Boston Celtics: What You've Missed

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With the New England Patriots season ending earlier than anticipated, I'm sure there are a large portion of fans who are just now giving the Boston Celtics their full attention.  So, let me catch you up on what you've missed over the first few months of the season. 

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The Celtics are Fun Again

Last year’s Boston Celtics team certainly had more individual talent.  There’s no debating that.  However, this year’s team is infinitely more likable.  The attitude from Celtics fans towards this team last season was so negative, it approached hatred territory.  Now, in this market that’s not saying much, because fans of any Boston team seem to have that attitude, but this was different.  People were rooting for this team to lose, and couldn’t wait for guys to leave.

Kyrie Irving was the main source of that frustration, but in fairness, he wasn’t the only problem.  I think Terry Rozier doesn’t get enough “credit” for the poor attitude he sported all last year.  This year, you’d be hard pressed to find a guy on this roster that is unlikable.  They play hard, stick together and truly seem to enjoy one another’s company.
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A lot can be made of the off-court stuff.  You’ll frequently see images on social media of guys spending time together outside of basketball.  While that’s great to see, it’s the on-court chemistry that is more important. One thing last year’s Celtics didn’t do was stick together when things went poorly.  Games would quickly get away from this team as 6-0 runs would avalanche into something more, and deficits became insurmountable.

The team would splinter, and it became five individuals, instead of a cohesive unit.  That’s changed.  This year, Boston has overcome many double digit deficits – not a great recipe for success I might add – by continuing to play as a team, even as things go south.  A big reason for that has been their commitment to the defensive end.

When the offense floundered last year, it would affect their defensive effort.  That hasn’t been the case this year.  Guys are trusting each other, trusting Brad Stevens and playing through adversity.  Their effort cannot be called into question.  These guys truly enjoy one another's company, and it shows on the court.

They’re Also Better Than Anticipated

The Celtics are on pace to easily eclipse their projected win total of 48.5.  Though in a bit of a funk at the moment - losers in five of their last seven - Boston still boasts a 27-13 record, and have gone toe-to-toe with some of the NBA's elite. 

They've split two meetings with Milwaukee Bucks and Denver Nuggets.  They took the Los Angeles Clippers to overtime in LA, in a game that they probably should have won had their execution been better down the stretch.  They've beat the Toronto Raptors twice, and the Miami Heat in the only time they've met. 

The one team they have struggled with is the Philadelphia 76ers, who they are 0-3 against this year.  While all three of those contests came down to the fourth quarter, Boston has been unable to get over the hump.  However, I still think Boston could beat them in a seven-game series. 

The NBA regular season is largely irrelevant.  While the wins and losses are important in terms of playoff seeding, what's more important is seeing how you match up against other teams.  Boston has yet to face a team that they can't compete with. 

The Eastern Conference was supposed to be Milwaukee, Philadelphia and then everybody else.  Well, it looks like it's Milwaukee and everybody else at this point.  They have a firm hold on the number one seed, and even with half the season remaining, I don't see that changing.  That still leaves Boston with a very realistic possibility to finish as the number 2 seed. 

Jaylen Brown is Earning His Money

Brown has been Boston’s most consistent, and you could argue its best overall, player so far this season.  It's far and away been his best season as a pro.  He's averaging career highs in just about every statistic imaginable. 

He's shooting nearly 50% overall.  He's leading the team in three-point shooting, connecting on nearly 40% of his attempts.  He's averaging 20 points and just under seven rebounds per game.  His offense has improved drastically since he first came in the league.

Shop thousands of officially-licensed NBA items at NBAStore.comHe's become a reliable three-point shooter.  This year, he's attacking the basket more consistently, and using his athleticism and strength to beat defenders at the rim. 

He's had just five games this year where he has scored less than ten points.  Three of those five have come against Philadelphia.  Maybe that's a coincidence, or maybe they've figured out how to slow him down.  The two teams meet again in a couple of weeks, so we'll see. 

You can hate the contract, and a lot of people will.  People get too fixated on the dollar amount, though.  Players get big contracts in the NBA, that's the nature of the sport.  What's not normal is for players to cash in, and then have the best season of their career.  It's usually the opposite.

Normally, players have career years as their contracts are ending, so they can then get their money.  Not Brown.  He seems hell bent on proving his worth.  The Celtics bet on Brown, and it's currently paying off. 

Enes Kanter: Rebounding Machine

Kanter is probably the best rebounder this team has had since the days of Kevin Garnett; maybe Jared Sullinger.  Either way, it’s been awhile.  Say what you want about Kanter’s defense, but there’s no denying his ability to rebound.  You may look at his numbers and come away unimpressed.  He’s averaging just over eight rebounds per game, and it is actually his lowest mark in the past five seasons.

However, the one thing to keep in mind is the number of minutes he is playing.  He’s also averaging fewer than 20 minutes per game; something he hasn’t done since the 2012-13 season.  Kanter is currently 24th in the NBA in rebounds per game, everybody ahead of him is averaging more than 20 minutes per game, and all but one of those players is averaging more than 25 minutes per game.

I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that Kanter would be in the top 10 in rebounding, if he had increased minutes.  Similarly, in those limited minutes, Kanter’s averaging nearly three offensive rebounds per game, good for 11th in the league.  The ten players ahead of him are all averaging at least 26 minutes per game.

When you look at his numbers per 36 - his projected stats if he were to play 36 minutes - and compare it to the league, he's the 2nd best offensive rebounder in the league, and is in the top 10 in total rebounds.

He's not an elite athlete.  He's not out-jumping opponents and using his athleticism.  He just knows how to rebound.  He knows how to use his body to get great position, has great instincts and is constantly working.  In the limited time he is out there, Kanter is making his presence felt. 



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Boston Sports Syndicate: Boston Celtics: What You've Missed
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