s success under head coach Joe Mazzulla compared to the 2021-22 season under Ime Udoka. Last year, Boston was 12th in points per game (111.8) and eighth in offensive rating (114.4). They were largely carried by an elite lockdown defense that allowed the fewest PPG (104.5) while also boasting the second-best defensive rating (106.9).
But it’s basically been all offense for the Celtics this season. The defense has taken a bit of a step back, but through their first 37 games, Boston carried the league’s best offense (118.6 PPG) and the No. 1 offensive rating (118.1).
Smart, the reigning Defensive Player of the Year, is having another strong season for Boston at both ends of the court. It’s easy to overlook that, of course, because both Tatum and Brown are having career years offensively. If the Brown-Tatum keep it going, they’ll go down as one of the best duos in NBA history.
Offseason trade acquisition Brogdon has also provided much-needed scoring and play-making from the guard position, something this team lacked in its NBA Finals loss to the Golden State Warriors.
I enjoyed Malcolm Brogdon dribbling like my son’s kindergarten team for a moment. pic.twitter.com/M5k0C02Gtz
— Tom Westerholm (@Tom_NBA) January 4, 2023
Derrick White, Al Horford, Grant Williams and Robert Williams III have also given the C’s some pivotal scoring depth to help take the workload off Tatum and Brown when necessary.
Defense has been sacrificed a bit with Mazzulla taking over as Boston’s head coach following Udoka’s suspension. But the Celtics just keep piling up the wins under their new head coach, so there’s no reason for Mazzulla to adjust his system.
Boston won last year with the league’s best defense. This year, they’re winning with the league’s best offense. The NBA is an offense-driven league, after all, so the Celtics have good reason to stick with what’s working: By letting the Tatum and Brown scoring duo lead the way each night.
Celtics Are The Team To Beat This Season
The Celtics are the heavy betting favorites to win the 2023 NBA Championship at multiple sportsbooks, including FanDuel (+350), and DraftKings (+360).
One thing working in Boston’s favor? The Eastern Conference certainly isn’t as deep as it was last year. The Philadelphia 76ers, Toronto Raptors and reigning conference runner-up Miami Heat have all taken considerable steps back this season, and none of them look like a team that could make some serious noise in the postseason.
Boston’s main threats in the East are the red-hot Brooklyn, Nets, the Milwaukee Bucks and the Cleveland Cavaliers. But the C’s swept the Nets in the opening round of last year’s playoffs, so we know Boston isn’t exactly scared of the Kevin Durant-Kyrie Irving duo.
KYRIE IRVING. 🔥🔥🔥
— Hoop Central (@TheHoopCentral) January 3, 2023
If you look at the Western Conference, the defending champion Warriors are struggling to get above .500 thanks to some inexplicably awful struggles on the road. The Phoenix Suns have also struggled with consistency, and the Los Angeles Clippers will only go as far as a healthy Kawhi Leonard will take them.
Boston is the most well-rounded team in basketball right now. They’re playing with so much confidence and poise, and as we saw in last year’s run, they simply aren’t afraid of the big moments.
At this point a year ago, it was unfair to label 2021-22 as “championship or bust” for the Celtics. But after falling just two games short of a championship a year ago, it is indeed title or bust for Boston in 2022-23.