Celtics clinch NBA’s first playoff spot and this one statistic shows why they can win first title since 2008

The Boston Celtics continued their impressive form on Thursday night, cruising past the Phoenix Suns, 127-112, to win for the 15th time in their past 17 games. In the process, they moved to 52-14 and became the NBA’s first team to clinch a playoff spot this season.

Entering Friday’s slate of games, the Celtics hold a massive 9.5-game lead over the Milwaukee Bucks in the race for the top spot in the Eastern Conference and a six-game advantage on the Oklahoma City Thunder and Denver Nuggets for the best record in the league. Barring some sort of bizarre collapse, they will finish with the No. 1 overall seed and home-court advantage throughout the playoffs.

That’s one of the major reasons they are the title favorites heading into the regular season’s final month (+220 per Caesars Sportsbook). They are a league-best 30-3 at home this season and have won more games at TD Garden than 10 teams have won in total.

There are other indicators that suggest they could be on their way to a title. When you look at records, the Celtics are the 37th team to go at least 52-14 through 66 games, per Stathead. Of the 36 previous groups to do so, 19 won the title and 22 went to the Finals.

Their on-court numbers are even more convincing. They have the best offensive rating of all time (121.9) and rank second in defensive rating (110.4). The result is a league-leading plus-11.4 net rating that is not only nearly four points better than the next best team, but one of the best all-time.

Here’s a look at the top-10 net ratings in NBA history and how those teams fared in the playoffs. As you’ll see, being in this territory does not guarantee that you’ll win it all, but it’s pretty close to one.

When they crushed the Warriors a few weeks ago, the Celtics became the first team to win three games by at least 50 points in one season. A whopping 32 of their wins have come by double digits. Of their 14 defeats, seven have come by five points or fewer, and they’ve only lost by double digits four times.

There are certainly still some question marks about this team, namely, can they get it done in close games come playoff time? If they keep playing like this, though, they might not have to worry about that.

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