The Boston Celtics have had quite the rollercoaster of a season. For most of the first half of the season, they were the best team in the NBA, posting incredible offensive numbers and slowly improving on the defensive end of the floor on the way to the best record in the eastern conference and the league.
The stretch of dominance was led by an MVP-caliber season from Jayson Tatum and the reliable scoring and playmaking of Jaylen Brown. Tatum was the leader in the award race for quite a bit before being overtaken by Nikola Jokic and Giannis Antetokounmpo.
But since the All-Star break, things have been rough for Boston. Their performances have taken serious declines, including stagnation on offense, inconsistent defensive play, and costly late-game inexecution. They have posted 5 wins and 5 losses in their last 10 games and now sit in the eastern conference’s 2 seed, 2.5 games behind the Milwaukee Bucks and just half a game ahead of the Philadelphia 76ers.
Jayson Tatum has also been lackluster during this stretch, consistently scoring under his usual 30 points in each game and sometimes looking disengaged and lost on the offensive end of the floor.
Boston entered this season with championship aspirations. After losing in the NBA Finals to the Golden State Warriors last June, they came back with a vengeance and had their eyes locked on the next opportunity for a championship. In the beginning, their play was matching their ambitions.
But this recent lull has somewhat tempered expectations for the Celtics. People are questioning whether they’re really championship contenders or just pretenders. So, what should be the expectations for the Celtics?
Built to Win
I believe they can still win it all. They have the talent, with reliable players like Marcus Smart, Al Horford, and Robert Williams III complimenting the star duo of Tatum and Brown. Their bench is highlighted by Derrick White, the feisty defensive guard with underestimated scoring ability, and Malcolm Brogdon, the starting-caliber player with little holes in his game.
This is a roster well-equipped for a deep postseason run. They have little to no weaknesses, with the boxes checked for defensive ability, size, offensive versatility, shooting, and passing prowess.
Though their recent play has been discouraging, this roster seems built for success. They made the Finals last year with a worse roster, one which didn’t include current key players like Malcolm Brogdon. However, a big question mark is the competition standing in their way.
The Milwaukee Bucks are on fire. They’re led by the MVP candidate Giannis Antetokounmpo, whose physicality and scoring ability is feared throughout the NBA. He’s surrounded by reliable talent in Jrue Holiday and Brook Lopez, as well as the sharpshooter Khris Middleton, who is still trying to re-establish himself after lingering injuries.
The Celtics and Bucks match up the best against each other when it comes to the playoffs. There really aren’t any other teams that are quite as talented or deep. For the Celtics, that means that despite their recent struggles, they can still remain focused and get over the hump against Milwaukee.