The NBA regular season came to a close on Sunday night and the playoff matchups are just about set. The Boston Celtics are the two-seed in the Eastern Conference and will take on the winner of Tuesday night’s game between the Brooklyn Nets and the Cleveland Cavaliers in the first round.
— Celtics on CLNS (@CelticsCLNS) March 29, 2022
The last time I wrote about the Celtics chances of winning the East, they had won nine games in a row and were +1100 to win the conference. Now? They’re +375 and have passed over the Heat and 76ers as the third most likely team. Here’s a look at BetOnline.ag’s top ten:
Odds to Win Eastern Conference
Milwaukee Bucks +225
Brooklyn Nets +350
Boston Celtics +375
Miami Heat +500
Philadelphia 76ers +550
Toronto Raptors +2800
Chicago Bulls +4000
Atlanta Hawks +5000
Cleveland Cavaliers +8000
Charlotte Hornets +25000
Although things have clearly changed since the last time I wrote about them winning the East, there hasn’t been much line movement since I last wrote about them winning the whole thing just a few weeks ago. They still hold the fourth highest odds to win the NBA title, currently sitting at +750. Here’s BetOnline’s top ten:
Odds to Win NBA Finals
Phoenix Suns +275
Milwaukee Bucks +550
Brooklyn Nets +700
Boston Celtics +750
Golden State Warriors +900
Memphis Grizzlies +1100
Miami Heat +1200
Philadelphia 76ers +1200
Dallas Mavericks +2500
Denver Nuggets +2500
Utah Jazz +2500
Sitting at number three in the East and number four overall, oddsmakers clearly think Boston has a chance to compete for a title. I do as well. Continuing my “Four Reasons Why” series, here are my four reasons why Boston can (and will) win the NBA Finals in 2022:
1. Defense Wins Championships
We’ve heard it a million times, but it’s the truth. Defense wins championships. The Celtics had the best defensive rating in the NBA this season (106.2), and had two Defensive Player of the Year candidates in Marcus Smart and Robert Williams III. Smart is currently the favorite to win it according to BetOnline.
Since 2002, the only team to win an NBA championship that was outside the top ten in defensive rating was the 2018 Warriors. You need a stout defense to take home the Larry OB, and the Celtics have exactly that.
2. Pivotal Role Players
Brown and Tatum are the Celtics quote-unquote “guys” here, but players like Al Horford, Daniel Theis, and Derrick White are incredibly important to this team’s success. Take a look at these numbers from NBC Sports Boston that show just how important Boston’s role players have been to their second half run:
You’re never going to win a title with just two people. The depth of Boston’s bench and the offseason addition of Al Horford will be huge in getting them to the finish line.
This is turning into a list of cliche’s, but we all know Newton’s Law: “an object in motion will stay in motion unless acted upon”. Well the Celtics haven’t been acted upon since late January. Boston is 26-6 since their 16-point loss to the Hawks on January 28th, and they haven’t really shown any signs of weakness.
They lost two tough matchups in a row at the end of March to the Raptors and Heat, but finished the season 4-1 to secure the second seed in the conference. Momentum is huge in sports, let’s hope they don’t run out of gas.
4. Star Power
Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown are the keys to this entire thing. Tatum’s a top-five player in the league right now and Brown is fringe top-20. I mentioned above that you need more than just stars to win it all – but they’re the first step, and you have them here in Boston.
Tatum and Brown have already been to two Eastern Conference Finals together in their young careers. It’s time for them to get back there and ultimately get over the hump. Boston’s championship run starts Sunday April 17th at the TD Garden.
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