Just another day at the office for the Boston Celtics as the team cruises to another win over a team that is also in the top-four of their respective conference. Selfless basketball is the name of the game for Boston, as the Celtics showed the league that their offense is no joke against the Utah Jazz who are in the top-10 in defensive rating this season.
Back at the TD Garden from a four-game road trip, some sluggishness is expected, but this Celtics team does not know that word is even in the English dictionary. The aggressive and ball-hawking defense that Udoka has constructed meticulously throughout the season does not take a day off. Boston is putting on a show for the rest of the league to sit back and enjoy. The ball movement and extra passing around the perimeter and through a zone defense make it almost impossible for the opposition to find ways to combat the constant motion.
Williams kicks to Tatum, Tatum drives into the lane, attracts a defender, passes to Horford in the paint who finds Theis on a backdoor cut for an easy two points. That was just one of the plays that Boston was able to execute on Wednesday night. The Jazz game was just the demonstration of how far this Boston offense has come in the last three months. 37 assists on Wednesday night at the Garden which was their most of the season, and most since January 7, 2019. in a win over the Nets. The most assists by a Boston team in franchise history was back in 1985 when Bird and McHale were leading the charge and were able to execute a jaw-dropping 45 assists in one contest.
It wasn't just Marcus Smart dishing out 13 assists and 10 of them in the first half, it was the whole team finding the right player in the perfect spot. Boston is giving up average shots for good shots, good shots for great shots, and great shots for outstanding shots. When the Celtics have 30 or more assists in a game, they are 11-1 and have only lost five contests when Boston has been able to execute 26 or more assists. Looking at all 19 games where the Celtics have had 28 or more assists, the improvement in their offense over the past few months is highlighted.
Out of those 19 games, 14 of them are in 2022, and 12 of them are past the month of January. Every individual on the court this season has shown drastic improvement as time goes on, and that can be shown in the offensive assists numbers. The additions of Theis, and White at the deadline without a doubt helped, but Smart, Tatum, and Brown have grown into not just good scorers, but improved offensive creators.
Payton Pritchard has been prolific off the bench for Boston, hitting at least three shots from beyond the arc in a career-best four consecutive games. The former Oregon product is drilling shots from the Bobby Orr statue outside of TD Garden. Pritchard has become a key piece off the bench and has now netted double digits in points in five straight contests. His playmaking ability and awareness at the young age of 24 make him so invaluable for this Boston team.
After the win over the Jazz, Jaylen Brown stated, "As many games as we blew in the first half of the season — it would have been nice to have won some of those games because we would be in first right now...But everything happens for a reason. We take it one game at a time and we’ll see where we’re at playoff time."
It feels like a decade ago that Boston was three games under .500 after a disheartening loss to the Knicks at Madison Square Garden. In reality that was actually just less than three months ago. Back in those times, while most people chose to forget, the Celtics were equipped with Josh Richardson, Enes Freedom, Dennis Schröder, and even the player they faced off against on Wednesday evening, Juancho Hernangomez.
Boston is the only team in the top-10 in defensive rating, offensive rating, and assist percentage in the last 15 contests en route to a league-best record in that span at 12-3. The Celtics are not just chasing that two or three seed in the Eastern Conference, this team is playing like they want the top seed. Boston will play the Heat next week, and the Bucks in the last week of the regular season. Resting key players could come into play, but at this moment, the Celtics are as Brian Scalabrine said on NBC Sports Boston, "embarrassing the NBA".
With the Wolves, Raptors, and Heat next up on the schedule, Boston will have to be on its "A" game if it wants to move its winning streak to eight games. The better the team, the better the Celtics play, and until any other squad proves it, Boston will have no problem against almost anyone in its path. Some say this is a preposterous statement, but the Celtics have blown out three of the teams in the top-six in the Western Conference in the past week.
It is fine to be excited about this Boston team. The Celtics are on a whole different level than they have been in recent years. The way they are playing, it is not preposterous to say Boston will win the rest of its games. While it probably will not happen, if it did, the league and the city of Boston now would not be shocked. Taking each game one by one is what the Celtics are doing at the moment. There is no satisfaction in this Celtics team right now, and that is the most important thing. Nobody gets remembered for their excellence in the regular season, the gauntlet of the playoffs will define the success of the 2021-2022 Boston Celtics season.