The Celtics had a slow start to their season, but they seem to be ramping up to become the scary dark horse team of the East.
The Celtics secured their very own spot at number 2 by the end of the regular season, something we couldn’t have seen from a time as late as December.
The Boston Celtics have always been a valid contender within the Eastern Conference, featuring “NBA Community Assist Award” Jaylen Brown on defence, while they keep the big men like three-time All-Star Tatum and two-time SEC Defensive Player of the Year Williams on the front lines. The team features some of the scariest players, who can land their shots, while guarding the other teams successfully, on both the front and back lines of Boston. It’s safe to say the Celtics successfully used their team to its full extent.
They traded away draft picks, and gained a key trade with the San Antonio Spurs for Derrick White, the only trade to be made by the Celtics this season. However, even with their young team, the 17-time NBA champions couldn’t get the swing of it.
The Celtics had a slow start. They weren’t putting in the effort. They were lacking points every game, and they were losing to teams who didn’t really hold much value, like the Detroit Pistons. The C’s opened the season with a blowout loss to the New York Knicks, with only a few somewhat decent players, just to open their first game back in Boston to a 30 point deficit to the Toronto Raptors. The Celtics went 1-1 against the Indiana Pacers without their star ex-player Sabonis, and they even took a loss to a Booker-less Phoenix Suns.
The Celtics were not projected to make it far off after December had passed, and few could see Boston passing any Eastern team past the Toronto Raptors, who landed at the fifth seed, with a win-loss of 48-34 by the end of the regular season, or the Cleveland Cavaliers, ending with 44-38, who couldn’t even hold onto their Play-In spot, going 0 for 2 against the Brooklyn Nets and the Atlanta Hawks.
By the beginning of the season, the Celtics opened up to a few wins against the Rockets and the Hornets, and even after going 2 for 2, they gained back-to-back losses from the Wizards, and by mid-December, Boston was holding 15 losses. By this point, the green team was in the top 10, with a very unclinched berth. However, the Celtics held potential, and confidence. By the end of January, things took a turn. Back to back wins, and only going up, the Celtics were finally in perfect form, storming the court, pressuring the top players like “Ice Cold Trae” of the Atlanta Hawks, and Joel Embiid of the Sixers, the Celtics were pressuring, and yet so intimidating, something we hadn’t seen since the Thomas and Hayward days.
The Celtics went from having aspirations of garnering at least a play-in berth, to practically being able to choose their play-off opponent just like that. They couldn’t physically go down the standings, they were on fire throughout the later half of the season, and in between January 29th, and February 14, in the span of 18 games, Boston couldn’t lose.
Even when the Brooklyn Nets beat out Cleveland for the seventh seed, the Celtics pushed them out the door, with a clean sweep, going 4-0. The superteam, built from the roots of Irving and Durant, couldn’t hold on any longer, but the Celtics still had something to prove there. What the Celtics had done differently was saving their energy. Something the Nets forgot to do, breezing through the first half of the regular season.
And what makes the whole comeback worth it, even better, is the fact that Celtics player Brown had predicted their success.
Jalen Brown has had an amazing season, averaging 23.6 points, 6.1 rebounds and 3.5 assists in his 66 games played. It’s been a breakout year, amidst the post-pandemic bubble season, getting a grip on his team. Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum have created a great duo, working hard, to get what they want.
“It feels like Jalen’s kind of had a journey this year, to get to that point” stated in a post game interview by the Green Team head coach Udoka, after a blowout win to the Wizards, “and now he’s, you know, thriving as a finisher, and an initiator.”
“I mentioned it the other night,” said Ime Udoka, “it feels at times like we engulf teams and kinda suffocate them with our size and length and some of those things.”
It’s clear the Celtics have a fierce mentality led by the coach, and by their star, Tatum. “Just continue to make it hard on guys,” said Tatum, speaking on the Celtics pressuring the Milwaukee Bucks, to hit the first seed. “You know you never want to make it easy.”
It’s worth notifying the league they have another threat to worry about. The Lakers should take extra notes.
Cover Image Credit: @celtics on Instagram