Boston Celtics Win NBA Finals: Stats, Trends from Historic Season

Boston Celtics Win NBA Finals: Stats, Trends from Historic Season article feature image

We are where we thought we'd be. The Boston Celtics were the favorites to win the NBA Finals both entering the regular season and the playoffs, and ended up beating the Dallas Mavericks in five games to win their 18th title in franchise history.

Let's dive into a few superlatives for the champs.

1) Let's now take a step back. The Celtics won the title being both the betting favorites entering the regular season and the playoffs — a distinction only 15 teams can claim since the 1990 season:

Bulls ('92, '96, '97, '98), Lakers ('02, '04, '09), Spurs ('05), Heat ('12, '13, '14), and Warriors ('17, '18, '19) and Celtics ('24). Twelve of those 15 teams won the championship:

2024 Celtics
2017, 2018 Warriors
2012, 2013 Heat
2009 Lakers
2005 Spurs
2002 Lakers
1996-98 Bulls
1992 Bulls

2) Entering the regular season, the Celtics were the +400 betting favorites to win the title. That means the eventual NBA champion has been listed below 20-1 in nine straight years, 12 of the past 13 years and 38 of the past 40 years. The 2015 Warriors at 28-1 and 2011 Mavericks at 20-1 are the outliers.

As of now, here are the teams under 20-1 to win it all next season: Celtics, Nuggets, Timberwolves, Mavericks, Thunder, Bucks, Sixers, Knicks.

Here are also two different ways to look at the odds:

A bit of parity.
For the first time since 1975-80, the NBA has seen six different teams win the title in six consecutive years — 2024 Celtics, 2023 Nuggets, 2022 Warriors, 2021 Bucks, 2020 Lakers, 2019 Raptors. That instance in 1975-80 is the only other instance since the league's creation in 1947 when six different teams won it all in six straight years.

But not too much parity.
In seven of the past nine years, a single-digit odds team entering the season has won it all (8-1, 9-1 etc). Going back over the past 40 years, 31 times a team listed under 10-1 entering the year has won it all (78%).

3) In NBA history, only three teams finished a title with one playoff loss: 2017 Warriors, 2001 Lakers, 1983 Sixers. Six other teams lost just two games en route to a title. With the Celtics 16-3 SU finish this falls in the best-of-7 first round addition era.

Highest team playoff winning percentage in a single year since expansion:
.941  – Warriors (16-1 in 2017)
.842  – Celtics (16-3 in 2024)
.800 – Nuggets (16-4 in 2023)
.800 – Spurs (16-4 in 2007)

In the same realm of conversation, here is the best scoring margins — regular season and playoffs — for any team in NBA history.

1971 Bucks, +12.58
2017 Warriors, +11.96
1996 Bulls, +11.94
1972 Lakers, +10.88
2024 Celtics, +10.72
1972 Bucks, +10.60

4) The role of the underdog wasn't something the Celtics dealt with too many times, which puts them on an exclusive list.

Since 1995, only four teams entered an appearance in the NBA Finals having only been listed as an underdog three times or fewer throughout the regular season and playoffs:

1996-97 Bulls (0 games)
2023-24 Celtics (3 games)
2016-17 Warriors (3 games)
1995-96 Bulls (3 games)

The 1996 Bulls and 2017 Warriors were never underdogs in the playoffs en route to the title, while the 1997 Bulls, who faced the Jazz, and the 2024 Celtics were both listed as underdogs in at least a game in the NBA Finals.

There have been 14 teams to enter a Finals with fewer than 10 games as an underdog. If we remove both the 2016 Warriors and Cavaliers, who are both on the list, the other 12 teams all won it all.

5) Let's talk the pre-Game 1 series price. The Celtics entered the NBA Finals as -225 favorites against the Mavericks (+185).

In the past 50 years, teams listed at -200 or higher to win the finals pre-Game 1 are now 28-4.

Here are the 4 losses:
2019 Warriors vs. Raptors
2016 Warriors vs. Cavaliers
2004 Lakers vs. Pistons
1975 Bullets vs. Warriors

6) Speaking of the series price. The Celtics were favored to win the NBA Finals entering the series coming out of the Eastern Conference — which hasn't been a common thing.

The Celtics are the first Eastern Conference team to be favored in an NBA Finals since 2011 and 2013 Heat. Prior to that, no East team had been favored in the finals since the 1998 Bulls.

Since 1980, there have been 14 East teams favored in the Finals, and they are 12-2, with the 2011 Heat (vs. Mavericks) and 1995 Magic (vs. Rockets) losing their series.

7) On average during the regular season, the Celtics were favored by 8.7 PPG. That was the sixth-highest mark for any team since 1995, with now four of the six teams actually going on to win the title that same year: 2024 Celtics, 2017 Warriors, 1997 Bulls, 1996 Bulls.

If we look at just the playoffs, the 2024 Celtics have been favored by an average of 9.2 PPG, that is the second-highest mark in 20 years behind just the 2017 Warriors (-9.5). Prior to Game 4, Boston had an average spread of 9.6 PPG.

8) There are two ways to look at this title for the city of Boston. Between the Celtics, Patriots, Red Sox and Bruins, this is its first title in almost 5.5 years. That would be the second-longest drought (at least 1,959 days) in Boston since the Bruins, Celtics, Patriots and Red Sox were all founded.

Another way to look at it is, any baby born in Boston between 2000 and January 2002 has now seen 14 championships in their first 22-24 years on earth, with all four of their teams winning at least one title since 2011.

For some context on the misery side of the spectrum, the longest drought without a title for a city in terms of seasons is Minneapolis, but with the combination of 58 years and over 115 total seasons each, Buffalo and San Diego probably take the cake.

9) With glory for the Celtics also comes a bit of reality.

In Game 4, with a chance to sweep the Mavericks, Boston lost to Dallas by 38 points on the road. That would be the largest Finals loss for a team to eventually win the NBA title that same series.

The previous high was the Miami Heat back in 2013, losing to the Spurs by 36 points before winning the series in seven games.

Biggest NBA Finals Loss — Team to Eventually Win Title Same Season
38 – 2024 Celtics
36 – 2013 Heat
34 – 1985 Lakers

10) Time to close it out.

In the last 30 years of the NBA Finals, home favorites of six points or more in Game 5 are now 5-0 SU.
The last loss came in 1993 when Jordan, Bulls lost to Barkley & Suns.
In the last 20 years, home Game 5 favorites of 6+ points are now 20-3 SU (87%) in the conference finals and NBA Finals.

11) Jayson Tatum finished the NBA Finals shooting 38.8% from the field on 98 total shot attempts.

In his career, Tatum is 82-218 (37.6%) shooting in the NBA Finals, which is the lowest field goal pct (min. 200 FGA) for any player in the last 60 years.

12) It is also probably worth putting Luka Dončić's Finals performance into some perspective.

Dončić had 118 points through four Finals games. If he wanted to match the most points scored in a single NBA Finals by a player in a five-game series, he would have needed 60 points — a mark set by 2001 Allen Iverson (178 pts). He ended up with 28 points tonight — having 146 points, 44 rebounds, 27 assists, 13 steals in the NBA Finals.

Here are the players to finish with those stats or better in an NBA Finals last 50 years: 2020 Jimmy Butler, 2013 & 2016 LeBron James, 2010 Kobe Bryant, 1987 Magic Johnson and 1974 John Havlicek.

Luka becomes the 2nd player ever to finish a postseason leading the league in points, rebounds and assists. The other was Nikola Jokic last year.

13) Lastly, let's look at the NBA Finals MVP: Jaylen Brown.

Brown's MVP market closed at +625 entering Game 1 of the NBA Finals, putting him third in odds behind Jayson Tatum and Luka Dončić.

Jaylen Brown's odds to win NBA Finals MVP:
Game 1: +625
Game 2: +260
Game 3: +145
Game 4: -350

In the past 20 years, the odds-on finals MVP favorite entering Game 1 is now just 8-7 in terms of winning the award. In four of the seven losses, the player second in odds won.

Now, with Brown taking home the trophy, three players have won Finals MVP in this span from outside the top two spots:

2024 Jaylen Brown (Celtics), +625
2015 Andre Iguodala (Warriors), +12500
2008 Paul Pierce (Celtics), +500

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Doug Ziefel
Jul 13, 2024 UTC