With the second best record in the NBA in the year 2013 at 6-0, the Celtic’s are back in the thick of the Eastern Conference playoff race. The only team playing hotter then the C’s is the 7-0 Brooklyn squad after the firing of head coach Avery Johnson. The Celtic’s have gained momentum at exactly the right time as teams like Miami, New York, and especially Atlanta have been spinning their tires as of late.
If the playoffs started today the C’s would take on the Knicks. A month ago this would have been considered a daunting task but with a newly found chemistry and urgency as of right now, the Celtics would probably have a favorable match up against a NY team that came out of the gate playing so well this year. Right now it ‘feels’ like the C’s could put up 100 points against anyone and smother them on the defensive end. Let’s breakdown the C’s success(es) as of late.
The Big D… or the big AB? – Avery Bradley’s return to this team not only provided the C’s with a shot in the arm of hope and effort, but their defense has been tenacious and incredibly efficient. The Celtic’s are allowing over 12 ppg less on the defensive end then before Bradley came back. Now we can finally answer the question, is Avery the savior? Tough to put it all on one guy but the new found intensity on the defensive end has been an airborne virus and Avery has the bug and there is simply no cure. So for all the grumpy C’s fans saying “Avery cant fix this”… look closer.
A 1-2-3 PUNCH off the bench- The Celtic’s overwhelming bench success has come from three key guys as of late. Sullinger, Green, and Lee. In Sullinger Doc has found a guy with a nose for the ball and a positional fighter on both ends of the floor. He has singlehandidly taken the C’s rebound load and it doesnt look like there is any stopping him. A lot of folks are calling for Sullinger to start but as of right now he’s first off the bench and getting more minutes that starting power forward Brandon Bass.
Jeff Green is continuing to show us more and more and starting to string together some very nice efforts as of late. He’s doing more then making the highlight reel now, playing some nice individual defense and on offense he’s showing us glimpses of becoming more aggressive and nearly unguardable with an array of moves from all areas of the floor. He’s really starting to look like the real Jeff Green.
Courtney Lee has been sensational as of late. Especially with Jason Terry slumping. Doc has found a guy that not only gives him more size then Terry, but more versatility and effort on both ends of the floor. Lee has more offensive tricks then Terry, is younger, stronger, backs up Avery better, and let’s just face it, the JET will still be a factor on this team but his minutes have dropped to 12-15 per game. Let’s ask ourselves the hard questions: if Jason Terry’s shot isn’t falling- what else does he bring to the floor? Lee has slowly but surely moved up in the rotation for his ability to play D a lot more consistently then Terry and if Lee keeps bringing this kind of energy and spark night in and night out… I see Jason Terry moving even further down the bench.
Overall this trio of Sully, Green, and Lee has given the Celtic’s a great young core coming off the bench and is quite the sight to behold. Each of these three bring something different and special and it’s amazing to see it come alive. Right now they looks like they can play against any other of the strong bench combos around the league. Things are finally starting to fit, perhaps even better then we originally anticipated.
The Scare Factor- It looks as if the leprechaun nightmare has been reinvigorated and opposing teams look intimidated stepping onto the Garden floor (again). The C’s are the second hottest team in the East and it sure looks wide open. Granted the Celtic’s have played some below average teams in recent days but they are also getting convincing wins over contenders like the Knicks, Hawkes, and Pacers.
Around the NBA- As mentioned earlier, the East looks wide open. Miami remains at the top but their defensive effort has been barely there as of late and perhaps some in-house friction among the ego’s in South Beach could be poisonous to the team. The Knicks are having trouble on both ends of the floor, the Hawkes are crumbling, and still no one believes in Indiana, not yet at least. Chicago is the dark horse… if D-Rose can make a healthy return before the post season Chicago can single handedly shake up the East in a big, big, way. Overall it still looks like a Western Conference year with the three juggernauts of OKC, LAC, and SA. The East may be wide open, but the West looks much stronger then it has in years past.
The streaking Celtic’s are right where they need to be, they look to continue their success tonight against the young but not to be overlooked developing Hornets, as Doc Rivers faces his son for the very first time. For the first time in a long time I get to say “I cant wait til gametime.”
Boston, and all points beyond