After a roller coaster of a first half of the season, The Celtics suddenly sit 6th in the Eastern Conference with a record of 34-26.
C/O to Matthew J Lee
Before the 112-111 loss to the Detroit Pistons, the Celtics rattled off nine straight wins culminating in a 48 point blowout of the Philadelphia 76ers.
One thing that has been very apparent, since the turn of the calendar to 2022, has been the tenacity and toughness on the defensive end.
This can be thanks in large part to the acquisitions President of Basketball Operations Brad Sevens made at the deadline. Shipping off Josh Richardson, Romeo Langford, a 2022 first round pick and a 2028 pick swap in exchange for Derrick White from the San Antonio Spurs.
C/O Michael Dwyer AP
The Celtics also brought in former Celtic Daniel Theis, and gave Dennis Schroder, Enes Freedom, and Bruno Fernando to the Houston Rockets.
White gives the Celtics a versatile defender, three point shooting, and a capable ball handler to take the load of Marcus Smart at the point guard position. White can also play off the ball to allow for Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown to operate in the open floor and also distribute the ball to get them involved.
In only four games played for the Celtics, White currently has the highest plus/minus on the team at +62.
Theis provides insurance in the back end of the defense with Robert Williams, who is prone to injury, and veteran Al Horford. Replacing Freedom with Theis, allows for the Celtics to be more efficient in guarding the pick n roll and provides more defensive versatility on the second unit.
Defensively, the Celtics rank 2nd in defensive rating at 104.9, 1st in OPP. FG% at 42.9%, 6th in guarding the three point line, and 2nd overall in rebounding at 46.8 rebounds per game.
With a combination of ball hawking defenders with Smart and White. Long, lengthy defenders in Tatum, Brown, and Grant Williams, along with shot blockers in Williams, Horford and Theis, make the Celtics a top defensive unit in the NBA.
“This is probably one of the better defensive teams in my career,” Jaylen Brown said after the Celtics drubbing of the 76ers.
“We’ve got big wings, versatile bigs, and obviously a pit bull of a point guard. So there’s no real weakness out there that you can pick on,” Ime Udoka stated during the Celtics win streak.
Offensively, the Celtics continue to follow the lead of their two top scores in All Star Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. Tatum has been on a tear recently, dropping 38 points on the Pelicans and Hawks, and 28 on the 76ers. Brown has had his fair share of great performances as well, with 31 points against the Pelicans and Pistons, and 29 points against the 76ers.
C/O Brian Babineau
The Celtics as a team however, have not been as efficient on the offensive end, ranking 17th in PPG, and 21st in field goal percentage and three point shooting.
Surprisingly, the best three point shooter on the team has been Grant Williams, especially from the corner, at 44.6% from downtown.
The offensive struggles have been vividly apparent at the end of games. In the beginning portion of the schedule, the Celtics resorted to iso ball at the end of games and the ball stayed stagnate. Players didn't trust each other and a lot of bad offensive possessions came as a result. Although this issue hasn't been fully resolved yet, the Celtics have done a better job moving the ball at the end of games and finding the open man.
Through this very up and down season, the Celtics hold the best record against above .500 teams in the Eastern Conference, proving they are more than capable with hanging in there with the cream of the crop in the NBA.
With the East being as open as it's ever been in years, it's interesting to see where the Celtics end up. There's the optimistic side, where they can be battling for home court in the first round of the playoffs, and there's the pessimistic side where they can falter and be stuck in the Play In Tournament, with the middling teams in the East.
Watching this Celtics team this year, neither outcome will be a surprise to anyone. It'll be a matter of how this new collection of players will gel through the second half of the season and if they have the menial toughness that they lacked through the beginning of the season.