After 18 games, the Celtics sit at 10-8 and are 4th in the East Standings. So, with a quarter of the season gone, what have we seen from the C’s, and what do they still need to top the Conference?
Leading the way for the Celtics are, of course, the Jays. In 13 games played, Jayson Tatum is averaging 26.8 PTS/7.0 REB/3.7 AST in addition to 1.2 STL and 0.7 BLK on the defensive end. He’s playing fantastically, and we should be thankful he only missed 5 games due to COVID. He hasn’t lost a step since being back. Jaylen Brown, on the other side, has played in every game so far, averaging 27.1/5.4/3.5 with 1.4 STL and 0.6 BLK. He’s putting up very similar stats to Tatum and has really become a vocal leader for the team, both on and off the court. Just to put the way they’re playing in perspective:
Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum both averaged more than 26 PPG, 5 RPG, 3 APG, and 44.0 3P% in January.
The only other player in Celtics history to have put up such numbers in a single month is Larry Bird.
Oh, and Tatum did it last February, as well. pic.twitter.com/yW5EHEkhgD
— Taylor Snow (@taylorcsnow) February 1, 2021
If the two can keep it up, they’ll be able to carry this team to a whole new level.
Aside from those two, there have been some other bright spots: Semi Ojeleye has stepped up his game this year. While most of his averages aren’t much different than previous years, he jumped up his points per game thanks to his increased confidence on offense. He scored 18 points in just 20 minutes against the Magic on 1/15, and hopefully his game can become more consistent as the year continues.
Payton Pritchard has also been a bright spot, jumping onto the scene with 7.7 points per game in 21 minutes per game. The rookie played well up until his MCL sprain on 1/22. He should be back in the lineup tomorrow against the Warriors. And they’ll need him with Marcus Smart now out.
A third player making his mark is perhaps my favorite. Rob “Timelord” Williams III has scored 6.2 points and grabbed 6.2 rebounds in addition to 1.5 blocks in just 15.5 minutes per game! Clearly, he needs to see the floor more. That’s been difficult after Tristan Thompson’s move to the bench, but Williams is vastly outplaying him.
While I mentioned Semi Ojeleye and Payton Pritchard, overall the bench has not played well. The top scoring bench player for the Celtics is Pritchard. Second is Williams. This bench needs a go-to scorer, whether that comes from a trade or someone currently on the team stepping up. Perhaps Pritchard and Williams could even form a 1-2 punch from the bench. I don’t mind Daniel Theis getting the starter minutes if Williams can form a strong rapport with the second team.
Something Brad Stevens has brought up himself for this team to improve upon so far this season is their defense. The Celtics are sitting 3rd in the conference and 8th overall in opponents points scored per game, but Stevens isn’t happy with it. They have the potential to be the top defensive team, so they are definitely not living up to their expectations. This could also be improving soon: they allowed just 96 points to the Lakers and Stevens praised how well they played on that end during the game. Unfortunately, Kemba Walker had a bad night and there wasn’t enough offense to beat them.
I think it’s safe to say the Celtics have not played to their potential yet. The time missed by Walker and Tatum in particular prevented the team from playing at full strength. And now, the Celtics will have to play a little longer in less than ideal circumstances with Smart missing time with a calf injury. Regardless, they need a reliable scorer on the bench. But whether that happens or not, this team should start playing better in the near future, and take top 3 seed by the end of the season.
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