Stella Blue Coffee | Win A Game Day Experience With Big CatLEARN MORE

Advertisement

After Officially Clinching The Best Record In The NBA, Do Not Take The 2023-24 Boston Celtics For Granted

Brian Babineau. Getty Images.

Advertisement

It was only a matter of time, but last night was finally the night. For months now I've been trying to explain how every night when you tune in to watch the 2023-24 Boston Celtics play basketball, you were witnessing the best team in the NBA. Some say that makes me a blind homer, I say it makes me someone with functioning eyes. After blowing out the SGA and Jalen Williams-less Thunder by 35 points, this is now no longer something that is subjective. Objectively, the Boston Celtics will have the best record in the NBA this season, just as they have all season long.

In fact, through 76 games it's important to take a step back and appreciate what the hell we're experiencing. For many of us, this is unlike any previous Celtics seasons of our lives. Just go down the list

- Best record in the NBA (60-16)

- Best home record in the NBA (33-3)

- Best road record in the NBA (27-13)

- Best record against teams .500 or better in the NBA (33-13)

- Best point differential in the NBA (+11.7)

- Best offense in the NBA (122.6)

- Best net rating in the NBA (+12.0)

- Best TS% in the NBA (61.0%)

- Best 3PM shooting team in the NBA (16.6)

- Best 3P% team in the NBA (39.0%)

Mind you, they also pair this with the 2nd best defense and are the 2nd best rebounding team in basketball as well. Call me crazy, but a 76 game sample feels big enough to where we can probably put some stock into what we've been watching.

And yes, every single Celtics fan on the planet knows that NONE of this matters if they don't win the title. We all get it. I think we're at the point where we don't need to keep giving that context. It's what makes the next few months both extremely exciting and absolutely fucking terrifying. We're either witnessing one of the greatest teams of all time in the history of the NBA, or we're witnessing the greatest gag job not seen since Heather Brooke.

At a time like this, all I really feel is appreciation. I am begging you, as a fan, do not take this shit for granted. I am old as shit, as washed as washed gets, and this is only the 3rd 60 win Celtics season I have ever witnessed in my entire life. Perhaps that's why I have a different perspective when thinking about this team and why I can't seem to get as worked up as some when they maybe lose a game for the first time in a month. Why?

I'm molded by this

Advertisement

There were years where it would take the Celtics multiple years to win 60 goddamn games let alone 60+ in one season. The Celtics notched their 14th 60 win season, which is the most in NBA history, but for people around my age, this is certainly not the norm. In the history of the NBA, there have been only 79 teams to ever win 60, and should the Celts end the year 5-1, they'll become only the 22nd team ever to hit 65. This shit is hard to do and you could go decades without ever seeing it. I know the cool thing to do in 2024 is pretend like the regular season doesn't matter and it's all about RINNNGGGZZZZ, and while you can choose to feel however you want, I would just tell you that to thumb your nose up at what the Celts have accomplished to date would be foolish. 

Understand that there is still more to prove, but appreciate what we've seen so far. This is arguably the greatest Celtics team of many of our lifetimes, and that doesn't exactly come around all that often.

With that said, let's dive into win number 60.

The Good

- Probably the biggest concern for the Thunder despite their awesome season is how they are going to be able to deal with size once the playoffs roll around. They didn't really address their big man position at the deadline (signed Bismack Biyombo), and while Chet is 7ft, he's not exactly a huge guy. 

So it should come as no surprise that when it came to having to deal with our beautiful 7'3 basketball cheat code, the Thunder had no chance

I would like to take this opportunity to remind you of Brad Stevens' brain and what his thought process was when he traded for Kristaps Porzings. 

Advertisement

Sound familiar? And hey, maybe you're a more visual learner like I am. If those highlights weren't enough and maybe you missed it, does this sound like what Brad was talking about in that clip?

Advertisement

27/12/4/1/5 on 11-14 (3-3) shooting in only 30 minutes, watching KP dominate both ends of the floor was not only intoxicating, but it's exactly what he should be doing against a team that isn't anywhere close to having the size to handle him while playing a switching defense. It honestly feels like cheating whenever we see this version of Porzingis because what the hell are you going to do if you can't switch against this team? You also can't play a zone either with Porzingis on the floor so what's the solve? 

This is why KP is the true difference-maker for this version of the Celtics and why his performance in this upcoming playoff run is so important. If this is who the Celtics get? Good luck. 

It's also why my anxiety is through the roof for every second KP is on the floor in these meaningless games. Now that the best record is secured, part of me doesn't want to see him touch the floor again. We've made it through 76 games and he's as healthy as he's ever been. The hard part is over. Every time he jumps in traffic, every time he turns his shoulder and someone swipes down to foul him, all I do is pray. Pray that he comes out of that moment healthy. 

- It can sort of get lost in the shuffle with how well so many players currently look, but we should not lose sight of the quality of basketball being played by Jayson Tatum. At the end of the day, he's still the best player and the fate of the team ultimately depends on how he looks over the next handful of weeks. 

If we remember the Tatum calendar, he's pretty much right on schedule

Over the last month, Tatum has played in 16 games. In those 16 games he's putting up 27.9/7.3/2.9 on 47/45% splits with 3.5 3PM a night. That is big time stuff and when you look at his month by month production, you can see that Tatum is right on schedule

Sure he's not going to win MVP, but who gives a shit. What I care about is Tatum playing the best basketball of his season ahead of the most important playoff run of his life, and that's what we're getting. I also love that he only played 28 minutes last night and didn't play a second of the 4th quarter, which means his 24/7/3 came in just 3 quarters. Not bad! 

Advertisement

When you combine that with his engaged defense and rebounding recently, it does feel like Tatum is ramping up into Playoff Tatum and we know what that guy is capable of. 

I just want to make sure we aren't overlooking what a special season Tatum has had this year. You don't win 60 games by accident, and for this team, it starts at the top. People who don't watch this team play every night will suggest this is a "down" year for Tatum, but I would argue it's actually been his best season as a Celtic to date. Everthing from his mindset to his consistency to his sacrifice to his leadership, it's pretty much all been the best case scenario.

- I believe the Celtics are now 21-0 when Al Horford scores at least 8 points in a game. If all he needs is 8, well then I guess finishing with 16 isn't so bad

It's undeniable how good a rested Al Horford looks, and just like Porzingis it was clear that Horford didn't have to simply settle for open catch and shoot 3s in this game. He could also get whatever he wanted on the block and around the rim. I love that everyone on the floor knew this and actively looked for Al, and it's no surprise he was a team best +32 in his 24 minutes. The guy looked 25!

All I know is this. The rest of the team HAS to come through for Al Horford this postseason. He's perfect and he has given them WAY more than anyone should relatively be giving a team at age 37. Blowing that 2022 Finals and robbing Al of his ring is something that will haunt me for the rest of my life, so this needs to be the year they make up for it.

This is also a sign of why the Celts shouldn't fuck around and make series go longer than they should. Fewer miles on Al keeps his legs fresh, and fresh legs for Al Horford means he morphs into Prime Al Horford, only this version of Prime Al Horford also shoots 3s at a 40% clip. That feels like it might be important moving forward.

- Through 3 quarters Jaylen Brown was playing some of the worst basketball of his season. He couldn't make a shot or layup to save his life, his dribbling and ball security was a legit disaster, and time and time again he kept grabbing at his left hand. Safe to say I think we all had PTSD during those moments.

But then we turned the page to the 4th quarter and it was as if Jaylen immediately snapped out of whatever the hell was going on and got back to being the unstoppable force we've been watching since the All Star Break

Advertisement

This was a 93-83 game entering the final 12 minutes, and in his 8 4th quarter minutes Jaylen nearly outscored the entire Thunder team by himself (17-15). His 5-6 (3-4) shooting is how this game got out of hand quickly, and the next thing we knew a 10 point lead was 35 in the blink of an eye. Do you know how insane that is? 

What we saw was the beauty of Mazzulla Ball. All it takes is an instant and the Celts can hit you like an avalanche. A couple of consecutive stops and the next thing you know they are raining fire down in a way that is extremely overwhelming. As a reminder, it all starts on the defensive end. If you get stops, you get out in transition and you get easy buckets. Once that happens the crowd gets into it and everyone starts feeling good, then come the 3s. Once the 3s are dropping, it's curtains. 

- Please hit play

- You have now reached the part of the blog where it is my pleasure to show you something that most likely is going to give you a raging Porzingis in your pants. Don't put that on me, I'm just the messenger. Enjoy.

Advertisement

Advertisement

Like I said, we are currently watching one of the greatest Celtics teams (and perhaps any NBA team) to ever exist. Appreciate it. 

We also shouldn't ignore what happened the last handful of times the Celts finished the year with the NBA's best record. Since 1981, or the last 7 times it's happened, the Celts went on to win the title in 4 of those seasons, including 3 of the last 4. 

- Another game of 30+ AST and 10 or fewer TOs. To no surprise, the Celtics won that game by a billion. It honestly is that simple. Move the ball, play smart and take care of the ball and you become unstoppable. 

It also doesn't hurt when you put up 135 on 50/42/90 with 17 3PM. That's called showing up on both ends if you ask me.

- Homecourt throughout the playoffs in a building the Celts are 33-3 in and haven't lost to an Eastern Conference opponent all season. 

Despite being an elite road team, the Celts now do not have to win a single road game this entire playoffs as long as they handle their shit at home. Just play like you have ALL YEAR and that will be enough. We all know what a disaster playing at home was last postseason, and it feels like the Celts have figured out how to get back to making the Garden an impossible building to play in. All I ask is they keep that up for 2 more months.

The Bad

- Hard to complain too much about a 35 point win, but we can start with the 3rd quarter. It has been a while since we've seen the Celts lay a complete egg coming out of halftime, but last night was pretty gross. Allowing 36 points on 58/60% splits and 15 FTA to a team without their two best offensive players is not exactly what I would call good, and even if the whistle was pretty dogshit and very inconsistent, I still wouldn't say the Celts were all that locked in. Maybe they relaxed a little bit with the 14 point lead, and I suppose it was nice to see them respond well after OKC cut it to 6, but as we know one bad quarter can lose you a playoff game.

You have to be locked in for the full 48.

- I can handle when Jaylen maybe goes cold from the field. That shit happens. What I think he needs to try and avoid is that when he's having a rough stretch, there's no need to compound things by forcing the issue. That's how a lot of his TOs in the ECF happened and it's how a lot of his TOs happened last night. 

He's done such a great job of finding multiple ways to impact a game this season, I think his next step is understanding the moments where maybe things aren't clicking offensively, and instead of trying to make up for his previous bad moments all in one move is how he gets into trouble. The beauty is he's also capable of the 4th quarter we witnessed, so this isn't to say he should stop shooting altogether. This just means that when things aren't going his way, just simplify things and get back to the basics. Play defense, get out in transition, see the ball go in and boom. Everything feels better.

But it's the moments where he may hold the ball, try and cook his guy offensively only to turn it over that he needs to try and avoid. 

- It really was a bummer that this matchup didn't have SGA/Williams active. After they sat the front end of their B2B against the Sixers I was hoping that was because they all planned on playing last night. I would have loved to see what these two teams look like against each other at full strength, especially with the fact that this was a bit of a revenge game for the Celts given what happened in OKC the last meeting (without SGA too). 

I get why they are resting, but it's still a bummer.

The Ugly

- New blog rule. If you win by 35 points to secure your 60th win and the best record in the NBA, this section gets a pass.

Advertisement

So here we go, before last night every game left on the schedule was fairly meaningless, and now that the Celts secured the best record, they really don't mean shit. How Joe and Brad play this homestretch will be interesting, because we now have to deal with the timeless rest vs rust debate. Do we see the Maine Celtics close out the season? Do the guys maybe play a half the rest of the way? This is pretty uncharted territory considering there are still 6 games left on the schedule and the Celts literally have nothing to play for, so I say let's see what Jordan Walsh can do. Let's give Queta some burn. The time has come to enjoy the fruits of their labor and get everyone healthy and rested for April 20th.