After starting the season off poorly, the Boston Celtics are finally turning things around. Despite their rough start to the season, the team finds themselves 5th in the Eastern Conference with a record of 17-10. Still not quite the start fans were hoping for, but with their improved play during their six-game winning streak, the Celtics are beginning to look like the team expected to come out of the East this season.
Better Shot Selection
While most of those wins have come against sub-.500 teams, the increased production across their roster is something that’s hard to ignore. This production comes after recent injuries to Al Horford (knee), and Jaylen Brown (back), which speaks to the team’s depth. Terry Rozier has stepped up of late, taking much more quality shots; something the team has improved on over the course of the season. Tatum has also stepped up through these injuries, now pushing his season averages to 16 points per game and 6.6 rebounds per game on 46% shooting. Both players had questionable shot selection earlier in the season but have really improved in that area of late which has helped the Celtics run their offense more efficiently. Since their 10-10 start to the season, the Celtics own the second-best offensive rating in the league behind only the Houston Rockets. This doesn’t exactly prove they have finally figured it out, but it’s certainly a good sign considering their early struggles on offense.
Improved Ball Movement
In a league where passing is everything, the Celtics are thriving in that category. After their rough start, the Celtics have begun to move the ball around much more than they have which has created an efficient offense. Averaging just over 25 assists a game this season (9th), the Celtics have finally turned into an efficient offense. Playing unselfishly, the Celtics have quietly become one of the best passing offenses in the league recently, which has seemed to rub off on Kyrie Irving. The eight-year veteran is having his best season of his career passing the ball, averaging 6.4 assists a game, all while being the team’s scoring leader this season. With more passing, the Celtics’ offense will only get better as long as everyone stays healthy.
Players are beginning to understand their roles
It’s been a bit of an adjustment for multiple players on the Celtics’ roster, but the team may have found a recipe for success with their lineups. Marcus Smart, who has spent a majority of his career coming off the team’s bench is now a regular starter and has helped the Celtics find their groove on offense. Despite being a defensive- oriented player with limited offensive game, the Celtics have still been able to find success on offense. Rather than include Smart as a consistent scoring option, the team has allowed players like Jayson Tatum and Marcus Morris to thrive in the starting lineup.
After beginning the year in the starting lineup, both Hayward and Brown have been able to produce off the bench. During his first two games coming off the bench, Brown has thrived offensively scoring at least 20 points in each game. Those types of numbers will certainly help the Celtics’ bench, which was rather inexperienced without them in the lineup. With a lineup composed of Terry Rozier, Brown, Gordon Hayward, Semi Ojeleye, and now Robert Williams, the Celtics have the talent to sustain this recent success.
While the Celtics are starting to play some great basketball, we might have to pump the brakes a little bit. There is still a lot of season to be played and a lot can happen late in the season (ex. Irving’s injury last season). It’s a small sample size with limited competition, but the improved play is certainly encouraging. In order for the Celtics to stand out, they’ll need to keep beating the teams they should be beating and continue to be competitive against the top teams in the Eastern Conference. For now, the Celtics will continue to try an build a championship-contending team with their arsenal of talent.