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Wednesday, May 25, 2022
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Is the Boston Celtics nice again?


In a season full of the rarest of highs and the lowest of lows, the Boston Celtics is 8-5 so far in the month of January. Per NBA stats, Boston is 19th in attack rating (109.4) on the season, but 4th in defensive rating (106.4) and miraculously drops 7th in net rating (3.1) across the league. Over the past 15 games, Boston is 13th in offensive rating (112.4), 2nd in defensive rating (103.4) and 1st in net rating (8.9). The Celtics are 7-3 in their last 10 games, and Jayson Tatum ripped back-to-back star games as the team blew out the Wizards and Kings.

Even now it may feel too early to say, but here it goes: is the Celtics starting to have fun again?

Believe me, I’m not one to drink the green Cabbage Aid, and this season as well as last season was some of the most emotionally-draining basketball to watch and rewrite. But lately, the Celtics seem to be figuring things out in real time. Whether it is now Ime Udoka As you learn which groups click, the roster eventually heals, or Tatum and Brown warm up, Boston begins to play as a cohesive unit.

Much of the recent success has depended on Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum becoming more comfortable in their roles as leaders in the team. Asked about Brown and Tatum after the duo combined for 66 PTS against Sacramento, Ime Udoka said “Everyone follows their example. They buy in on both sides of the court. … They are the two pillars and leaders of the team. ” After Sunday, both Brown and Tatum have scored 50 PT matches this season, making them only the 2nd duo in Celtics history to score 50 PT appearances in the same season. The other duo to commit to such an achievement? Larry Bird and Kevin McHale.

Regardless of what some say, the duo of Brown and Tatum work and both are get their cut of point duties. In a particularly poor shooting season for Jayson Tatum, it looks like the young star is finally breaking out of his slump and rediscovering his shooting range. Tatum missed 20 consecutive attempts from deep before exploding against the Wizards with 51 PTS, 18-28 from the field and 9-14 from deep (made a career high in tries). He followed that up with 36 PTS on 14-23 shooting and 7-14 from deep in an absolute defeat against the Kings.

In his post-match interview after the Kings game, Tatum said that the shooting battle a “covered blessing” as he was forced to get more to the edge and find other ways to start offending. Ime Udoka noticed this in his training interview on Wednesday that Tatum drives 20 in their match against the Portland Trail Blazers, the 2nd most in a game during Tatum’s career. If this type of aggressive management of Tatum becomes more frequent in his attacking play, it will create many openings on the perimeter for the Celtics to exploit.

Another indication of positive changes are the adjustments and adjustments to the series that Udoka has made over the past month as he grows and learns as a coach. A big part of that is that the team eventually recovers, with the only players listed on the injury report, Bol Bol and PJ Dozier after being acquired from the Nuggets. Josh Richardson said it best in his interview after the Kings game: “I would like to see the statistics when our whole team is healthy. I think we are taking steps. “ According to NBA statistics, the starting five of Smart, Brown, Tatum, Horford and Robert Williams had just 174 minutes together this season. However, they were one of the best teams in the league (min. 150 minutes played) based on net rating (21.9) and boast a league-best defensive rating of 91.3.

When everyone is healthy, Udoka can actually start adjusting lineups and figuring out which players fit best in their rotations, as opposed to the “next man on” approach. He is still learning, but some important adjustments are being made by Udoka who are starting to pay dividends for the Celtics. For example, Enes Freedom has barely touched the floor in the last four games, and when he did, it was either short or in garbage time when the game was out of hand. After playing 19 minutes in Boston’s defeat to Charlotte, Freedom has not cracked more than 15 minutes in a game since; he lined up 12 minutes as he played the entire 4th quarter of Boston’s 128-75 blowout over the Kings.

Udoka rather chose to stagger Robert Williams and Al Horford, with Grant Williams placed at the 4 in the mix to give Horford rest before joining Rob at center. This adjustment not only eases some of the minutes’ burden from the 35-year-old Horford, but gives Boston some space on the floor at the 4 and keeps their defense mobile.

We also see Udoka Marcus Smart and Dennis Schroder falter as much as possible. According to NBA statistics, out of all Celtics series that played 600 or more minutes, the two-man series of Smart and Schroder had the weakest assist ratio (16.4), the 2nd weakest effective FG% (51.2 eFG%) and the 2nd weakest true FG% (55.6 TS%). What Udoka is doing is trying to shoot so many on the floor at any given moment. From now on, the pairing of Schroder and Smart will not work if you move Smart down to a shooter instead of a facilitator and game maker. Udoka is doing what he can to optimize the Celtics rotations, and while he is not perfect, he is a rookie coach who is gradually improving game after game.

Do not take this article the wrong way, the Celtics have a lot more to improve on and they have a long way to go before they are even considered anything more than a .500 team. There are definitely some changes to this roster that could be made with the deadline approaching, which could make the work of Brown, Tatum and Udoka much easier. But the Celtics are putting together some solid games as they try to build consistency and cohesion. The team has experienced a lot of adversity, and with that comes a lot of growth for players like Brown and Tatum. When they play well and all the pieces start to fall into place, there is one word to describe the feeling of seeing them improve little by little: fun.





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