Wild stat shows Celtics and Nets may not be true contenders

Boston Celtics, Brooklyn Nets

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The Brooklyn Nets and Boston Celtics both have championship aspirations. Both may also have the same fatal flaw.

Halfway through the season, we have a rough sense of which teams might realistically be competing for a title once the playoffs begin. But there are still a lot of games to be played, trades to be made, injuries to be healed from and new ones that may occur. All that is to say it can be hard to separate the championship aspirations from the true contenders.

That can lead to grasping at straws and looking at evidence that may or may not actually matter. For example, the somewhat random stat below:

Are the Brooklyn Nets and Boston Celtics really flawed on defense?

Giving up 150 points in a game is a terrible look but it’s not a more meaningful indicator of a team’s defensive ability than their season-long track record. The Oklahoma City Thunder put up 150 on Boston in large part to a freakish 16-of-22 performance on wide-open 3-pointers. That’s not an absurd number of open 3s to allow but it’s a randomly hot shooting night they couldn’t really control.

The Nets gave up 153 to the Kings but may have used that game as motivation to turn things around. Since then, they are 19-4 with a top-10 defensive efficiency and the second-best point differential in the league.

The most basic statistical benchmark for identifying contenders is usually ranking in the top 10 in both offensive and defensive efficiency. And by that measure, the Nets and Celtics both qualify — Brooklyn is third in offense and 10th in defensive efficiency, Boston is first and seventh.

It’s possible that neither of them end up winning the title but they are both clearly capable of defending well enough and if they come up short it won’t be because they gave up 150 on a random bad night.

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