Checking in with the Celtics…part 4: The Halfway Point

Brooklyn Nets v Boston Celtics

Record: 25-18

Notable Wins:  Christmas game vs. Philly; vs. IND; comeback @ MEM

Notable L’s: @ SAS; 3 straight road L’s (@MIA, @ORL, @BKN)

Boston Celtics v Miami Heat

It seems like everytime I do one of these posts, the alarm among Celtics fans collectively gets a little bit louder. Sitting at 25-18, consistency has been the single biggest factor this season.  Sometimes, the Celtics come out and they are one of the best teams in basketball. They fly around on defense, shutting people out for possessions and quarters at a time; they move the ball on offense, making every pass until the perfect shot comes along; and they play their asses off. Other times, the Celtics come out looking like the one of the worst teams in the NBA; putting forth little to no effort.  The lack of consistency has resulted in the roller coaster ride that is the 2018-19 Boston Celtics.  We are forty-three games into the season, just past the halfway mark.  There is a lot of basketball left to be played…  Optimism still reigns in my mind, but I must admit that cracks and moments of doubt have been forming. The frustrating part as a fan is the teams that the Celtics are losing to.  You’ll notice I didn’t put the Houston loss in the notable column (see Harden, James).  Losing to Miami, Orlando and Brooklyn back to back to back is simply unacceptable for a team that considers itself a Championship contender.  The Celtics need to start winning the games they are supposed to win as well as winning the  big games they seem to crave.  On Christmas vs. Philly and against Indiana, they played phenomenally.  Teams (especially in the East) no longer fear the Celtics.  In order for that perception to change, they have to start stringing together some wins and gain ground in the playoff race.

Philadelphia 76ers v Boston Celtics

Two guys I’m glad to highlight this week are Jaylen Brown and Gordon Hayward.  Both of these guys were put on the backburner as the season has gone on and especially so once they were demoted.  Brown looked downright pedestrian earlier in the year and Hayward was obviously not comfortable or healthy quite yet. Through these last twelve games however, both have begun to pick up their performance.  During a five game stretch (SAS-IND) the Celtics offense starting putting it on teams.  A lot of that success had to do with Brown and Hayward.  Brown went back in time to last year and relentlessly attacked the basket.  Brown is often more athletic than anyone else on the court. His drives became more effective once he finally began using it to his advantage.  On the flipside of that coin, Hayward has not only become more comfortable physically, but he has also recovered his playmaking skills.  Hayward has unlocked his all-around game by becoming the steady hand in the second unit.  Calming the offense down when it needs a bucket, helping Rozier with ball handling duties and shooting with more confidence.  Both players are a far-cry from being who I think they will be at the end of the year (and who the Celtics need them to be in May/June) but the continued improvement in their current directions will certainly help the Celtics reach their lofty expectations.

Minnesota Timberwolves v Boston Celtics

In doing research for this post, I came to one realization: the Celtics need home court.  On the road, they are a completely different team.  Whenever we have been on the road, the Celtics get hit with a run or an entire quarter that breaks the whole team’s spirit.  Body language changes, tensions mount and play dissolves entirely.  Defensively, help-side is nonexistent and containment on the perimeter is futile.  Players like Harden and Aldridge feasted on the Celtics defenders drawing fouls and scoring at will.  Each time, it’s these types of runs that cause the Celtics to suffer a loss.  Sometimes, they play great for 3 of the 4 quarters (as in SAS) but that quarter that they took off, always ends up coming back to haunt the C’s.  It’s a stark contrast to their performances at home where the offense seems to hum along at a top rate and their defense is stifling.  The Jekyll and Hyde aspect of this team is the most alarming characteristic of this season.  And it could end up costing us a round in the playoffs.  Yes, it’s still early but the Celtics need to start thinking about playoff seeding.  Catching Milwaukee and Toronto has to be of the highest priority because the Celtics might need every game of home court during the playoffs.  Plus, nobody wants to play a game 7 in Milwaukee or Toronto.  Playing each game it’s full 48 minutes and grinding consecutive wins out is the only way we are going to be able to keep pace, but the Celtics have to start now.

Boston Celtics v San Antonio Spurs

Throughout these last twelve games the offense has gotten better, the defense is vastly improved and I think the entire team now sees what the rest of us have been seeing all season.  In order to win, maximum effort is required for 48 minutes.  Once the Celtics begin to play each possession, each quarter and each game as they are presented; good things will start to happen.  We’ve still got a long season to go and a lot can change in 40 games.  Just think about how much the perceptions have changed in this first half alone.  As Celtics fans, we need to stay the course and believe that this team, as presently constructed, is more than enough for us to get what we want at the end of the season and that’s raising banner 18 to the rafters.

Philadelphia 76ers v Boston Celtics

Results:

  1. W. 119-103 vs. CHA: Player of the Game: Kyrie Irving
  2. W. 121-114 vs. PHI: Player of the Game: Kyrie Irving
  3. L. 113-127 @ HOU: Player of the Game: James Harden
  4. W. 112-103 @ MEM: Player of the Game: Kyrie Irving
  5. L. 111-120 @ SAS: Player of the Game: Lamarcus Aldridge
  6. W. 115-102 vs. MIN: Player of the Game: Gordon Hayward
  7. W. 114-93 vs. DAL: Player of the Game: Jaylen Brown
  8. W. 116-95 vs. BKN: Player of the Game: Kyrie Irving
  9. W. 135-108 vs. IND: Player of the Game: Marcus Morris
  10. L. 99-115 @ MIA: Player of the Game: Justise Winslow
  11. L. 103-105 @ ORL: Player of the Game: Aaron Gordon/ Nikola Vucevic
  12. L. 102-109 @ BKN: Player of the Game: D’Angelo Russell

Brooklyn Nets v Boston Celtics

Record in last 12 games: 7-5

Total Record: 25-18

MVP through 43 games (1st half MVP): 

Quite simply: Kyrie Irving is a breathtaking basketball player to watch.  He weaves through the lane at lightning speeds sliding between defenders, dribbling the ball in ways you didn’t even think it could go.  Like Captain America and his shield, Kyrie bounces the ball through different angles on the floor and all over the backboard, guiding the ball into the basket.  This first half of the season, Kyrie has not only given us brilliant highlight plays but he’s also learned to become more of a leader.  It’s been hard on him this year with the inconsistency from his teammates but from watching him for over a year now, I can confidently say he relishes the challenge.  It’s been a great 1st half for the Celtics MVP so far and I look forward to seeing him build on it this second half.

Indiana Pacers v Boston Celtics

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