Notable Wins: vs. TOR, @NYK, vs. OKC
Notable L’s: vs. GSW
The past month has been a tumultuous time for Celtics fans as rumors have swirled and tensions are running high. Reporting by various sporting outlets has Kyrie Irving leaving Boston, Anthony Davis feeling lukewarm about the franchise and Rozier, Brown and Tatum all on the trade block. Despite all of this unwarranted, unnecessary and nonsensical gossip being reported; the Celtics are in the midst of their best stretch of the season. Beginning with a huge win in Toronto, the Celtics have reeled off 10 wins in their last 11 games. Early underperformers have stepped up, new rotations have settled in and the offense has been rolling. Not only are the wins piling up but the Celtics are slowly creeping up the Eastern conference standings, currently sitting in 3rd (as of this posting). Despite the negative energy outside the locker room, the Celtics season seems to be trending up and it looks like we are going to hit our stride at the perfect time for playoffs.
A crucial piece of a complete Boston Celtics team is Terry Rozier. For those who have been keeping up with these posts, Scary Terry has been conspicuously absent from the proceedings. For most of the season he has underperformed, putting up lackluster numbers and effort. In spurts, we would see Scary Terry come out but it was too inconsistent. During the 3 missed games from Kyrie during this stretch, Terry Rozier stepped up in a big way. He started at point and averaged 19 points, 7 boards and 7 assists a game and displayed the kind of confidence, leadership and poise that earned him his spooky moniker. I’m extremely happy we didn’t trade Rozier away as I think he is a huge piece for a Celtic run to the Finals. Having a backup point guard of Rozier’s ability is a luxury not a lot of NBA teams can afford. Obviously with his contract situation, this season probably marks the end of Rozier’s time in green. That makes it all the more necessary to maximize his skills while he his here. He’s the perfect guy to spell Kyrie off the bench and he also plays well off the ball when Kyrie is on the court. He’s a dog on defense and a fearless shot maker on offense. I’m looking forward to seeing Scary Terry, the Sequel in the 2019 playoffs.
The most important aspect of the Celtics success these last 11 games is continuity. With so many bodies moving in and out of the lineup on a nightly basis, it was hard for the Celtics to get a footing. Kyrie did miss 3 games during this stretch but it turned out to be a blessing in disguise as it galvanized Terry Rozier’s play (as stated above). The two biggest returns from injury were Al Horford and Aron Baynes. Once the two big men came back, the defense started performing at an elite level. Right now, the Celtics currently sit with the 3rd best defensive rating in the NBA and are in the top 5 for both steals and blocks. The most important stat however, is a top two rating in both opponent field goal percentage and 3 point fg percentage. When you watch the Celtics on defense, you can almost see when they begin to lock in and lock people down. The opponent’s spacing goes to shit, green jersey’s are switching to the closest offensive player and long limbs are in every passing lane. The starting lineup of Marcus Smart, Kyrie Irving, Marcus Morris, Jayson Tatum and Al Horford has seen the most minutes together this season at 322. We’re seeing them become more comfortable with each other and I think the defensive and offensive ratings will only get better from here.
With the rumor mill swirling around the Celtics, it’s hard to focus strictly on the game between the lines because so much depends on life outside of the game. The only thing we can control as fans is our support for the team and that is what I will continue to do. I admit, I’m annoyed at Kyrie’s comments lately (taken out of context or not) but at the end of the day, I assume this group of guys will figure it out and make a Finals run. If Kyrie wants to leave after that, it’s certainly his prerogative. As the trade deadline passed today, the Celtics have decided to stand pat and I could not agree more with the decision. I like what the Celtics have and I believe we are the best team in the East even with Philly, Milwaukee and Toronto making moves at the deadline. The bottom line is this: there are 28 games left in the regular season plus 16-28 games in the playoffs. There is a ton of basketball left to be played. So as fans, let’s try not to forget why we support this team. This is a deep, talented group who will also come into the playoffs as the most battle-tested and cohesive unit in the East (assuming no injuries). The Celtics employ Brad Stevens, who’s proved in every playoffs that he’s a master tactician able to make adjustments on the fly. These facts make the Celtics a hard out in a 7 game series but this momentum has to continue to carry into the playoffs. The steady progression we have seen these last 20 games is encouraging but I think there is still more to come as this team gets better and better. In conclusion, these last 11 games have been filled with plenty of W’s and I expect to see it continue.
- W. 117-108 vs. TOR: Player of the Game: Kyrie (27/5/18)
- W. 122-116 vs. MEM: Player of the Game: Kyrie (38/7/11)
- W. 113-105 @ATL: Player of the Game: Kyrie (32/3/5)
- W. 107-99 vs. MIA: Player of the Game: Kyrie (8 steals)
- W. 123-103 vs. CLE: Player of the Game: Terry Rozier (26/8/6)
- L. 115-111 vs. GSW: Player of the Game: Durant (33; Curry, 24; Thompson, 21)
- W. 112-104 vs. BKN: Player of the Game: Al Horford (14/11/5 6 blocks)/Marcus Smart (21/2/7 5 steals)
- W. 126-94 vs. CHA: Player of the Game: Jaylen Brown (24/10)
- W. 113-99 @ NYK: Player of the Game: Kyrie (23/10/6)
- W. 134-129 vs OKC: Player of the Game: Kyrie (30/4/11)
- W. 103-96 @ CLE: Player of the Game: Jayson Tatum (25/7 3 blocks)
Record in last 11 games: 10-1
MVP of part V: Al Horford
Part of me wants to give this to Kyrie yet again but with 3 missed games, I think someone else has been more deserving. For these last 11 games I’ve gotta go with Al Horford for MVP. Big Al is easily the Celtics most consistent player and I do not think it’s a coincidence that our string of wins has coincided with Al getting healthy and beginning to play well. So much of what the Celtics do on offense and defense is predicated on the unique skills of Horford. He spreads the floor on offense with his shooting (53.3% fg, 35.8% 3fg) and is the backline of the defense holding the responsibility of keeping the Celtics in their right positions. A lot rests on Al’s shoulders and more will fall on them as the season goes on towards the playoffs. As always, health will be key but Big Al is ready and willing to shoulder the load and do the dirty work in order for the Celtics to perform up to their expectations.
Total record: 35-19
C’s up til’ infinity