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The Boston Celtics Are Turning Themselves Into A Wagon And It Is Incredible To Watch

Adam Glanzman. Getty Images.

5 of their last 6. 14 of their last 16. 21 of their last 27. You can run from it, you can hide from it, but you cannot stop it. Find me a hotter team in the NBA right now, you can't. You want to talk sample size? I'd fucking love to talk sample size. Since 12/31, the Celtics have played 31 games. That's 46% of their season. At 23-8, only the Suns at 24-6 have a better record. That's in the entire NBA for those keeping track. Yesterday marked the 11th straight win against playoff seeded teams. At 14-13, the Celtics are tied for the most wins against .500 or better teams, with no other team in the East above .500. They have beaten the Heat, Sixers, Bucks, and Cavs at least 2x. Their 28-16 record is tied for the Heat for the most wins against the East this season. 

We have now reached the point of the season where it is undeniable that the Boston Celtics are playing some of, if not the best basketball in the entire league and have been for over two months now. This has been who they are for nearly half their season. You wanted a test against actually good teams/offenses? Me too. Let's see how they did

vs Hawks: Win

vs Grizzlies: Win

vs Nets: Win

Hawks had their guys, Grizzlies had their guys, and yesterday we saw Kyrie/KD. Every single thing you wanted this team to show you, they have. Can they sustain their good play for a legit sample size? Yes. Can they win close games? Yes. Can they beat good teams that are healthy? Yes. Can Tatum take another leap? Yes. Pick a question and I feel confident that the Celts have answered it since that 12/31 date. All I asked for this stretch run was that the Celts continued to put together a body of work that was consistent and would give you reason to buy into what we were seeing. I don't know how you could argue that hasn't been the case.

As I often do, I will remind you that nothing we are experiencing right now guarantees anything come Spring. The playoffs are a different beast for everyone involved. But if this is how the team looks heading into those playoffs, you feel good. I hear a lot about how the Celts and their fans should be concerned because they might have to play Team X, Y or Z in a playoff series. OK, cool. Those teams also have to play us too, and nobody is having all that much success with that these recently.

So I dunno about you, but I plan on riding this high for quite a while. My guess is it gets me to Wednesday's game @CHA, but until then you know what time it is. It's time to relive what an incredible time we all had yesterday

The Good

- How could I start any other way? If you didn't know where we were kicking things off in this blog I honestly question everything about you. The answer is Jayson Tatum. The man turned 24 years old and I'm afraid to report he has unlocked something serious

Whether it was Trae Young or Ja Morant or Kevin Durant or Kyrie Irving, the best player on the court for these last three wins has been none other than Jayson Tatum. As each game got bigger, the better Tatum was. If that doesn't get the blood rushing directly to your naughty regions I fear you might not be alive. Everything you want from your superstar player, Tatum is giving you. He's been efficient, he's been unselfish, he's playing both ends of the floor at a high level, he's been clutch, the list goes on and on. The whole hope of how this roster is constructed is the idea that one day Tatum can blossom into the Top 5 type of player an NBA team needs in order to win a championship.

Is anyone doubting that could be possible anymore? If he's this fucking good at 24, what does he look like at 26 or 27? The best part is while his offense will surely get a lot of publicity because you do shit like this

and it's a big deal. But for Tatum to become that truly elite talent, it has to be a two way thing. Here's how that looked yesterday

This might have been the best two way performance of his young career. A little bit of that is recency bias but I'm also not sure I'm wrong. So what changed? What has unlocked this unstoppable force? For starters, everything Tatum is doing right now he's starting by making quick decisions. He's not holding the ball and dancing, trying to break down his defender. Nope. he catches and boom, he's off. No hesitation. He traded that shit in for an aggressive approach and look at what has happened. He even mentioned it after the game. Tatum making quick decisions is what unlocks everything. When he does that, I don't know what the defense is supposed to do.

- For a guy coming off a bum ankle, I thought Jaylen gave this team exactly what they needed

To start, he was a little all over the place offensively. Jaylen was playing way too fast and was caught forcing things a little bit rather than letting the game come to him. I didn't really mind since all I cared about what how he was moving. Was the burst back, did he remain aggressive, how would the defense look when he had to change directions. Once he eventually settled down and looked more like the old Jaylen, he was great. The passing is something that continues to stand out to me and it really shows the growth in Jaylen's game. In his last 6 games, yesterday marked the 3rd time he's had at least 5 assists. Since 12/31, Jaylen has an AST% of 19.2%. Considering his season average is 17.2%, I'll take that bump. You can tell he feels more comfortable as a passer and I think that fastbreak pocket pass to Al was a great example. As Jaylen feels more comfortable, the passing will only get better.

Then to ice things off with that game sealing three with 40 seconds left was perfect. This game was a perfect example of why it rules to have BOTH Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown on your team. What a blessing. When you see that Jaylen also had 3 steals and finished 8-17 (3-6) and only 1 TO, I mean when the Jays are at this level pretty much nobody is going to beat them.

- We love, and we trust. Forever. Why? Because we have eyes

There must be something about playing on your birthday, because we got another one last night and Smart once again looked great on both ends. He played in control (10 FGA), he was a defensive minded pass first point guard (9 assists) and when it came time to make life difficult on the opposing point guard, well you know what happened

Yesterday was the latest example of why Marcus Smart is the perfect starting point guard for this roster. It's OK to just accept that you were wrong. I'm wrong about a whole lot pretty much every day. I believed in Jeff Teague and Tristan Thompson. If you are someone who is still fighting the idea behind Marcus Smart being the right point guard for this team despite them currently doing this in his last 20 starts

then I'm not sure I need to listen to any of your opinions on basketball or what is best for this team. The record now stands at 18-2 if you had trouble counting all those green Ws. The usual suspects will downplay it because they are too stubborn to admit all their hot takes about Smart aged like milk, and that's OK. It's their schtick. All we can do is simply evaluate based on what is actually happening on the basketball court and it is now an undeniable fact that since Smart was given the keys and was allowed to truly play the point guard role, we are seeing the best possible version of this team on both ends. 

Call him a role player, call him a star, call him the heart and soul, call him whatever you want. I'll call him my starting point guard and feel fucking fantastic doing it.

- I am pleased to inform you that the Boston Celtics once again smashed their target assists number (20). They finished with 25 as a team and are now 35-20 when they do it. That feels pretty good! Wouldn't you know, the Basketball Gods once again rewarded such unselfish play with 48/47% splits with 17 3PM. Weird how that keeps happening huh. You move the ball and trust your teammates by playing the right way, you continue to win. What a wild concept. 

- Ho hum, another game another opportunity for Rob to do more cool shit. 

Just your totally normal 10/8/2/2/5 on 5-7 shooting in 37 minutes. I don't know what it is about playing the Nets, but Rob averages like 6 blocks a game against them or something crazy like that. I'd say I'm surprised but this is what Rob does every single game he plays. He's their X factor and everyone knows it

- The vibes are fucking immaculate

Bad day for anyone who at one time said "these players don't like each other, they never hang out and aren't friends". Real bad.

- We need to talk about the fact that Al Horford has transported back in time. I don't know how he did it, I don't know how long this lasts, but we are seeing a version of Al that has to exceed your wildest dreams. The defense, the rim protection, and finally…..the shooting. It's back and in a big way

If Al is making his safety net 3PA now, it changes everything about what this team can be offensively. That's the type of shit he was having trouble with basically all year, and now it looks like 2016 all over again. Whether it's from the corner or the top of the arc, you can see how much more confident Al is in taking that shot, and him being able to consistently knock down his open looks is gigantic. Especially in a game like this when you need pretty much everyone to produce offensively so you can keep pace with KD.

- It feels crazy to say, but this team is suddenly a 4th quarter powerhouse in the year 2022. I know, I'm as shocked as you are that I just typed that out but here's the reality. They are showing up in the 4th quarter and crushing teams. So far this year, in the 4th quarter the Celts are

  • 5th in offense
  • 9th in defense
  • 3rd in net rating
  • 6th in AST%

Yesterday, it was another 37 point performance on 50/44% splits. Do you know how weird it feels to be consistently watching this team not shit themselves in the final 12 minutes? They did it. They figured out their biggest flaw and look what happened. They are beating everyone in their path. Before, teams knew if they could keep it close that the Celts would eventually puke on themselves. Now? No puke in sight. Only wins. 

Against two of the more unstoppable scorers the league has, the Celts punched back every single time. They got stops when they needed to and Tatum did the rest on the other end. If that doesn't give you the confidence that things have shifted, nothing will. 

- 28 lead changes, 19 ties. This was one of those 48 minute slugfests where every single possession for the entire game mattered. At no point did we see this team back down, even when they went on their normal scoring drought. They didn't hang their head, they locked in defensively. When Seth Curry hit a three to go up 1 late in the fourth, this team did not break. They punched back and immediately took the lead and extended it. That is not shit that was happening two months ago.

- We can't go this long and not talk about Ime. He pitched a near perfect game yesterday. Not only has he found a way to get the most out of his players as they continue to reach new heights, but everything from his rotations to his play calling seem to be working flawlessly. The players have bought in and the rest is history. 

The mistakes Ime was making to start the year are no longer happening. Funny how that works. He's unlocked something within Tatum which is truly what matters most, but it does feel like the team has taken on the identity of their coach. A tough as nails no bullshit kind of guy. That's how the Celtics are playing right now. You think Ime is afraid of anyone in the league? Fuck no, and neither are his players.

- While his didn't score all that much, we saw how valuable the defense of Derrick White can be. He dominated his two most common matchups in Mills/Irving and did not give up a single point. His ability to defend and contest dribble drives without fouling is huge, and something they lacked at the backup point guard spot. We are seeing Brad's vision unfold and it seems pretty damn good by the looks of things.

The Bad

- Of course, it wasn't all perfect. For starters, I thought Marcus was a little too careless with the ball. His turnovers may have had good intentions, but 5 is simply way too many for the primary ball handler. Considering they only had 10 as a team, that wasn't great. I will say the majority of them came as he was trying to be unselfish and create for others, but I'd rather him focus more on making sure to take care of the ball than force things just to try and get an assist. If anyone else had 5 TOs they would be in this section, so Smart is not exempt from that. Ball security and limiting extra possessions is very important for your starting point guard. That's Day 1 stuff.

- The offensive rebounding shit is starting to get annoying. The Grizzlies had like 20 OREB and 20 2nd chance points on Thursday, and the Nets had 12 OREB and 21 2nd chance points last night. The Celts got killed on the glass 45-37, and that usually doesn't work out too well. I didn't exactly love the collective rebounding effort, and when you play a team with the offensive firepower of BKN, you are only asking for trouble by giving them extra shots. It's hard enough to have a possession where KD or Kyrie don't score, so when you actually get one and can't grab the DREB, I find that very annoying

- Equally as annoying as going 29-38 from the FT line. Did it matter? No. Did it still bother me because I have severe mental issues when it comes to this shit? Absolutely. I can't help it. 

- Not too much to write home about offensively from the bench. In total they finished with just 14 points on 3-12 shooting. Sure they made their impact in other ways, but Grant couldn't buy a bucket (1-6), and nobody else really posed as an offensive threat. Nice to win despite that, but I need the second unit to show up because chances are Tatum will not drop 54 every night.

- Listen, I just don't know what you're supposed to do against KD and Kyrie. On one hand, the defense wasn't awful, they just made insane shots. How many times did we see someone defend KD perfectly only for him to still make shots. He's an alien.

The issue that shouldn't be ignored here is in another KD/Kyrie game, the Celts once again gave up 120. They can't stop doing that. My only fear is this is not a recipe for success in a playoff series. You have to be able to find a way to prevent this team from scoring 120 points. It's happened pretty much every time those two have played in a game against Boston. Sure, there's maybe a game or two where the Celts shooting will come around and they'll hang, like this game. But that is not what the identity of this team is. They are a group that lives and dies by their defense and points allowed. Long term, that issue has to be figured out.

The Ugly

- This is pretty much the only thing that fits this section

No dude, nobody is wishing you were still in Boston or is hoping you text back. In fact, Kyrie leaving was the best thing that ever happened to this team. Maybe he forgot about what he said when he was here, or how he acted after the All Star Break, or how he clearly quit in that MIL series, or that time he very clearly stepped on the logo at mid court as a fuck you to the fans and the franchise.

THAT is why Kyrie gets booed. You're a sports villain now, big deal. Embrace it. It was your actions that brought on those consequences. This isn't just out of nowhere, it's in direct relation to things Kyrie did. Some might say fans should get over it, and part of me agrees with that idea but also fuck that. This is sports. As long as you're not an asshole about it, I say who cares. Don't throw shit or take things too far, but it's OK to make things uncomfortable for an opposing player. That's sports. 

As we stand today, things are as tight as ever in the East. Every game the rest of the way is super important for everyone in the top 9. The Celts have two days off before a date with the high powered Hornets who need all the wins they can get, but until then I say enjoy yourself. It's hard to find a team in the league who is playing better than the Celts right now, and man does that feel good to say.