The Boston Celtics came into this season with a vengeance. After losing the 2022 NBA Finals to the Golden State Warriors in six games, Boston had only one thing on their mind: a championship. They came so close the year before, but just didn’t have the energy to punch it home.
For the first few months of the ‘22-’23 regular season, it was clear this team was locked in. They looked absolutely sensational, lighting it up from the 3-point arc and picking apart defenses en route to dominant wins against the league’s best teams. Jayson Tatum was the leading candidate for the NBA’s Most Valuable Player award while Jaylen Brown was a perfect compliment, providing his own quiet case for the award.
While their momentum leveled off somewhat towards the middle of the season, highlighted by stretches of underwhelming play against teams they should have beaten, the Celtics still remain one of the best teams in the NBA as the regular season nears its end. They’ve officially clinched the eastern conference’s number-2 seed, in between the 3-seeded Philadelphia 76ers and the leading Milwaukee Bucks.
Now, with the playoffs right around the corner, Boston still has some strategizing to do. While they won’t be playing for anything in their final two games against the Toronto Raptors and Atlanta Hawks, there are some things they’ll need to address to make sure they’re at full strength for the playoffs.
Celtics Load Management
To begin, the normal starting 5 of Marcus Smart, Derrick White, Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum and Al Horford should remain in place against the Raptors Friday night. While their minutes should be extremely limited, it’s important that they stay in the groove of things so they don’t go cold before the playoffs.
Sunday against Atlanta is a different story. The final game of the regular season usually never features the best players, especially if an involved team has already clinched their spot. While the Hawks still have something to play for, it would be wise for the Celtics to waive the white flag and rest their top guys.
The Rob Williams Problem
But the biggest question for Boston as they head into the final weekend of the regular season is that of Robert Williams III. Technically, he is a part of the starting 5, usually slotted in at the center position beside Al Horford. But he’s very injury prone, and the Celtics have been very precautious with him this year so as to make sure he’s healthy for the marathon towards June. They should play him in at least one of their two remaining games, but not for long at all.
Another question revolves around the starting lineup; what will it look like? While Williams III is supposed to be a part of it, Derrick White being slotted in as the 2-guard has been very effective this season. It’s likely that Williams III remains a part of the first bench unit next to Malcolm Brogdon and Sam Hauser and White stays in the starting lineup so as to maximize the team’s offensive firepower while harboring tenacious defense.