First off, let's just talk about the on-court play of the Celtics. They are playing up-to and down-to their competition. Now, I do not mean this literally. I mean this in a way to say: They get up for big games against worthy opponents. This is how they beat teams like Cleveland and Golden State this season. Yes, both teams were missing a crucial piece, but so were the Celtics. Neither team was at 100%. And if there is anything that I have learned from this Celtics team this year, it is that they can roll when full healthy.
So, why does it matter that they play better against better teams and worse against worse teams? The answer is simple. All playoff games are, most likely, considered big games. Meaning the Celtics will be on point for every single one of them.
This team has been playing well lately. Actually, they have been playing well this entire season, cruising past expectations (with the exception of a few bad games).
So it is not all on the court stuff that will propel the Celtics forward. It is the clear chemistry that has been developed. These guys clearly will go to war for each other. That is not something every team has. In fact, the Celtics have by far one of the best cross-team chemistry in the league. Chemistry is huge come playoff time, and the fact that the C's are ahead of the curve in that department will go a long way.
You know I can't write a Celtics article without mentioning Isaiah Thomas. The guy is a clear leader and superstar now. He is averaging a career high in both points and assists. He is seriously a go-to guy. No one can stop the little guy...no one. He rises to every single occasion. Now as a solidified superstar, I am so excited to see what he brings to the table comes playoff time.
Avery Bradley coming back to the Celtics has been huge as well. Now, I am not personally a fan of Avery. I have called for his head many times and will continue to do so. However, I can't knock what he has been doing lately. He has been such a large part of their success. Bradley is doing wonders for the Celtics defensively and seems to be solving a bit of the rebounding troubles.
There are also a few guys that have come off the bench for the majority of the season that need to be mentioned. First off, Marcus Smart has been playing through the roof. Even when his stats do not show it, he impacts the game so greatly. He is finally starting to play with aggression, confidence, and true skill.
Jaylen Brown is the next name. Brown has had games where he looks like a superstar and other games where he looks like he does not belong. Well, luckily for us Celtics fans it seems as if all of those bad games are in the past. Brown is playing very well recently. He is making the most of his minutes and the Celtics are getting the most out of him when he is in. He is able to add something whenever he steps on the court. Do not sleep on what Jaylen Brown can bring to this squad by the time the C's are making a run at a ship.
Fine, I guess I can give credit where and when credit is due. Kelly Olynyk. Yeah, that guy. I don't like him. He may be the guy that actually plays that I hate more than Bradley. But like Bradley, I need to own up to the fact that he has been playing well. Olynyk has been doing so much for the team. Even when he is not making a play, he is stretching the floor allowing others to find space. When he is getting the ball, he is making moves and scoring. I'll have to say, he s even shooting now... no more annoying pump fakes for no reason. The guy has been valuable. There, I admitted it.
Speaking of the bench. It is clear the Celtics are developing a better rotation. A far more refined and efficient rotation. Brad Stevens clearly trusts Olynyk, Brown, Smart, and Rozier. They play the bulk of the bench minutes. Jerebko also makes brief appearances, but he is no longer a definite, only when needed. More often than not to stretch the floor. By having this rotation down, the Celtics are able to run far more efficiently. No one (like Brown) has a fear of "this is my shot to prove I can play." They all just feel like they are part of the rotation now, which is huge.
So, does Cleveland need to fall? Do the Warriors need to suffer another injury? No, I mean that'd help... but it is not necessary. I think even if both of those teams are fully healthy, the Celtics can still hold their ground.
The Celtics have what it takes to beat any team. They will do just that as they shock the world. I will stand by it. The Boston Celtics Will Be Your 2017 NBA Champions.