The Celtics have played Western Conference opponents 12 times this season. All but two of those meetings have resulted in wins.
It’s too early to say the Celtics should be playing basketball in June, but if they were to get that far, this is the infancy of an encouraging trend.
With a 102-93 win over the Memphis Grizzlies on Saturday night, Boston upped its record to 10-2 against the West, including three victories against teams currently sitting in the top six in the conference.
While the Celtics have found a way to elevate their game when playing out of conference, no particular statistics stand out. In fact, their numbers vs. Eastern Conference opponents are largely similar, like their shooting percentage, which is just 0.2 percent better against the West. The same goes for 3-point shooting: They shoot one percent better against East opponents than West.
But like they did Saturday, they find ways to grind out those non-conference wins. Against the Golden State Warriors they mounted a big third quarter comeback, while Saturday it was a 16-0 fourth quarter run that made the difference.
The West has put out a better product of basketball than the East for a few seasons now. But that trend is beginning to change, both in the amount of competitive teams out West as well as the emerging teams in the East. And with each passing game out of conference, the Celtics are showing that they can compete with those heavy hitters.
Despite wins against teams like the Warriors and San Antonio Spurs, the tests still are coming. Boston will see the top-seeded Houston Rockets on Dec. 28, and eight days later will battle with the fourth-seeded Minnesota Timberwolves.
And while this stretch so far is encouraging — like most of the team’s developments this season — it still is December, and time will tell where exactly the Celtics stack up against both the East and West.
However, until that point is reached — which really won’t be for quite some time — the Celtics have given a good impression of what they can do in these 12 chances.
Here are some other notes from Celtics-Grizzlies:
— The Celtics held an opponent under 100 points for the 18th time this season. They did so 23 times all last regular season.
— Kyrie Irving has scored at least 20 points in 22 games this season.
— Jayson Tatum now is one of four rookies this season to score at least 15 points in 15 games or more.
Thumbnail photo via Nelson Chenault/USA TODAY Sports
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