We’re more than halfway through the 2022-23 NBA season and the pressure to make it to the playoffs increases with every game. Already, predictions are being made as to who will take home the Larry O’Brien Trophy this year.
The annual NBA playoffs are scheduled for April 15, 2023, with the NBA Finals set for later in June. Of the 30 NBA teams vying for their spot in the playoffs, only 16 will make the cut.
According to some of the Top US Online Sports Betting Sites such as Fanduel and DraftKings, the Boston Celtics currently hold the best odds of winning the finals. They have been dominating the court all season, leading the Eastern Conference with a total of 35 wins even after losing their last two games to the Miami Heat and Orlando Magic. However, there are plenty of prominent teams following close behind, and plenty of games left till the end of the season, hence, there’s a great deal that can happen which could affect their odds at securing the victory.
There are many reasons keeping the Celtics at the top of the charts. Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown have propelled the team through this season, under the guidance of Celtic coach Joe Mazzulla. This Boston side has continued to prove that they’re the team to beat, occupying the number one spot in the Eastern Conference for the majority of this campaign. They currently own two of the top five longest winning streaks this season; a total of nine wins in two different periods.
After having their nine-game win streak cut short by the Magic at Monday night’s game, coach Mazulla didn’t hesitate to give the opponents a bit of praise.
“They were physical,” he commented postgame. “They had an edge to them, and I thought they played really well.”
Brown even admitted to the Celtics’ lax in controlling the ball, and Orlando’s capitalization on their faults.
“A lot of that’s on me, just being nonchalant, and Orlando took advantage of that,” Brown said. “They’re an unorthodox team to play against. They cover ground any time you get to the basket, and long arms make those passes tough. It’s a tough team to play against.”
These two straight losses follow Marcus Smart’s ankle injury, which he sustained last weekend in the game against the Toronto Raptors. Smart had to be transported off the court after an awkward fall. The Celtics still managed to win, though it wasn’t an easy victory, and the point margins were extremely low. Boston went into the next two games against Orlando and Miami with a few player deficits – most notable being Tatum – consequently losing both games.
The full extent of Smart’s injury remains unknown, yet fans and teammates remain hopeful of his return. However, his absence has already taken a toll on the team and adjustments will need to be made. The Celtics have constructed a roster capable of accommodating injuries, with Malcom Brogdon and Derrick White standing in as reserves.
Of their total wins this season, almost half of them were won within the last five minutes of the game. The Celtics have played 20 such games, losing only a quarter of them, resulting in a 75% win rate. If that isn’t impressive, their standing last season left them with a 37.1% win percentage. That alone should earn them Most Improved Team this season.
Last season, the Celtics often struggled to finish close games. However, this season, they seem to have mended that particular flaw. Last week’s heated game against the Golden State Warriors was a prime example of Celtic determination. Though they were down by one – after reducing an 11-point lead from the second half – in the final minutes of the game, Boston drove the game into overtime and managed to secure the win. This came despite four of the Warrior’s best scoring over 20 points, and a handful of Celtic mistakes.
Had it been last season, Boston most likely would have been discouraged by their own errors as well as the length of the opponent’s margin and threw the game. Another notable area of improvement is Boston’s field goal percentages. Last season, they shot a bit over 40% from the field, having an offensive rating of 97.7, in comparison to this season’s 46.3% and 115.9 rating respectively.
Following such an improvement in performance, the Celtics are considered one of the best teams in the league and are the favorites to take home the title. They will need to force improvements if they wish to retain their odds and have a shot at winning the championship this season, though.