The win put the Celtics at 38-16, one loss behind the Toronto Raptors for second place in the Eastern Conference.
This is the type of record Boston expected to have around the break a year ago, but of course, chemistry issues and a toxic locker-room prevented the C’s from ever reaching their lofty potential.
I’m also not sure anyone expected the Celtics to be in this spot right now.
Going into the season, I had Boston pegged as a 50-win team, one that would probably get bounced out of the second round of the playoffs, at best.
I certainly did not anticipate the C’s to make a run at 60 victories like they appear to be doing now, and I definitely did not think they would be legitimate finals contenders.
And yet, here they are, possibly representing the biggest threat to the Milwaukee Bucks in the East.
Tatum and Jaylen Brown have taken gigantic leaps, Kemba Walker’s fit with the club is like night and day compared to Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward has rediscovered his All-Star form.
But in spite of all of the positives with the Celtics this season, there are numerous questions that are prodding Boston at the hiatus.
First and foremost is the lack of depth.
While the C’s are one of the only teams in the NBA (the only other probably being the Clippers) that boast four players who can drop 30 points on any given night, their roster gets pretty barren after that.
The bench has Marcus Smart, Enes Kanter and, well, not a whole lot else.
Smart is a stud, and Kanter is very good in his role, but the Celtics lack a microwave scorer off the pine and have a dearth of veteran presences in general coming off of their bench. No disrespect to Brad Wanamaker, who has actually been pretty decent as a backup guard, but the jury is obviously out on him as a playoff performer.
Boston ranks just 28th in the NBA in bench scoring, which is not something we are accustomed to seeing from the historically deep C’s.
Whether it was during the Kevin Garnett years or even the days of Isaiah Thomas, the Celtics always had one of the deeper teams in the league, but now, Boston is pretty thin.
The C’s can always explore the buyout market to add a piece, although Danny Ainge does not seem too enthralled with what is currently available (which stinks for anyone who was hoping for a Thomas-Celtics reunion [myself included]).
Robert Williams is due back from a hip injury next month, but he is just in his second year and has a long way to go before he is proven. Grant Williams has been great for a rookie and brings a brand of toughness that is very valuable, but his lack of an offensive repertoire is a problem. Romeo Langford has looked really good when he has played, but he has been up and down between the Celtics and their G-League affiliate throughout the season.
As you can see, Boston has a whole lot of youth, which bodes well for the future, but not for this year.
In addition to the Celtics’ lack of overall depth, they could probably use another big man.
I do think this issue is a bit overstated, as Daniel Theis has done a tremendous job this season and has actually turned himself into one of the more versatile bigs in the league, and Kanter is a big body who can score and crash the glass.
However, there is no doubt that Boston can use another bruiser, one who can preferably match up with the likes of Joel Embiid and Domantas Sabonis and stay on the floor without being exploited in pick-and-rolls.
So basically, kind of like what Al Horford and Aron Baynes represented for the C’s the previous couple of years.
There is a chance that Tristan Thompson becomes available between now and March 1, but it seems that he will more than likely be finishing out the year with the Cleveland Cavaliers. Another option is Nene, who was recently bought out, but the Celtics don’t seem too interested.
What it comes down to for Boston is really health.
The C’s absolutely, positively cannot afford to have any major injuries between now and the playoffs. This isn’t like 2018 where the Celtics could be without Irving, Hayward and Theis and still make it all the way to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals.
This iteration of Boston does not have that kind of depth, so the C’s are going to be heavily reliant on their stars staying on the floor, and we have already seen Walker, Hayward and Brown miss some time this year with various injuries.
There is no question that the Celtics have a chance to win the East, but it is not going to be an easy task.