Since dropping their initially two games of the season and losing prized free agent Gordon Hayward to injury, the Celtics have won 12 straight games. It’s an improbable turn of occasions for a team that was expected to sink into the muck of mediocrity this is the East, but there are many indications that there’s something deeper happening here.
They’ll choose 13 Tuesday night in Brooklyn before returning residence to sponsor the Warriors about Thursday in what would be the biggest video game of the standard season to date. How did we get here? Let’s count the techniques in this week’s List.
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It’s the protection. Back September when I caught up with Brad Stevens, I was shocked to hear him talk therefore excitedly about his team’s protection. “We’re way in advance defensively of where we thought we would be,” he told me. “I’m pumped up about this team defensively.”
OK, sure, but let’s speak about that offense again, Brad. With the additions of Hayward and Kyrie Irving, big points were anticipated on that end of the floor. Our very own Mike Prada went as far as to predict the Celtics would have the second-ideal offense in the complete freaking league.
Celtics produced 21 threes for the reason that first half, many in half-court circumstances. They should be the NBA’s second-ideal O this season. – Mike Prada (@MikePradaSBN) October 3, 2017
Without Hayward, the C’s are right around little league average offensively, nonetheless it turns out Stevens was right about the defense.
They say protection wins games ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ pic.twitter.com/f72sQ6eyNE – Boston Celtics (@celtics) November 13, 2017
They overran the top spot in defensive rating a few games into the season and have held steady ever since. It starts with Al Horford who’s been sensational. Marcus Wise and Terry Rozier will be terrors on the ball and possibly Irving is involved. It’s also the scheme. They switch everything they have to switch with prolonged interchangeable forwards, which allows them to run teams off the three-point collection while clearing up on the glass.
All of this offers been frankly astounding. Defense was supposed to be the team’s phoning card last season however they were bad early, better in the centre, and good enough at the end. On stability, these were mediocre and inconsistent. Can they preserve this up? That’s the main element question. It’s the protection which makes them legit.
They are huge. You don’t think of the Celtics to be a big team. There are no 7-footers on the roster, Horford plays a lot of center, plus they don’t have a bruising power forward. But it’s their size that opponents mention first while preparing the scouting report.
What they have are hybrid wings who are much time and versatile. That displays a number of concerns for opposing offenses. Jaylen Dark brown, Jayson Tatum, and Marcus Morris can all safeguard multiple positions, as can Wise and Rozier.
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That allows them to change at will and keep teams out of your paint where opposing ballhandlers are met with size, length, and more size. In addition they contest everything and generate a huge amount of steals. (While not a fast-paced team, they thrive in transition.)
The Celtics go-to counter previous season was lineups featuring three guards, Horford, and Jae Crowder who attempted to run larger players off the court. Nowadays Stevens can roll out lineups with both size and speed that don’t keep them exposed actually. They are a a lot more versatile team than last season.
They are deep. There is so much attention paid to the starting lineup both before and after Hayward acquired hurt that people overlooked the amount of depth lurking beneath the surface. Actually without Hayward, the Celtics will be 11-deep. No-one plays more than 32 a few minutes a night, and Irving may be the only high use player included in this. Beyond the Hayward and Irving additions, Danny Ainge acquired quite the summer.
Possibly the biggest revelation possesses been the center blend of Aron Baynes and Daniel Theis. Baynes supplies nasty brute power and range out to 15 feet, as the long-limbed Theis offers paint safeguard and an awkwardly successful offensive game. They can both take up with Horford, or keep down the center without him on to the floor producing them a massive upgrade over Amir Johnson and Tyler Zeller.
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Consider, as well, the contributions of Shane Larkin and Semi Ojeleye. A still-small journeyman who spent previous season in Europe, Larkin emerged up big in a win over Philly that kickstarted this streak and filled in admirably for Irving while leading a comeback victory over Charlotte last week. Ojeleye, a rookie second-round pick, plays like a 10-calendar year vet. He’s handled large defensive assignments and knocked down threes at a good clip.
This is where Stevens’ coaching gets lionized and rightly so. No-one is being asked to do too much. One night it might be Rozier who sparks the golf club off the bench, another video game might feature Theis. In that case there’s Tatum, who’s talented enough to become a late-game scoring choice, but is among seven players who takes at least nine shots per game.
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That depth has allowed them to compensate for injuries to Horford and Irving in this winning streak. It should also keep them clean and engaged through the entire regular season.
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They rebound. This is, by far, the largest difference from previous season’s team and the best indicator that this run is not as fluky as it can appear. The C’s had been such a poor rebounding team last time of year that Stevens essentially conceded the cup and went small. Without a dominant rebounder on the roster, few found that changing coming into the season.
It has been nothing short of a complete reversal. Horford, who had the worst rebounding time of year of his career last year, is normally gobbling up boards. Morris is a monster on the cup. The backup bigs will be both sturdy rebounders as are Dark brown and Tatum. The freakishly athletic Rozier lives to seize defensive boards.
This is a classic team-wide concern that goes beyond individual contributions. The C’s container out as aggressively as any team in the little league and because they switch so much they are almost never caught behind the actions recovering from double teams. There are fewer low-cost points to be enjoyed plus they are so fast and athletic that they can still run in transition without leaking out for fast breaks.
It’s most connected, as they say.
The schedule has been kind: Behind every much time winning streak is a good slate of games and the C’s have played a relatively comfortable schedule. They acquired the Kings and Knicks at low things and survived poor performances against the lowly Hawks and rebuilding Lakers. They acquired the Spurs on a well-timed back-to-again and the Raptors on a Sunday afternoon.
The competition are certain to get tougher in December, however they don’t go directly to the West Coast until January and you must go all the way to March before they play more games on the road than at the Backyard in any given month. Nonetheless, they have notched a number of extraordinary wins including an 18-point second half comeback against Oklahoma Metropolis, as well as victories over Eastern Meeting foes Philly, Milwaukee, Miami, and Orlando on the road. Laugh now, but all are practical playoff contenders.
We still don’t understand how great this Celtics can be, of lessons. We don’t understand whether that protection will endure in a seven-video game series or whether their depth will subject as much in the playoffs when rotations receive shorter. We don’t understand if the rookies will be able to press through the wall or perform beneath the harshest postseason pressure.
What this winning streak has taught us, nevertheless, is that they are a legitimately good team with the inside an eye on locking up the top place in the Eastern Meeting again. That’s an amazing turnaround from starting night, nonetheless it should no longer be considered surprising.