Technically, the Celtics started in October, but only played two games, going 1-1. The Celtics have had a back and forth first 18 games of the season, and they stand at 10-8 going into December. The list of teams the Celtics have beaten make them look like a sure playoff contender, although they are just ninth in the suddenly competitive Eastern Conference. The C’s have rattled off wins against the Oklahoma City Thunder, Atlanta Hawks, Miami Heat, and the talented but underperforming Houston Rockets and Washington Wizards (twice). The only bad loss on the Celtics resumé is a defeat to the Brooklyn Nets, who are currently 4-13. The Celtics also own the Nets pick this year, so suck it up Brooklyn, we want the number one pick.
As stated above, Boston has been up and down. I say that because the longest wining streak for the Celtics is three, as is their longest losing streak. There’s been little to no consistency out of anyone outside of Isaiah Thomas on the roster. He has a 30 point game to his credit thus far. Thomas leads the Celtics in points with 20.8, and assists at 6.8. As of right now, Isaiah is a serious dark horse to win MVP. Bold? Yes. Could it happen? Maybe.
Head coach Brad Stevens stresses team play and a lot of passing and spreading of the floor. To this point, the Celtics have done just that. They average 102 points per game, good for ninth in the NBA and third in the Eastern Conference. Boston is still paltry at three point shooting. As a team they shoot 31% from three, which may lead to rookie sharpshooter R.J. Hunter getting more minutes and opportunities. However, the Celtics are fourth in assists per game at 24.3. But the Celtics are middle of the pack in rebounds, averaging 43.9 boards per game. Jared Sullinger leads the green and white in rebounds with 9.3 per game. Four Celtics average double figures to this point. Avery Bradley, Sully and Jae Crowder join Thomas in that category. But the Celtics also play great team defense under Stevens.
The first number that jumps out when looking at this roster is the amount of steals they average per game. Led by defensive menace Jae Crowder, the Celtics average a league high 11.3 steals per gaming, which leads the whole entire NBA. Crowder leads the Celtics with 2.28 thefts per game. These steals help Boston to allow just 97.5 points per game, just inside the top ten in the NBA. On the interior, the Celtics have clearly been helped out by Amir Johnson, as the Celtics have upped their blocks per game average by a full point, which now stands at 4.6. Still not great, but better. In Johnson’s seemingly limited minutes, he leads the team with 1.1 blocks per game.
Isaiah Thomas has clearly been the team MVP to this point. He started off the bench, but since Marcus Smart went down with a leg injury, Thomas has been fantastic in the starting five. He has led the Celtics in scoring in half of the teams wins, and even when he’s not scoring, he’s done a great job of finding open teammates. The pint sized point guard has been as good as he was last year down the stretch for the Celtics. Depending on how long Smart is out, Thomas could be a permanent addition to the starting five even when Smart is healthy.
Looking forward to this month, the Celtics have a tricky stretch in the first few weeks of December. Games against the San Antonio Spurs, the (still) unbeaten Golden State Warriors, Chicago Bulls, Cleveland Cavaliers, Detroit Pistons and Atlanta Hawks spell trouble for the C’s. But the last two weeks of December eases up a bit as the Celtics play the Minnesota Timberwolves, Charlotte Hornets, New York Knicks and Los Angeles Lakers, a game that will be Kobe Bryant’s last in the TD Garden.
The Celtics season has been a frustrating one to say the least. Whenever you think they can get in a bit of a groove and string some wins together, or at least more than three, they lay an egg. The wins against quality opponents are promising, but the Celtics need to start handling games they should win at home and on the road. The potential is here for the Celtics to be a great team this year, they just need to gain some confidence. Also, getting Marcus Smart back shouldn’t hurt either. This month of December will truly be a sign if the Celtics can handle and be mentioned among the NBA’s elite.