This past week didn’t favor the Celtics whatsoever. Last Wednesday they got beaten badly by the Cleveland Cavaliers, by far the worst game they’ve played all season. Then the next day they traveled to Atlanta and took even a bigger lost; even though they mounted a comeback that didn’t erase how badly they were losing at one point. Then finally on Saturday they finally ended their bad play and beat the Hornets (who almost came back to win it).
So what could be said about their latest performance from the past week. Well for starters Thomas is basically the only one scoring on that team; scoring 20+ points a game basically. In the Atlanta game Crowder scored 24 points and Bradley scored 17 points; though it was basically over when they started to comeback, it mean’t they’re capable of scoring. In the Charlotte game, they had a good amount of players scoring 10+ points, even though Charlotte isn’t a great team it was good to finally see guys other than IT to get into 10+ points. But besides all of that, Thomas is really the only consistent guy scoring 20+ a night, the rest aren’t consistent. Bradley (who I consider their 2nd best behind Thomas in scoring) could score 25 points one night, but then the next game could only score 6 points. Teams like Cleveland who have Lebron and Kyrie can score 20+ a night, the Warriors with the Splash bros can score 20+ a night easily.
It’s not good to just rely on one player to help your team win; that’s why you see teams like Cleveland, or Golden State, or San Antonio, or Houston be considered “title contenders”. Just look at Oklahoma for example; they rely heavily on Westbrook, but they’re the 6th seed. He may be considered, if not, to win the MVP of the league; but has a 46-34 record because he’s basically the best player on the team and is relied half the time. I’m not saying the Celtics are the Thunder, but the fact that they heavily rely on one player to help them win games just isn’t going to cut it.
The Celtics, if you choose to believe it or not, are a defensive team. That’s how they’ve won games this season; rebounding, turning turnovers into points, and making them shoot from the 3 point line rather than in the paint. Though their not the best defense in the league, that’s how they’ve played all season long.
So after everything that was just said, do you think the Celtics are legitimate title contenders? The simple answer: not yet. They’re one player away from being a title contender; whether that’s getting Paul George, or Jimmy Butler, or whoever can score points consistently like IT; then I could consider the Celtics a title contender. They play defense well; they can keep it a close game, but if a game is running away from them they start to break down. The Celtics just need a scorer, that’s been said many times over the course of this season.
The only team I consider a problem for us in the playoffs is Cleveland; that’s been like that for the past 3 years. Cleveland offensively is probably the best in the Eastern Conference; though defensively they’re not as good as the Celtics, they make it up for it. I still believe the Celtics can beat Cleveland; with or without the #1 seed. The playoffs brings out the best in players and I think defensively we can slow them down. If someone else not named Thomas can score 20+ points a night, it’s game over for Cleveland. That’s all we need; for someone to keep up with Isaiah Thomas scoring.
If the Celtics do come out as the champs in the Eastern Conference, it’s tough sledding from there. The Warriors, Spurs, Rockets, even the Jazz are a threat, if not, title contenders that can make the Celtics title chase disappear. With the Warriors getting Durant back, it’s going to be extremely tough beating the Warriors. The Spurs are all around a great team; they have been for so many years. The Rockets have a well balanced team with Harden leading the way. The Jazz have the best defense in the league, it would be tough to score points against them. The Celtics would have a terrible time winning games in the Finals against these teams (maybe not so much the Jazz).
Next year if the Celtics get that missing piece, whether in free agency or the draft (with the #1 overall pick possibly), then they’re legitimate title contenders. Lebron’s time is coming soon, the Celtics have a treasure cove of picks to trade for players, and the Eastern Conference is nothing compared to the Western Conference; competitive wise.
Our time will come, we just have to be patient while Danny Ainge and company do the work.