As of today, March 20th, the Boston Celtics are currently 2.5 games games back of the Cleveland Cavaliers for the #1 seed in the East (thanks, 76ers). Here are five reasons why I think the Celtics will eventually overtake the Cavs and win the East.
1. Remaining Schedule: With the regular season winding down, the Celtics find themselves in a tight race with the Cavs, Wizards and Raptors for the #1 Seed in the Eastern Conference. A Loveless Cavs team has stumbled against their recent opponent’s causing their #1 seed to become within an arm’s reach of the Celts and other teams. The Celtics currently have the #2 seed, but John Wall and Co. aren’t going to make it easy for them. Luckily the Celtics have an easy climb up the mountain with their remaining 13 Games. Out of those 13 games, 8 are against teams with a record below .500. The Celts also play 10 out of their remaining 15 games at home. Less travel could help conserve energy for the upcoming playoffs, and the Celts are 23-9 at home, compared to 21-17 on the road.
2. Full Speed Ahead: While injuries affect all teams, it is unfortunate that the Celtics haven’t been able to compete all year with a complete team. At the beginning of the year, Al Horford was concussed, followed by a groin injury to IT, and then Avery Bradley was on the shelf with a lengthy Achilles injury. After watching the recent game against Chicago, the full cast played like a dominant force. Defense, Offense, and Marcus Smart rebounding like a mad man showed this team’s full potential. A full roster also helps preserve IT’s body and playing time. He plays the most minutes on the team at 34.1 per game, and is clearly their most important as he leads the team in points and assists. If the Celts are going to have any success in the playoffs, they need Mr. 4th Quarter to be at full strength.
3. The Future Is In Brown’s Hands: I guess not accepting that invitation to the dunk contest really was the right choice, eh Mr. Brown?. Jaylen Brown has blossomed this season into an integral player for the Celts. The silver lining to all the Celtics injuries were that they gave Brown the opportunity to play more minutes and thus grow as a player. The past few months Coach Steven’s penciled Brown in the starting lineup, helping him transform into a major asset for the team. Brown released a statement advising that he bowed out of the Dunk Contest in order to work on his shot mechanics and help improve his standing with the team, and it’s paid off. While he’s struggled over the last three games, he averaged 10.5 points over the previous 10 games, including some key 3’s with the game on the line for the Celts. With Bradley back, Brown’s roll has shifted to a bench player, which is never a bad thing, as it allows Coach Stevens to have an emerging scoring threat on his second unit.
4. Catch Smart If You Can: I’ll admit it; I wasn’t the biggest Marcus Smart guy at first, but this season has really changed my outlook. If I had to pick any Robin to Isiah Thomas’s Batman, it would now be Marcus Smart. He brings toughness and a certain ‘grind and grit’ mentality to this team, and I don’t know where this team would rank in the standings without him. He’s another guy that stepped up tremendously when key players were hurt this season. Danny Ainge viewed him as untouchable at the trade deadline, and that trust is paying off. One of the season long flaws for the Celts has been their rebounding, where they currently rank 27th in the League. Although the numbers don’t show it, Smart has caused chaos under the rim for opponents by continually crashing the boards and making things happen.
5. In Steven’s We Trust: Why are teams successful? Besides spending millions of dollars to make super teams, there are other reasons for success. When I think of the Celtics, one term pops into my head: communication. Steven’s has always been a player’s coach dating back to his Butler days, and the Celtics currently have the 5th youngest franchise with an average age of 24.1. With their fiery play and ball movement, it’s easy to tell Brad seems to have a knack for bringing players together and producing a sensational product. The Celtics need to continue following his direction to finish the season strong and get out of the 1st round of the playoffs, a task they came up short on last season.
~Let’s Go Celtics! ~