The Boston Celtics are one of the hottest teams in NBA. Over their last 18 games, Boston is 14-4 and have climbed to number three in the Eastern Conference, only trailing the Cleveland Cavaliers and Toronto Raptors. They’ve separated themselves from the middle pack in the East and are a serious contender in the East. Despite not acquiring a star at the deadline, the Celtics have improved on an already impressive season.
The Celtics are one of the hottest teams in the league, and have relied on All-Star point guard Isaiah Thomas and the bruising play of Jared Sullinger in recent weeks. In his last 10 games, Thomas is scoring 22.5 points per game and 7.1 assists. The fourth year pro from Washington is enjoying the best year of his career in his first full season in Beantown as he leads the team in points and assists. And the pass below is the pass of the year in my opinion. Rondo vision.
For Sullinger, his last 10 games have been the best of his young career. He’s stepped up in the absence of Kelly Olynyk, who is sidelined with a shoulder injury and could miss significant time. Sully is dropping in a solid 13.2 points and 9.9 rebounds per game in his last 10. As a result, he’s now averaging 10.2 points and 8.7 rebounds per game, which would be a career high.
Even in the absence of Olynyk, who is a great floor spacer and shoots 41% from deep, the Boston offense has flourished. The C’s now score the fourth most points in the league, dropping in 106.1 per contest. Isaiah’s recent success has seen the Celtics climb to 5th in the league in assists per game at 24.7. Sullinger’s tenacity on the boards have helped Boston jump up to 7th in rebounds per game as a team.
On the defensive end, Avery Bradley and Jae Crowder continue to provide lockdown defense on the perimeter. Crowder has established himself as a premier three and D presence in the league and for his team. Crowder’s tenacity and hustle are seen every night he’s on the court.
Bradley continues to prove he’s the best one-on-one defender on the perimeter in the Association. He averages 1.53 steals per game, second on the team to Crowder, and consistently shuts down the opposing teams top scoring threat from outside (ex. Steph Curry).
Even with the standouts on the defensive side of the ball playing well, the teams team defense has slipped a bit. After being a top 10 unit for much of the year, the Celtics now rank 13th in points allowed per game.
The key contributions from second year guard Marcus Smart, Amir Johnson and Evan Turner have been instrumental to the squad’s success this season.
The Celtics are peaking at the right time. This current stretch run should carry them into the playoffs where they’ll be a tough out for any opponent. They’re in good shape to get home court advantage in the first round, which is huge to this team. The Celtics are dominant at home and have won 12 straight at the Garden and are 21-10 in Boston this season.
The Garden crowd rallies behind this squad night in and night out. The thing that makes this team so special in their team oriented play. They don’t have a superstar, and while it takes at least one to win a ring, they don’t seem to mind. Isaiah was an All-Star but he’s not considered a star of the league. The team oriented play can be seen in the depth this team has when at full strength. They may not be as talented as the 2007-2008 roster that hung Banner 17 in the Garden, but they’re just as fun to watch.
Another thing this team has going for them is Brad Stevens. He had a ton of success at Butler and led them to two consecutive Final Fours. He’s established himself as a top five coach in the NBA already and would be Coach of the Year if it wasn’t for Steve Kerr (who really should count because he missed around 30 games recovering from offseason surgery, but I digress). Stevens has the Bill Belichick-like ability to take away a teams top offensive threat and make them ineffective.
The Celtics currently sit at 37-25 and have 20 games left in the year. With the way they have been playing recently, they should eclipse 50 wins on the year. They have a difficult remaining schedule, with a game against the conference leading Cavaliers, two games against the Raptors, a trip to Oracle Arena to face the Warriors, a game in LA against the Clippers and a home game against the Oklahoma City Thunder. With seven of the final 20 coming against the NBA’s elite, breaking .500 against those teams will be a great testament to how deep of a run the Celtics can make the playoffs.