The Boston Celtics are the NBA’s hottest team as of late. The team had a nine-game win streak, beating top-tier teams such as the Miami Heat, Brooklyn Nets, Philadelphia 76ers, and the Denver Nuggets. Within the last week, NBA analysts and long-time experts have argued that the Celtics have a real shot to make the finals.
The Boston Celtics are currently second in overall defensive ranking in the NBA. The team has a 105.6 defensive rating on the year, putting them just behind the Golden State Warriors for the best in the league. Boston also ranks second in blocks per game with an average of six. The emergence of Robert Williams is the main reason for the team’s defensive success. In his fourth season, Williams has anchored the Celtics in the post, ranking third in the league with 2.2 blocks per game. He also averages 9.7 rebounds and nearly one steal.
While Williams is locking down the paint, the perimeter is being locked down by guard Marcus Smart and Jaylen Brown. Smart is a true grit and grind player that throws his body on the ground and hustles on every play. Averaging 1.8 steals per game, Smart has forced hard shots and turnovers with his pressure. Even off-ball, Smart is capable of removing a player from the play.
Brown is not the grit and grind type of player that Smart is, but he is still one of the best wing defenders in the league. His capability of sticking on the ball on the ground and in the air is incredible. Brown can handle players with fancy footwork and quick feet while also shutting down the cutters and high flyers of the league. The superstar forward is capable of guarding other superstars and slowing them down from their respective production.
The Starting Five
Numerous outlets ranked Boston’s starting lineup as the best in the league. With the addition of Derrick White at the trade deadline, the team overstepped quite a few powerhouses. The starting unit of Smart, White, Jayson Tatum, Brown, and Williams was the topic of excellence. Defensively, the argument is to be made that the team provides the best defensive production. Offensively, though, the team has been inconsistent, causing them to struggle for stretches.
During their last ten games, Boston had a nine-game win streak and lost their final game to the Detroit Pistons right before the All-Star break. The team ranks eleventh in three-pointers made but 21st in three-point percentage. Thus, this team takes a ton of threes but only makes them at a below-average pace. Boston is also ranked 21st in field goal percentage. Even with the new addition of White, the team will not see a large increase in assists as he is not a major playmaking guard. As a whole, the team ranks 19th in the league in assists per game, which is an improvement from last season. However, expectations are higher for a team that is in Finals contention.
This team struggles to score at times. Boston ranks 17th in scoring and 15th in offensive rating. A finals contender should rank in the top 10 for both defensive and offensive ratings. Teams such as the Phoenix Suns, Memphis Grizzlies, Utah Jazz, and Heat all possess a top-10 offense and defense. These teams are considered contenders to win the finals. With 22 games left in the season, the Celtics need to improve their inconsistent offense into a top-10 unit. Boston is making strides towards becoming the team they were projected to be at the start of the season. Once the shots fall more consistently and their offensive rating improves, this team has the chance of being true finals contenders.
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Main Image Credit: AP Photo/Michael Dwyer