Checking in With the Celtics…Part VII

Boston Celtics v Philadelphia 76ers

Record: 49-33

Notable Wins: 

  • @GSW, @SAC, @LAL, @IND

Notable L’s: 

  • @PHI, 4-game losing streak

Boston Celtics v Los Angeles Lakers

“Like a Phoenix arisen from the ashes, the 2018-’19 Boston Celtics have finally arrived.” – Me, after the Golden State win

Ecstatic, I felt like the Celtics had really turned the whole season around.  It was one of Hayward’s best games of the season, the defense was superb and most importantly, it looked like they were having fun.  The rest of the west coast swing went pretty much the same way except for one hiccup in LA against the Clippers. Kyrie was also starting to heat up posting multiple 30 point games in this stretch.  And then, the bottom fell out…

“As of this writing, the Celtics have lost four straight.  The defense has fallen apart, the effort is waning…” – Me, after the loss to San Antonio

Losses to Denver, Philly, Charlotte and San Antonio had Celtics fans feeling even worse.  The Celtics had devolved once again and were now back at square one with the playoffs looming….

The Celtics won 6 of their last 8 games to close out the season. Winning some huge games over that stretch including two against their first round playoff matchup, the Indiana Pacers. Those wins also secured at least one round of homecourt in the playoffs.  All season, the Celtics have taken fans on a rollercoaster ride of emotions. But now… The NBA playoffs are a whole new season. The Celtics have a chance to rewrite the narrative of their season.  They can fold and prove all the doubters right.  They can prove that the pressure of expectations and the threats of free agency caused the team to splinter and fall apart.  Or they can win and prove everybody wrong.  I still believe the Celtics can win the NBA Championship this year.  The expectations laid out at the beginning of the season still stand.

Boston Celtics v Philadelphia 76ers

Report Card:

Since this is the last post of the regular season, let’s give out some grades:
  • Coach Brad Stevens: C+
    • 4th place in the East…with Kyrie back… and Gordon Hayward.  This season was not a good look for President Brad Stevens.  He had improved the Celtics win total every year and was expected to take this team within striking distance of 60 wins and a first place spot atop the East.  Ultimately, the Celtics failed to perform to those expectations and some of that blame has to fall on the coach.  That being said, I still believe the Celtics have the best coach in the Eastern Conference and that gives the C’s a tremendous advantage come playoff time.
  • Kyrie Irving: A
    • stat line: 67 games; 23.8ppg/5.0rpg/6.9apg 
    • stellar year from Kyrie all-around.  More to come on him below…
  • Jayson Tatum: B
    • stat line: 79 games; 15.7ppg/6.0rpg/2.1apg 
    • I felt like Tatum could have made a bigger leap and done a little more this season.  He settles for jumpers too often and his defense comes and goes. Despite this, he was one of the Celtics most consistent scorers and players all season.
  • Al Horford: A-
    • stat line: 68 games; 13.6ppg/6.7rpg/4.2apg 
    • Big Al continues to be the rock that this team’s foundation is built on.  He had a down year statistically but it was more his absence from the Celtic lineup that earned him this grade.  The Celtics play noticeably worse without their big man on the floor.  Al does so much for the Celtics on both sides of the ball that it’s hard to replicate that when he goes down. A healthy and resurgent Horford is exactly what fans want to see going into the playoffs
  • Marcus Smart: A
    • stat line: 80 games; 8.9ppg/2.9rpg/4.0apg 
    • Smart continues to be the motor that the Celtics run on and this year he even brought a little offensive firepower to the mix. Career highs in field goal percentage (42%) and 3 point percentage (36%) have turned Smart into an offensive threat which only accentuated his defensive tenacity. Inserting Smart into the starting lineup was a season-altering move by Brad Stevens as Smart became a defensive partner for Kyrie and also added a dose of toughness to the starting lineup.
  • Marcus Morris: B+
    • stat line: 75 games; 13.9ppg/6.1rpg/1.5apg 
    • Morris started the season off on fire and was quickly moved to the starting lineup in favor of clearly not ready Gordon Hayward.  Morris continued to shine for most of the season and was the Celtics most consistent offensive player for long stretches until finally coming back to earth.  This was one of Morris’ best seasons as a pro and I look to see him turn around his late-season slump with phenomenal play in the playoffs.

Indiana Pacers v Boston Celtics

  • Gordon Hayward: B+
    • stat line: 72 games; 11.5ppg/4.5rpg/3.4apg 
    • A deeper dive will come below but essentially Hayward got better every month of the season culminating in this final 18 games of the season.  His stats don’t look great, especially held up against some of his Utah seasons but you could see the improvement week by week and it’s been exciting to see him round back into form.
  • Jaylen Brown: B+
    • stat line: 73 games; 13.0ppg/4.2rpg/1.3apg 
    • handling his demotion to the bench with pride, Jaylen played his way back into more playing time and has come on strong near the end of the season.  Initially, Brown looked like a completely different player when the season began.  Gone were the aggressive drives and lockdown D and instead, he played passive basketball as if he were afraid to shoot or make a mistake.  At some point, a flip must have switched for Jaylen and he started to pick up his play.
  • Terry Rozier: C
    • stat line: 78 games; 8.8ppg/3.9rpg/2.9apg 
    • pretty disappointing year for Scary Terry this season.  Coming off a playoffs in which he played the best basketball of his life; he followed it up with a lackluster season.  He came on strong late but his early season was marred with poor shooting performances and a surprising willingness to take a backseat to his teammates instead of playing his game.  Scary Terry is at his best when he’s attacking and taking risks. Hopefully we see some of that come back when the playoffs start.
  • Aron Baynes: B-
    • stat line: 51 games; 5.6ppg/4.7rpg/1.1apg 
    • House of Baynes is one of the Celtics most important players. Unfortunately, he couldn’t stay healthy this season.  His ability to be the thunder to Al Horford’s lightning is invaluable.  He can protect the rim and clog the pain with only his massive body but he couples that with an impeccable knowledge of defensive spacing.
  • Daniel Theis: B-
    • stat line: 65 games; 5.7ppg/3.4rpg/1.0apg 
    • decent season from the big German coming off of an injury.  Theis is always solid on the basketball court if not always capable. I like Theis and think he is a piece to hold onto BUT this next guy might have something to say about being the 3rd big…
  • Robert Williams III: B
    • stat line: 31 games; 2.5ppg/2.3rpg/0.2apg
    • Interesting season for the rookie nicknamed “The Time Lord.”  He was pretty  irrelevant most of the season except for the few chances he got in relief duty.  His athleticism is jaw-dropping and his timing is elite and I think Williams has the potential to be rotational player for the C’s in the future.
*sorry to Yabu, Semi, Wanamaker, Dozier and Hunter but you did not receive a grade. 
**all stats from basketball-reference.com 

Atlanta Hawks v Boston Celtics

Results:

  1. W. 128-95 @ GSW: Player of the Game: Gordon Hayward (30p/4a/7r)
  2. W. 111-109 @ SAC: Player of the Game: Al Horford (21p/7a/11r); Hayward(game-winner)
  3. W. 120-107 @ LAL: Player of the Game: Kyrie Irving (30/5/7)
  4. L. 115-140 @ LAC: Player of the Game: Lou Williams (34 pts, 70% shooting)
  5. W. 126-120 vs. SAC: Player of the Game: Kyrie Irving (31p/12a/10r)
  6. W. 129-120 vs. ATL: Player of the Game: Kyrie Irving (30p/9a/11r)
  7. L. 105-114 vs. DEN: Player of the Game: Nikola Jokic (21p/7a/13r)
  8. L. 115-118 @ PHI: Player of the Game: Joel Embiid (self-respect swiped by Smart)
  9. L. 117-124 @ CHA: Player of the Game: Kemba Walker (36p/9a/11r)
  10. L. 96-115 vs. SAS: Player of the Game: LaMarcus Aldridge (48p/13r)
  11. W. 116-106 @ CLE: Player of the Game: Marcus Smart (21p/4a/6r with 3 steals)
  12. W. 114-112 vs. IND: Player of the Game: Kyrie Irving (30p/5a,game winning shot)
  13. L. 96-110 @ BKN: Player of the Game: D’Angelo Russell (29p/10a)
  14. W. 110-105 vs. MIA: Player of the Game: Al Horford (19p/10a/11r)
  15. W. 112-102 @ MIA: Player of the Game: Gordon Hayward (25p/5a/8r)
  16. W. 117-97 @ IND: Player of the Game: Jayson Tatum (22p/7r)
  17. L. 116-108 vs. ORL: Player of the Game: Nikola Vucevic (25p/4a/12r)
  18. W. 116-110 @ WAS: Player of the Game: Brad Wanamaker (17p/7a/6r)

Boston Celtics v Los Angeles Lakers

Record in last 18 games: 11-7

Part VII MVP: Gordon Hayward

Throughout the whole season, Gordon Hayward has continued to improve and get better.  Check out these month to month statistics provided by basketball-reference.com.

  • October, November, December: 10.3ppg/5.0rpg/3.1apg
  • January, February, March: 11.7ppg/4.0rpg/3.4apg
  • April: 18.3ppg/5.3rpg/3.0apg

During the first three months of the season, Hayward was tentative with his shot and unassertive on the offensive end.  He looked lost.  He looked like a completely different player than the one who left Utah.  He was demoted to the bench yet his minutes stayed the same, hovering around 25.  Over the next three months, Hayward produced moments and flashes of the player he once was.  His scoring rose and his playmaking improved.  He still produced duds on occasion but those were offset by the shining performances.  Finally, late in the season, the basket opened up for Hayward.  He began making plays and driving hard to the basket and that opened the Celtics offense in ways we hadn’t seen all year.  His newfound confidence carried over into his shot where he routinely began knocking down pull up and contested 3’s.  If Hayward can keep this up in the playoffs, the Celtics will be a very formidable team especially if he continues to come off the bench playing like this. getty-images-1128805427

2018′-’19 Boston Celtics Regular Season MVP: Kyrie Irving

No matter what happens this offseason, it’s been an absolute joy to watch Kyrie Irving play basketball in Celtic green.  Kyrie has played at an MVP level all season.  His final numbers are 23.8ppg/5.0rpg/6.9apg (via basketball-reference.com) .  But the numbers don’t show the level of impact that Kyrie has on a basketball game.  His very presence controls entire games.  The defense is constantly shifting and communicating his position; his teammates are reading and trying to find a way to get open for him; and then there’s Kyrie, taking it all in one problem at a time…at lightning speed.  Throughout the season, the media has tried to play up the “Celtics are better without Kyrie” angle but I don’t buy it.  Kyrie is the unquestioned alpha dog on this team and it’s leader. The Celtics will only go as far as he takes them.  All season it seems we’ve been waiting for the playoffs to come to finally see Kyrie.  If the regular season was any indication of what’s to come, “Playoff Kyrie” will be worth the wait.

Boston Celtics v Golden State Warriors

C’s up!!!

#allabout18

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