By Paul Liacos December 10, 2018
As I’m sure you are aware by now, these Celtics are in the midst of a 5 game win streak capped off by an absurdly dominant 56 point road victory on Saturday over the putrid Chicago Bulls. And while we must remember that the quality of the wins on this streak is not the greatest, compared to how this Celtics team was playing before the streak started it has looked like a complete turnaround.
The C’s have averaged an insane 126.2 PPG over this win streak, good for tops in the league over that span and look far from the squad that was stagnant on the offensive end to start the year. So what has changed? Well, for starters the shots have been falling with the team shooting 51.4 percent from the field over this span and 45.5 percent from three. The main reason for all this is the Celtics ability to move the ball better and make that one extra pass to get the open shot, something they weren’t doing earlier in the year and were more inclined to settle for contested jumpers. The willingness to drive and dish the ball has enabled better looks and gets everyone involved on offense.
On the defensive end we have seen stellar improvements as well and I personally think it all has been sparked by moving Marcus Smart into the starting lineup. He sets a defensive tone whenever he is on the court that is infectious. When he has the ability to do that right off the bat to start a game it can enable the Celtics to jump out to early leads and play from ahead as we saw on Saturday night, when they jumped out to a 17-0 lead over the Bulls. The team is rebounding much better overall as well, averaging 52.2 rebounds per game over this stretch. Daniel Theis has been a major contributor in this regard as well and is provided much-needed production with Al Horford and Aron Baynes missing time lately. As much as we like to think back to last seasons playoff run and wish we had Kyrie and Hayward, if Daniel Theis had been healthy for that playoff run that might have been just enough to tip the scales and gotten these Celtics to the NBA finals last season.
This team now has 6 players averaging in double figures on the season, with Kyrie, Tatum, Brown, Morris, Horford and Hayward all contributing more than 10 Points a game and Terry Rozier playing much better and about to join that group. This is truly the Celtics team we envisioned that has 7-8 guys that can handle the majority of the scoring load on any given night. When one guy doesn’t have it that night, the next guy steps up. It’s why this team can be so goddamn dangerous if they are firing on all cylinders.
Now some of you may have read the title of this article and said no, it’s clearly still the Raptors, Bucks or the 76ers at the top of the East. You would have a point in terms of the standings obviously, but is there anyone more dangerous than this Celtics team when they are playing their best? I don’t think so. For the Raptors to be successful in the playoffs they will need Kawhi Leonard to score 25-30 pts+ a game just to have a chance. Can he do that? Sure he can, but facing a next man up type of team like the Celtics, will even that be enough? The Sixers have their own Big 3, but the Kyrie-less Celtics found a way to shut down Embiid and Simmons while dismantling them in the playoffs last season. Can Jimmy Butler put them over the edge this year? It’s possible, but just like Kawhi he will need to carry a huge load to accomplish the task.
The Bucks are the wildcard because it sure is starting to feel like Giannis has become the LeBron type talent that can take over and win any game or series by himself. I would still argue they are a year or two away from true title contention, but Celtics fans soon may be very frustrated when they realize the best player in the world left the Eastern Conference only to be reincarnated by a 6’11 Greek freak.
The Celtics are slated to take on the Pelicans again tonight in Boston, it will be interesting to see the amount of fan support for Anthony Davis in an attempt to persuade his mind that Boston is his best landing spot for the future. I would remember this much though Celtics fans, yes he would be an amazing addition to this Celtics team but at what cost? We’ve seen that this team can compete with anyone when they are on their game, let’s not make the guys that are going to lead us on a deep playoff run this season feel as if they are unwanted or not appreciated. They are what we got for now and we are going to need the best out of everyone if this is going to be the team that hangs banner 18.
— Celtics on NBC Sports Boston (@NBCSCeltics) December 9, 2018