2016-17 NBA Season Weekly Recap: Boston Celtics
It's been a while since I last checked in about the Celtics, and a lot has changed since that time. When I say a lot has changed, I don't mean the players, the coaches, the scheme, or anything like that. We just finally took our heads out of our asses and started to play the way we're supposed to play. During the first quarter of the season, it was a good battle between us and the Blazers for which team was underachieving more. Sure, we were dealing with injuries to 4 of our best players, but we were definitely losing games that should have been chalked up as a W. But since Horford has returned from his concussion, Crowder from his ankle sprain, and IT from his hamstring, we've been rounding into form. The thing that still concerns me is actually exactly what happened last night, which was a late game collapse against a good team. We're up by 12+ points late in the third quarter against the Raptors with the #2 seed in the Eastern Conference on the line, and we completely implode and lose the game.
That's been the common theme for the C's this season; we lose close games in the 4th quarter to good teams. The popular take is that we "don't have a closer" or "don't have a go to guy". But last time I checked, IT is 6th in the league in scoring and leads the league in 4th quarter scoring, so that's not the case. It just always seems like in clutch situations against the league's top teams, we make a boneheaded play that loses us the game. But besides that minor complaint, I've been pretty pleased with how we've played over the past 15 games or so. We had a couple of winning streaks, and you know it's real when Marc Stein has you in his top 5 in his Power Rankings.
I can't really pinpoint one thing that’s led to the turnaround besides the obvious, continuity and health. Brad also shortened up his rotation a bit, so Jaylen Brown and Terry Rozier aren't seeing as much floor time as they did earlier in the season. Gerald Green, who was a spectator for the better part of the season early on, has had resurgence in the month of January and is a veteran presence on the floor as opposed to having the rookie Brown out there. IT has stepped it up another level and is slowly approaching super star status. I know that sounds crazy when talking about a 5'9" point guard, but this man gets buckets. He went from averaging 22 points a game last season to hovering around 27. He's in attack mode every night and that’s exactly what we need from him.
Now, I wrote an article earlier this season ether'ing Marcus Smart. At the time, it was exactly how I felt, and "I calls it how I sees it". But Smart has turned into a top 5 player on our team and is starting to live up to the expectations he had earlier this season. He can legitimately run an offense on his own, is a playmaker with the ball in his hands, and he's finally starting to find his groove on the offensive side of the ball. We already know about his defensive abilities, so no need to waste time on that, but the 22 year old is finally becoming a complete player. Thinking about how long it took Avery Bradley to finally become the player he is today leaves me very encouraged about Smart. AB wasn't nearly as good as Marcus is at the age of 22. So since I basically took an entire article to bash him before, it's only right that I give credit where credit is due.
Horford's impacts extend beyond his numbers. He's not one to fill the stat sheet, but his leadership, poise, defense, and passing skills has kept this team afloat. Jae Crowder, when he's not going on Twitter rants about our crowd cheering opposing players set for free agency, has turned his dismal 3 point shooting percentage last year into an impressive 42% clip. AB is hurt right now but he's still looking like the First Team All-Defense player he did last year, and he's 2nd on the team in scoring. With Jonas, KO, and Amir Johnson rounding out the rotation, Boston has one of the deepest teams in the league.
Note: Jae Crowder were involved in an altercation after the 1/11/17 game. 50 & Floyd might have another bout. Ha!