The Boston Celtics have struggled quite a bit this season in figuring out who they are as a team. After a surprising playoff performance last year even with two All Stars injured, things were looking up for the supposed “Super Team.” Although the season started off rough, unlike last year’s season opening 16-win streak, the team is improving. Not only have the Celtics won their last 5 five games, but they have done so with 118 points or more. This run has brought the previously 10-10 team to a record of 15-10.
Saturday, Dec. 8, the Celtics played the Chicago Bulls, resulting in an overwhelming win. The win showcased the teams’ newfound comradery, while breaking a record for the largest margin of victory in Celtics history with a 56-point differential. The final score of the game was 133 to 77. All team members went on the offensive, with seven of the 11 players scoring in the double digits.
The Celtics seem to have figured out the dynamics, with even role players stepping it up. The only disappointment this season, including these past few games, is former All Star forward Gordon Hayward. Hayward, who sat out last season following a gruesome ankle injury in the season opening game, was expected to be a key player in the Celtics success this year. Unable to live up to expectations thus far, he’s been averaging around 10 points per game this season, which is low for him compared to his 20 points per game average when he played for the Utah Jazz. In a game against the Minnesota Timberwolves on Saturday, Dec. 1, Hayward scored 30 points, and although it was a promising stat, it has not carried over to the games played since.
A true bright spot for Boston, however, is the collective strength of their bench players. Guard Jaylen Brown, fresh off of a lower back injury, made a shift to coming off of the bench instead of starting for the betterment of the team. The move paid dividends, leading to Brown having back-to-back 20-plus point performances against the Bulls and New York Knicks.
Another improvement for the Celtics is the quiet growth of guard Jayson Tatum’s playing style, switching away from the one-on-one assaults to a more team-oriented approach. Head Coach Brad Stevens has shifted away from allowing his players to just drive to the rack, and instead has implemented a similar playing approach to the Golden State Warriors, where they are constantly moving to try to break free of coverage schemes and passing the ball heavily.
Stevens, with his team sitting at 15-10, have a great degree of work to do to catch up to the first seed Toronto Raptors, who sit at 21-6. But with only a third of the season out of the way, Stevens will continue to implement faster paced basketball to make another strong playoff push. After faltering to Lebron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference Finals last post season, the Celtics’ playoff hopes will be Finals or bust.