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Crunch time kings – CelticsBlog


I’m having fun. Are you having fun?

It’s not every year that you get to watch a team put up the 2nd best net rating of any team in NBA history through 12 games, but luckily for us, the Celtics have done just that. Sitting pretty at a 12.7 net rating, the only team ahead of Boston is the ‘95-’96 Bulls at 13.4. That seems pretty good! Accompany that with a 10-2 record and 2 separate 5-game winning streaks, you couldn’t really ask for a better start to the season.

One of the major reasons why the Celtics have been so dominant to start the year has undoubtedly been their late game execution. The additions of Kristaps Porzingis and Jrue Holiday have completely changed the system to close out games with them being relied upon to get the Jays out of jams and run a more fluid offense.

That fluid offense has seen the Celtics skyrocket to #1 in TS% in the clutch with a stunning 76.6%. Partner that with the Brad Stevens-patented defense and wham, you’re looking at a team with a 37.7 net rating in the clutch this season, good for 2nd in the NBA (Dallas is somehow at 57.1!). Not even a terrible, slippery court can keep the Celtics crunch-time offense down.

I mentioned how the Jrue and KP additions have changed the offense from last season and they really have, mostly by taking pressure off of the Jays and allowing them to be in more natural play-finishers roles vs. primary ball-handlers. The usage rate comparisons from last year are pretty stark.

2022-23: Tatum 34.5%, Brown 24.6%, White 18.1, Smart 17.0, Grant 13.7
2023-24: Tatum 25.5%, Brown 20.8%, Jrue 18.5%, Porzingis 18.2%, White 17.1%

Balanced, as all things should be. Way less pressure on the Jays, more ball-handling and movement across the board, and still plenty of Derrick White to keep things level.

Focusing in on Jrue, his skill set in the clutch has been likely the biggest reason for the Celtics’ effectiveness so far. His late-game decision-making and shot creation is truly world-class. In the clutch so far this season, he’s putting up a 3.0 AST/TO ratio alongside a 40% AST%. Meaning, 40% of all his possessions end in assists and he’s doing it at one of the best clips in the NBA. Alongside that, if the pass isn’t there, he’s got a cool 64.4 TS% to match if he ever needs to call his own number.

This effectiveness really shows up when you look at the other members of the closing lineup. White, Brown, and Porzingis all have TS% of over 85% and the Celtics lead the league in crunch time wide-open shots. Jrue Holiday really is the Brad Stevens dream PG.

On the Porzingis side, he has brought a whole other element to the Celtics offense. He’s the security blanket and the ultimate bail-out option. Clock winding down and need a bucket? KP post-up. Struggling to get open and need to space the floor? A 3 for KP. Have to force up a bad shot at the buzzer? 7’3” KP there for the rebound. He’s a Swiss Army knife the Celtics have been hunting for for a long time. He currently leads the team in crunch-time scoring despite being 4th in total attempts.

Before we close out, need to give some love to the defense. An 87.1 defensive rating in the clutch is stupid good. Pair that with a 97.7 PACE rating from NBA.com, one of the slowest in the league, and you have an elite, grind-you-out, half court defense that should only get better as the year goes on.

So, yeah, I’m having fun.

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