Celtics Hornets Basketball

Jayson Tatum and the Celtics have won 23 of their last 30 games, overcoming adversity to turn around their season. Matt Kelley/Associated Press

The Boston Celtics have orchestrated one of the more impressive turnarounds in recent memory, transforming a below-average team into one that could make some noise in the playoffs.

But it’s been a process to get to this point. The Celtics have won 23 of their last 30 games, but the vibes weren’t always great. That’s perhaps the most impressive part about Boston’s streak: The Celtics overcame the adversity to put together a successful season.

Of course, the Celtics are still rough around the edges. They’re a bit ahead of schedule in terms of being a contender. They’re not a perfect team, but that chaotic-ness has worked well for them during their recent winning streak.

Boston still has work to do with 13 games left. It has a four-game trip where they’ll take on the Warriors, Kings, Nuggets and Thunder. It’s an opportunity to keep pace with the rest of the East.

Here’s a look at five stats that have defined the Celtics’ season thus far:

Defensive rating: 105.6, 1st in the NBA


The Celtics’ success this season comes down to their suffocating defense, which is best in the league overall. They’ve jostled with the Suns and Warriors for the top spot in the NBA, and currently boast that league-best mark.

The defense has been a season-long strength aside from a few games here and there. That unit’s been led by Marcus Smart, Rob Williams and Al Horford, though others should certainly get some credit.

Boston Coach Ime Udoka has tweaked his scheme based on matchups – smarter switches, putting Williams as a free safety and more – which has allowed the Celtics to thrive. The defense should translate well to the playoffs as Boston can forcibly slow the game to a grind.

Clutch games: 12-19 overall

It’s no secret that the Celtics’ early-season struggles were directly tied to their inability to finish games. At one point in the season, Boston was 7-16 in clutch games and just didn’t look like it had the juice as a closer. The numbers are a little better recently, as they have gone 5-3 in clutch games over their 23-7 overall streak.

There are certainly still some bumps, like in the Sunday loss to the Mavericks. An eight-game sample size isn’t enough data points to make a huge difference. Interestingly, Boston has blown out so many opponents it hasn’t had too many clutch-game reps in recent weeks.


The Celtics have found at least some success when they’re trying to close out games. That’ll be an interesting factor to watch for the rest of the regular season and playoffs. The game slows down in the postseason, and the Celtics will need enough buckets in crunch time if they want to make a deep playoff run.

Five-man starting lineup net rating: 22.8

The Celtics haven’t been able to boast their preferred five-man starting lineup all season, but when they do play, it’s been one of the best units in the league.

The lineup of Tatum, Brown, Smart, Williams and Horford have played 30 games together. Their net rating has been a plus-22.8. That’s the best mark in the league for any five-man lineup that has played at least 300 minutes together this season.

Offensive rating: 115.2, 7th in the league over past 30 games

The Celtics’ defense should rightfully get plenty of credit, but they’ve been far and away the best team in the league because of a potent offense, too. The Celtics boast a plus-12.3 net rating over the past 30 games, easily first in the league.


There are plenty of reasons the Celtics have improved offensively, but it comes down to improved ball movement and making shots. That wasn’t always the case earlier this season, but the Celtics have found some offensive flow to match their tough defense.

3-point percentage: 34.3%, 23rd in the league

Whenever Udoka talks about any depth additions, it always seems to come down to shooting. It’s what they were looking for with guys like Sam Hauser, Matt Ryan and Nik Stauskus. And there’s a reason for that as the Celtics haven’t been able to convert on 3-pointers this season.

There’s been multiple reasons for that, and the shots have generally started to fall recently. But guys like Tatum (33.7%), Brown (34.0%), Horford (31.6%), Smart (32.7%) are putting up a lot of shots, but aren’t converting many of their looks. If the Celtics can get some better shooting, they could overcome some of their other weaknesses.

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