It’s no secret that the Boston Celtics haven’t been the powerhouse that fans predicted they’d be in the preseason. With the return of stars Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward, Boston entered the year boasting a daunting starting five that included Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum and Al Horford.
They were right to believe so. On paper, that’s a lineup that could rival the Monstars. At least, that’s what we thought, anyway.
Nearly two months into the season, the Celtics sat at a crossroads after another disappointing showing on the season. They were 10-10, fresh off the heels of a loss to the Dallas Mavericks, and were desperately looking for answers.
“You’re almost at that rock bottom point where the team is about to blow up,” Kyrie Irving said, per Sports Illustrated. “Not saying that we’re there, but for me there is no more time to waste.”
If you’re a Celtics fan, the words “rock bottom” are enough stir up some pain in your heart. Many have already speculated that there are simply too many mouths to feed in Boston’s offense and that it’s disrupting their rhythm. This theory has yet be proven, but Irving isn’t wrong, either. Boston hasn’t been bad, but they really haven’t been any good. Enter Brad Stevens, basketball genius and apparent savior of the franchise.
Stevens shook things up heading into Monday night’s matchup with the New Orleans Pelicans (11-12). With Jaylen Brown out, and Hayward struggling to return to form, Stevens opted for a new-look lineup. Marcus Smart and Marcus Morris started the game for Boston and immediately started producing results. With plus/minuses of +12 and +9, respectively, the duo injected an energy into the lineup that carried the team to a 124-107 win.
Boston swung that momentum into Friday night’s contest against the Cleveland Cavaliers, choosing again to keep Smart and Morris in the starting five. Once again, the Celtics pummeled their way to a blowout 128-95 victory at home. Sure, the Cavaliers are just 4-17 on the season, but it’s an important and impressive win for Boston, nonetheless. Most impressive of all, perhaps, are the shooting numbers posted by their two newest starters. Each shot 50 percent from three last night, continuing their recent successes from beyond the arc. If this duo can keep shooting as they have of late, Boston’s offense just might start soaring up the league rankings, at which they sat just 26th entering the night’s game.
Whether the Celtics can build on this short string of victories is uncertain, but it looks like they’ve finally found a lineup that can energize their offense without sacrificing defense. Smart is a renowned defender across the league and Morris has been known to guard star matchups effectively. Luckily for the team, Brown has reportedly offered to take a lesser role if it’ll help them win, per NBC Sports Boston. It remains to be seen whether Hayward will also be so willing to forgo a spot in the starting lineup as the season goes on, but if he does, things might really be turning around in Boston.
Finally, the Celtics are in position to get back on track. As Kyrie said, there is no more time to waste.