The Boston Celtics are 12-3 and have won eight straight games. They have the best record in the NBA and are coming off a road blowout of the Atlanta Hawks. Is this for real or just a great run.
The answer is complicated.
Over the last year Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum have established themselves as if not the best one of the best duos when in the game. The duo has fueled them with Tatum getting off to the best start of his career. Brown has been more than a supporting player at times he has carryied the Celtics.
Marcus Smart has become a true point guard. He has become a good passer, getting ten assists or more over the last three games and playing his usual lock down defense. Malcolm Brogdon has been a great acquisition. Though Brogdon is presently injured if he can stay somewhat healthy he’ll be a candidate for sixth man of the year.
Brad Stevens deserves a great deal of credit for building a strong group of role players around Tatum and Brown. The additions of Brogdon, Sam Hauser, an outstanding three point shooter, Derrick White and Blake Griffin have all made contributions to the Celtic success. Then there is Al Horford who seems ageless and is important to their success.
Luke Kornet has been a key big backup with Robert Williams out. Grant Williams has also been invaluable as a sixth man and as a starter. He has become an outstanding three point shooter and a good ball defender able to matchup with both guards and bigs. Payton Pritchard, buried on the bench earlier this year has become a spark plug off the bench.
Two Key Questions
Boston will continue to win and be considered co-favorites with the Milwaukee Bucks if they can answer two questions.
Their defense must improve. They are giving up almost six more points per one hundred possessions and have gone from first to twelfth in that area. Defense will win when shooting is off and it is tough to shoot well every night. The return of Robert Williams should help in hat area. The Celtics have not been able to pressure the ball well and with Williams return and his rim protection should improve their team defense.
The other area is a real unknown. Joe Mazzula, their new coach, has thus far done a good job in a tough position. The question is how does he and his team respond when the Celtics go through a rough stretch. Right now everyone is working together and singing the praises of each other. The true mark is how they respond when things get tough.
If the Celtics are able to respond positively from both questions it will be a great season.