For most, the Boston Celtics have exceeded expectations this season. At 39-17, Boston sits in the third spot in the Eastern Conference and have the fourth-best winning percentage in the entire NBA.
With the All-Star break now in the rearview mirror, the Celtics need to put the pedal to the metal and gear up for a playoff run. If the team wants to avoid the same disappointing end they did last season, there are a few keys for the rest of the season.
1. Make health a priority
Injuries have plagued the Celtics this season. It seems that the team has at least two or three guys out every night, and fans have hardly had a chance to see the team at full strength.
Currently, both Walker and Williams are the only two players listed on the injury report, but both are expected to return relatively soon. If Boston can manage to stay healthy going into the postseason … look out.
2. Continue feeding Jayson Tatum
Last season, Tatum didn’t take the leap many expected. This season, however, is a different story. After a relatively tame start to the season, the third-year pro has really stepped into his own in recent months.
The Celtics’ game against the Los Angeles Lakers in which Tatum scored 41 points on 12-20 shooting further proved that Tatum is ready to not only be the No. 1 option on a top playoff team, but also a future two-way superstar in the league. Tatum followed that up with 36 points on 14-of-22 shooting against Portland on Tuesday. He’s averaging over 30 points per game this month on sterling efficiency.
At only 21 years old, Tatum has had to grow up fast. He has answered the call and may have just taken over for Kemba Walker as the best player on the roster, making Boston even more dangerous.
3. Find ways to get the bench going
If the Celtics have one major weakness so far this season, it’s the team’s lack of bench scoring. Boston currently ranks 28th in the NBA in bench scoring and has oftentimes struggled to find a go-to option on the second unit.
Despite a lot of strong signs early on, Carsen Edwards apparently isn’t ready for major minutes on the big stage, Brad Wanamaker has shown flashes but is inconsistent, and while Enes Kanter has excelled as the team’s major scoring option off the bench, he’s often seen as a liability on the defensive side of the ball.
Rookie Grant Williams has been playing well of late and lottery pick Romeo Langford is slowly earning the trust of Brad Stevens, so that’s at least a good sign.
If the Celtics want to compete with other top teams in the league, they’ll need the bench guys to step up down the road.
4. Continue to get great minutes from Daniel Theis
Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum are both experiencing major breakout seasons, but perhaps most surprising is the play of third-year center Daniel Theis.
While his stats don’t exactly pop off the page (8.8 points, 6.5 rebounds and 1.3 blocks per game), Theis is an important piece for Boston.
Theis does the small things to help a team win, and the German big man recently had a career night by scoring 25 points and grabbing 16 rebounds.
The return of Robert Williams will likely allow the Celtics to not have to lean so heavily on Theis, but if he can continue the level of play he has shown recently, Boston certainly has championship potential given one of the major concerns was at the center position.