It has been 177 days since the Boston Celtics last faced the Golden State Warriors in the 2022 NBA Finals. On Saturday, they’ll square off once again, but in very different positions.
Currently, Boston sits atop the NBA with a league-best 21-5 record (and a 7-0 record versus the Western Conference). The reigning champs hold a mediocre 13-13 record that doesn’t truly reflect what the Warriors are capable of.
While Saturday night will be an opportunity for Boston to exact revenge, it will also be a chance to prove itself a worthy successor. The Celtics have been the best team in the league throughout the early stages of the 2022-23 campaign, and they can show they belong with the NBA elite by besting the sharp-shooting squad that foiled their past championship aspirations.
So ahead of the Celtics’ duel with Golden State, here are three reasons why the Green Team has the capability to dethrone the defending champs and raise Banner No. 18 in the rafters.
3. The Celtics have a historically potent offense
Holding the title for the best offense ever is no simple feat, but statistically, the Celtics have it this year.
Per StatMuse, the 2022-23 Celtics have an offensive rating of 120.6, which is the best in the history of the NBA. They find themselves ahead of legendary teams like the 91-92 Chicago Bulls, the 1986-87 Los Angeles Lakers, and even the 2016-17 Warriors.
Although several teams across the league this season are earning higher offensive ratings than in past years, this accomplishment is still something to marvel at.
Celtics offensive rating this season
Since Thanksgiving: 124.0
The best offense of all time is getting better. pic.twitter.com/7IiwdMbubs
— StatMuse (@statmuse) December 8, 2022
Powering Boston’s scorching offense is its homegrown stars: Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. Following a disappointing Finals appearance, Tatum is playing at the top of his game this season and is the frontrunner for MVP. Right behind him is Brown, who looks like a lock for another All-Star appearance with his scoring abilities and improved ball-handling.
Together, Tatum and Brown have formed the most formidable offensive duo in the NBA. They even have a stamp of approval from another legendary Celtics duo, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett.
2. The Celtics have one of the deepest teams in the league
In recent years, the story for the Celtics has primarily been Tatum and Brown leading the team to victory with impressive offensive performances. While this season has a similar trend to it, Boston’s bench has also been carrying its weight.
The bench features first-year Celtic Malcolm Brogdon, who has enough offensive and defensive upside to be a starter on most NBA teams. It also has Grant Williams, a solid 3-and-D player who’s come into his own and is shooting a stupendous 46.7 percent from beyond the arc.
Three Celtics rank among the NBA's top 5 in 3P%. Those 3 guys also own the top 3 spots in the East.
1. Malcolm Brogdon: 49.4%
2. Damion Lee: 48.4%
3. Grant Williams: 46.74%
4. Brandon Ingram: 46.67%
5. Al Horford: 46.6%
Sam Hauser (45.5%) is 10th in the NBA and 5th in the East. pic.twitter.com/bRn27LoMrT
— Taylor Snow (@taylorcsnow) December 8, 2022
Rounding out the non-starters are Sam Hauser and Luke Kornet, two Celtics who rarely found playing time last year but have performed well with more minutes. Altogether, they help make up a bench that can score just as well as it can defend.
Plus, Brogdon, the true leader of the bench mob, believes those outside the Celtics’ starting five are as good as the starting fives of many opposing teams.
"We're as effective as a lot of first units in the league"
Malcolm Brogdon on how well the Celtics bench has played pic.twitter.com/GGk2S65csF
— Celtics on NBC Sports Boston (@NBCSCeltics) November 28, 2022
1. The Celtics have the best record in the NBA, and they’ve done it without a key starter
When Robert Williams III had another knee procedure this year, things looked bleak for the Celtics. They were already in the midst of a major coaching scandal and newly signed Danilo Gallinari had recently torn his ACL.
The NBA All-Defensive Second Teamer hasn’t played a single minute this season, however his recovery has been progressing as planned and there were even rumors that he’d return against Golden State. While he was ruled out a few days ago, it seems that the Celtics big man could be back by Christmas, which is a great present for fans in Beantown.
Robert Williams: probably ready pic.twitter.com/G9v63Bsnx0
— Adam Himmelsbach (@AdamHimmelsbach) December 9, 2022
Timelord is the best rim-protector on the Beantown team and one of the best shot-blockers in the league right now. The fact that the Celtics have been able to put together 21 wins in just 26 games without him is a testament to how dangerous this team is. When he comes back, they will only get better.
For now though, Boston has to ignore the hype around it and take one game at a time. The Warriors have seen plenty of teams get crowned as the best during their years of dominance, and they’ve often ended up dismantling these upstart squads. Saturday night is a chance for the Celtics to prove that they’re different.