It’s been an absolute roller coaster of a season for the Boston Celtics. They began the season as, without a doubt, the best team in the NBA. Through the first couple months, Boston had the best-performing offense of all time. Jayson Tatum was the leading MVP candidate and Jaylen Brown was as explosive as ever.
Though Robert Williams III was still sidelined due to a preseason knee surgery, the Celtics were absolutely bludgeoning teams. The fact they were doing so without their towering rim-protector was simply icing on the cake, as they knew when he returned, they’d be even more dominant on both ends of the floor.
Though there were occasional mishaps, the Celtics crept towards the All-Star break in February with the best record in the NBA. Williams’ return launched Boston’s defense to one of the best in the NBA, and the offense, though it had come down to earth somewhat, still remained top-10 in the league.
The Ides of March
But as the All-Star break drew closer, injuries greatly hampered the Celtics’ ability to string wins together. The Milwaukee Bucks overtook Boston as the 1-seed in the eastern conference. Even so, hope was still very much alive that the Celtics would return to form when healthy.
However, after the All-Star break, Boston struggled mightily. They lost many close games in which they held double-digit leads, despite having their core intact, including Marcus Smart, Al Horford, Derrick White and Malcolm Brogdon. The Celtics fell dramatically in the standings, even falling behind the Philadelphia 76ers to the 3-seed.
Things did not look as bright in Boston as they did at the season’s dawn. Adding to the concern was the prolific, dominant play of Giannis Antetokounmpo and Joel Embiid of the Bucks and Sixers, respectively. It seemed those teams were trending up when the Celtics were doing nothing except trending down.
Looking Towards the Playoffs
But things have shifted in the last week. After an embarrassing loss to the bottom-feeding Houston Rockets and a disappointing end in a game against the Jazz, Boston finally got their groove back against the western conference 3-seeded Sacramento Kings. It was a dominant win against the best offense in the league and single-handedly reignited the energy around the Boston Celtics.
So, what does this mean for the playoffs? Just a little bit ago, it looked as though Philly and Milwaukee were going to overtake Boston officially and gain pivotal home-court advantage come playoff time.
But now, with the Celtics returning to form, there’s no doubt their championship odds will be trending back upwards. Though Milwaukee recently became Vegas’ favorite to win it all, Boston is back in that conversation.
This surge has been led by the re-emergence of Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown as the best duo in the NBA. However, concerns still exist. It’s clear the Celtics pick and choose when they want to compete hard; but when they’re on, they’re really, really on.