After a lot of chatter regarding the Celtics season being “over”, I thought now would be a good time to go over the current state of the Boston Celtics.
Position in the East: 5th
Offensive Rating: 111.7 (9th)
Defensive Rating: 105.5 (5th)
Net Rating: 6.2 (3rd)
Remaining Strength Of Schedule: 0.529 (5th)
Toughest Remaining Games: @GSW, @MIL, @TOR, Vs DEN, @PHI (2), VS HOU, @LAL, @/VS INDY
Through 56 games we’ve had our fair share of drama surrounding this team and even more frustration from their performance on the court. They’ve underperformed and we’ve been wondering what is wrong with this team since they limped out to a 10-10 start. Kyrie has been a man on a mission all season long and he’s lived up to the hype after a knee injury held him out of last year’s playoffs. He’s carried the load at times and if not for a lot of theatrics on his part, this team may be in a worse spot.
As for the rest of the team, aside from Marcus Morris Sr. and Jayson Tatum, they’ve been inconsistent. Gordon Hayward has had a difficult time getting back to full strength as he’s looked timid, seems unsure of himself, and is nowhere near the player he was pre-injury. This poor start coincided with a movement to the bench after 16 games and he’s been there ever since. While his whole season hasn’t gone to plan, he’s looked considerably better off of the bench and his stats back this up.
His shooting percentages are up across the board and he’s been more effective as a facilitator. He’s shown flashes of his old self, including 2 30+ point showings against the Timeberwolves, and other isolated moments. It’s about these little victories and Hayward still has a bit before he’s back to 100% as a player. One thing I’ve personally noticed recently is his demeanor has changed. He’s starting to attack the basket with a purpose and instead of looking confused, he just kind of looks angry. It’s like he’s at a breaking point in terms of being discouraged and is just tired of hearing how he’s a shell of himself. I’m not saying he’s going to start averaging 20 points per night, but it’s something new, and something I haven’t seen yet from him during his return. A week off for the All-Star break will do him good and give him the chance to just get away from basketball for a few.
Al Horford and Jaylen Brown both had slow starts to the season, but recently they’ve both been keys to this team. Brown was moved to the bench as well with Hayward and since then he’s been a different player.
He’s been so reliable in that role this year and has given the bench a needed spark that they were lacking early in the year. The way he’s driven to the basket and built his offense around that has been a joy to watch. Figuring out the type of player that he is going to be in this league is important and he’s been able to do that as a reserve this year.
Al on the other hand was sidelined for a bit with a knee injury and missed most of December. After looking a bit slow when he first came back, he’s gotten it together and has given the Celtics a boost on both offense and defense. His ability to space the floor at the 5 position has opened up the lane for guys like Kyrie to drive and kick.
Since the Celtics elected to put the Marcii in the starting 5 things have changed a bit with rotations/roles on the team. When the 5 of Irving, Smart, Tatum, Morris, and Horford start, the Celtics are 14-7 when this group starts.
In terms of rating it’s one of the Celtics’ best lineups and it has a nice balance between offensive firepower and defense.
While it’s helped their cause, this lineup hasn’t saved the Celtics and there are still issues with this team. They’re so puzzling because when you glance at the numbers, things all seem fine and dandy until you realize their spot in the standings. They shouldn’t be where they are and I attribute this to overall inconsistency. It seems like they play when they want to and every time it seems like they take a step forward, they take 2 steps back. Since that 10-10 start, the Celtics have gone 25-11 which doesn’t seem too bad. The issue has been the way they have lost these games (The Florida debacle, the Brooklyn massacre, their recent 2 game skid at home to LA teams, etc). It seems like after every single loss there’s an outburst or something gets said to the media. It feels like a toxic environment and with the strength of the East this year, their 10-10 start has really hurt them down the line.
Today, they sit in 5th place and are 6.5 games back of the first place Milwaukee Bucks.
With how bad they’ve played, they aren’t in a terrible spot in terms of positioning. They are in prime position to go and get the 3 seed which seems like a win after all that has transpired. Milwaukee, Toronto, and Philly all beefed up at the deadline so this task will be a bit tricky. The Celtics have the talent, they just have to put it together and play like the team we thought they were. Their schedule won’t do them any favors either as the have the 5th toughest remaining schedule while Milwaukee has the 26th, Toronto has the 30th, Philly has the 23rd, and Indiana has the 7th. The Celtics didn’t make it easy for themselves and they’re paying for it with how tough their schedule is late in the season.
The key for this team has nothing to do with stats, schemes, lineups, or anything of that nature. It’s about how much they want it and it’s about coming together as a team. As Morris Sr. said on Saturday that they are playing like individuals and that has to change if this team’s going to make a run. It falls on Brad’s shoulders to put them in position to do this and it’s on the players to buy in. They bought in last year and were a game away from the Finals, imagine what this team would look like if they buy in.