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The Celtics Have Now Won 8 In A Row And Are Without A Doubt The Hottest Team In The NBA

Maddie Malhotra. Getty Images.

8 in a row. 10 of their last 11. 15 of their last 19. You can look as hard as you want throughout the entire league, but you will not find a hotter team right now than the Boston Celtics. They have the longest active winning streak in not just the East, but the whole league. This is what we in the biz call a stone cold fact. You can run from it, you can try and deny it, but at the end of the day truth will prevail, and that my friends is the truth. No team is hotter right now. Few teams are winning at the overall clip we've seen from the Celts since the calendar turned to 2022. You know how you would sit in bed late and night and dream what life would be like if the Celts ever turned their extremely frustrating and wildly underachieving season around? No? That was just me? Well, I can tell you, this is the feeling I dreamt of and the good news is we're just getting started. This team still isn't even shooting the ball that well! Derrick White has been here for like two seconds, we don't think that's going to get better as he gets more comfortable? Look at how good it already is!

When the Celts were sitting at a 5 game winning streak, it was probably a bigger deal for us than it was to the many looking in from the outside. I mean, this was a team that had never won more than 3 games in a row at any point this season. Once they got to 5, we all looked at the schedule and saw BKN/DEN/ATL/PHI up next. I think most thought OK, 2-2 would be solid, 3-1 would be really good, and 4-0 would basically be unheard of. For as good as their defense has been, it's another thing to go up against legit offenses, and we were finally going to see three legit offenses over this four game stretch. It was going to be the next barometer test to see how for real this turnaround is.

Well, the Celts have guaranteed themselves a 3-1 finish. They held the 7th ranked offense of the Nuggets to basically under 100 when the game mattered (DEN scored a few garbage time buckets). Up next was the top 3 offense in the Atlanta Hawks. They did not break 100. Most importantly, for the first time in fucking forever, the Celts woke up this morning outside of the play in. Their record is finally starting to match what their body of work suggests it should be. They own the highest point differential in the East. They have arguably the best defense in the NBA. Their net rating since December 31st is 1st in the league by a WIDE margin. These are all things that are actually happening. You know, the things you'd be called a delusional green teamer for suggesting was possible. They are happening. In real life. In games that count.

We now enter the final boss of this 4 game stretch. The new look Sixers with James Harden. After that the Celts go DET/BKN/DET/IND. You can see the opportunity that now exists for this team to continue this great run. But as you should know by now before we look ahead, we first must look back and relive how much fun we all had yesterday afternoon. Let us begin

The Good

- Star players do star player shit when their team needs them. When it's time to cut the bullshit and insert your will on a game in order to put the team on your back and carry them to victory. Ladies and gentlemen, that is exactly what Jayson Tatum did

It was nearly impossible for Tatum to start this game worse. He was just 2-7 in the first quarter and just 5-13 at the half (1-6 from three). The Celts found themselves down 10, giving up a shit ton of points. I wouldn't blame you if you were a little nervous. How could you not be. The Jays were laying an egg in a pretty important game….again.

Then the third quarter started and Jayson Tatum reminded the world of what Jayson Tatum is capable of. 16 points in 12 minutes on 6-9 shooting. A +19 in the quarter and the next thing you knew the entire game had shifted. All the momentum swung to the Celts side because their best players willed it to happen. Tatum saw a three go in and we were off to the races. After struggling big time in the first 24 minutes, look at how Tatum adjusted his approach in that third quarter

Tell me that's not exactly how you want Tatum to play offensively. You can't, because it is. Here's the thing with Tatum's night though. You see the 38 points and think maybe he only dominated on that end. No no no my friends. This was a two way masterclass. We saw on multiple possessions Tatum's ability to stay in front of Trae Young with no help. His size and length were a real problem. He was disciplined and didn't go for the herky jerky shit that Trae kills primary defenders with. I mean look at this shit

I don't know who needs to hear this, but Jayson Tatum is having an All NBA Defense caliber type season. Sorry if this factual statement upsets you. A lot will be made about how Tatum came through offensively in the second half, but let's not sleep on his defensive impact. When your best player is setting the tone like this on both ends of the floor, the rest of the troops follow. It's that simple. When Tatum buys in, everyone buys in. 

- I'm putting Derrick White and Marcus Smart together for this spot because they are basically the same person. So many people tell me that Marcus Smart is the problem and for this team to get over the hump they needed to trade him. You know what Brad said? Brad said in order for this team to get good, we needed to add another Marcus Smart. That has to be a tough pill for the Anti Smart crowd to swallow. 

What a blessing it no is to have this type of skillset at Ime's disposal

Marcus Smart: 13/6/7/1 with 0 TOs

Derrick White: 14/4/5/2/1 with 1 TO

Together they shot just 7-25 (2-15), shit White went 2-10 alone from three but do you think anyone gives a shit? Nope. And rightfully so because look at how they are impacting the game in other ways. Remember how awesome the new closing lineup of Smart/White/Brown/Tatum/Rob was in their first appearance? Let's have a look at how they did in their second

6 minutes / 115.4 Ortg / 75 Drtg / +40.4 net rating

I'm sorry…..what?!?!?!?

Here it is for the season so far

15 minutes / 119.4 Ortg / 76.7 Drtg / +42.7 net rating

Um…I think we might have something here folks. A very very very small sample, but the proof is in the pudding. We're seeing what having a defensive minded pass first player does playing next to the normal core 4 guys. It makes them versatile, the ball moves, it opens things up for Tatum and Brown, and on the other end it is virtually impossible to score on them. This is Brad's vision and man is it off to a fantastic start. 

- Rob outplayed Clint Capela and then some

Coming off the success he had individually against Jokic, it was nice to see Rob have similar success against a completely different type of center. Celts fans are aware of how often Capela seems to kill this team, and he only had 2 OREB all night. When the team needed Rob on cleanup duty, he obliged (6 OREB). When it came time for Rob to finish off awesome lobs by doing some insanely cool shit, be obliged. When it came time to protect the rim, Rob obliged. 

Best part? He played 36 minutes. This is the new normal now. We're seeing Rob be able to play 35+ minutes every single game. That is such a wild reality given where we started with Rob, it makes me so happy for him. We're seeing what consistent availability and minutes is doing to his career, and he's blossoming. I think we can all agree that his extension looks FANTASTIC right about now. 

- OK, we obviously have to take a second to talk about this defense. It took a little while for the players to buy in and get used to Ime's switch everything system, but now that they have, holy shit. The final numbers are great, holding ATL to just 95 points on 36/31% splits with only 12 3PM. That's nails. But to get there they had to really tighten things up in the second half, and well look at this shit

That is erotic. No other way to say it. They completely removed Trae Young from the equation after he gave them all sorts of problems in the first 24 minutes. I'm sorry, but you hold one of the best offenses in the league to a 40 point half on 35/18% shooting, I'm not sure how you could describe that any other way than wildly impressive. 

- Here's something else to consider. During this winning streak, one of the boxes I think most of us wanted to see the Celts check was how they would handle adversity. When things aren't going well, what do they do? Do they punch back or do they turtle and only make things worse.

Well, we saw them get down 9 to the Nuggets in the first half, claw back, and impose their will and win. Then yesterday we saw them get down by 10 to the Hawks at the half. They responded with a 42-23 third quarter. They are responding about as well as you can to adversity right now. This team started their game against the Hawks playing some of the worst basketball you'll ever see. They couldn't stop turning it over, nobody could make a jump shot or a layup let alone get stops on the other end. But they didn't panic. They didn't drop their head or start pointing fingers. Instead, they did something about it.

If that's not growth compared to what we were watching in November/December, I'm not sure what is. 

- You all should know the magic number by now. When this team finishes with at least 20 assists, they are 29-18. That's the key, just get to that 20 number and chances are things are going to work out. They finished with 21 and guess what? They won! Not bad considering as a team they only shot 42/28%. Smart and White led the way with a combined 12 of those 21, and that should surprise no one.

- Speaking of records, for those keeping track at home the Celtics are now 18-6 in games their normal intended starting 5 plays. I won't blame you if you're not exactly a math guy because math fucking stinks, but that's a .750 winning percentage. Said another way, that's a 61.5 win pace. That seems good.

This is why I always pushed back when people would tell me the Celts roster stinks, and that's why they were .500. No, they just didn't have their guys. Sorry, that's the truth. When this group has the team Brad intended to have, they are fucking nails. That's not just the Kool Aid talking, that's what the actual on court production is telling us. Both by metrics and by record. 18-6. Drink that in.

- Admit it, this looks like early season Al to you

If they can keep his minutes down now that Theis is back, look out. Al played just 23 yesterday and in my opinion that's perfect. Keep him around 20-25 a night so he has fresh legs and chances are his three point shooting is going to come around. During this 8 game winning streak, Al is now up to 37.9% from three on 3.6 3PA a night. That's exactly what the doctor ordered for his role. He's playing 26.6 minutes a night. That feels somewhat related.

- Drink it in folks. It's delicious

The Bad

- Brutal back to back shooting performances for Jaylen. No two ways about it. You could tell he was forcing things big time early in this game and the more he pressed, the worse things got. Brutal turnovers, couldn't make a jumper, just real bad stuff. Eventually that turned around which was great, but 6-16 (2-6) with 4 TOs is nowhere close to good enough for Jaylen and he knows it. To be able to win with him having off nights is great, I would just like him to please snap out of this little mini funk. He's too important. 

- He wasn't alone with the turnover bug though. Rob had 5. That's an insane number for him and one I didn't think we'd ever see. Some of his decisions were a bit questionable like that turnover at midcourt in the fourth quarter. Just take a breath. I don't think Rob knows he can just hold onto the ball for a second if he needs to. He's always trying to get it out quick which most of the time I love, but it's OK to be extra cautious at times. 

- If you are someone that still has concerns about this team's shooting, nothing we've seen in the two games since the trade deadline would make you feel any better. They are getting by with their defense which is great, but the shooting is still pretty brutal. That's why I find it interesting that both Nesmith and Hauser were still DNP-CDs. Doesn't help when Pritchard is also going 0-3. It's very clear that shooting the basketball is still a glaring issue, and that's a bit scary. You're always just one brutal shooting night away from having your season end. Just ask the Rockets. 

It's not often we see the Celts win when they go 11-38 (28.9%) from three. They without a doubt have to lead the league in sub-30% 3P shooting games. It's bad. What else do you want me to say? I can't sit here and tell you shooting 28% from three is good, it's not. It stinks.

- Let's talk about the 4th quarter. They didn't choke which was nice, but they also weren't all that great. The Celts scored just 18 points in 12 minutes and finished with 27/18% splits. Of their 22 FGA, 11 of them were 3PA. They finished 2-11. Add in the 5 TOs and it was basically the blueprint for every collapse we've seen this season. The difference was now the defense is showing up in those final 12 minutes, but I still have concerns about what this team looks like offensively when we get to the 4th. I still hate it. I've seen enough 4th quarter collapses this year to know that this approach offensively is NOT it

Did it cost them? Nope. Does that mean we have to like what we saw? Also nope. They still need to be better at the end of games. It's a work in progress.

- I don't think anyone, including the officials, knew what a block or a charge was. That is all I'll say about the matter.

The Ugly

- Say it with me now…


So now we turn the page to another big head to head matchup with the Sixers. Not only is it important because they are in the same division and just 2 games ahead in the standings, but H2H tiebreakers are going to matter. A win tomorrow would guarantee a split with PHI. That could be huge down the stretch. Last time these two teams played, the Celts had a brutal 4 minute stretch in the first quarter and that was it, they got their asses kicked. Now with Harden in the fold, things will be most certainly not be easier. But this is also a much different Celts team compared to when these two teams last played. Win that, and there is some big time momentum surrounding this team into the All Star break. No team in the NBA is hotter right now, so let's keep this thing rolling.