The Boston Celtics have had a nasty run of bad luck in the past month. They’ve seen Robert Williams and Al Horford switch between NBA uniforms and street clothes more than once due to injury and load management, Malcolm Brogdon deal with achilles soreness, Jaylen Brown suffer a facial fracture, and Marcus Smart sprain his ankle. Smart’s injury in particular has made a substantial impact on the Celtics’ offensive chemistry, as they’ve struggled on that end of the floor in his absence. And yet, they’re still atop the East.
Staying Ahead in the Race
The Celtics have kept winning, and not just against bottom-feeders. In the past week they’ve defeated the Philadelphia 76ers and the Memphis Grizzlies, two of the best teams in the league with superstar talent. Against Embiid and the Sixers, Boston was missing Smart, Horford, and Williams III. On top of that, Brown suffered the afore-mentioned facial fracture in the second half, forcing him into the locker room for the rest of the contest. Boston still won even with Tatum scoring only 12.
Against the Grizzlies, Boston was missing Smart, Brown and Brogdon, but won despite another lackluster performance from Tatum. The Grizzlies are the 2 seed in the west and many consider them Finals contenders. But none of that mattered against the hobbled Celtics, who rained down 21 threes despite their short-handedness.
The Deepest Bench in the NBA Flexing Their Muscles
The Celtics’ success despite injury shows they may have the deepest team in the NBA. Derrick White was already known for his defensive ability but has now emerged as a true scoring threat. Sam Hauser is shooting lights-out like he was back in October and November. Grant Williams is as rock-solid on defense as always. Kornet provides solid rim protection off the bench. The addition of Muscala opens up the versatility of the second unit.
With all these players performing as well as they have, now imagine how the Celtics will look when they get healthy. Smart’s skills at facilitation will stabilize the offense. Brown’s All-Star scoring will take pressure off of Tatum. White returning to his bench role will give the non-starters even more of a jolt.
The Road Ahead
This team looks scary if and when they get healthy. So what does that mean for the rest of the NBA? Nothing good. If they’re short-handed and still beating teams as good as Philly and Memphis, it makes them the lone favorite for the NBA championship.
But the road ahead is not free of danger. The Bucks are easily the biggest threat to Boston’s supremacy. In fact, they’ve also suffered injuries to notable players all season, yet are in the midst of a 10-game win streak and right on the Celtics’ tail. The Tuesday matchup between the two powerhouses is sure to be an intense one, though Boston will likely still be without Smart and Brown.