Despite a rise to the second-best record in the Eastern Conference, the All-Star break comes at a perfect time for the Boston Celtics.
It’s not very often, when a team has won eleven of thirteen, that a week off is needed. Momentum can be wrecked and complacency can set in. For this weary Boston Celtics team, a week off is much needed.
It was evident in last night’s loss to the Chicago Bulls. It wasn’t that the effort was bad. At times, they looked like a team that could shoot their way to an NBA title.
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For much of the game, though, the Celtics also looked like a team coasting into the break on fumes. And they still could (should?) have won if not for a tough call to end the game.
Isaiah Thomas–the man of a never ending well of energy–will be taking his talents to New Orleans for All-Star weekend. Deservedly so, but even last night he looked at times like he was running on reserves.
A lot can factor into this. The regular season is nearly 70% over; Bench play has been inconsistent at times; A recent west coast trip followed by games two nights in a row; Injuries. No matter the case, the All-Star break is a welcome sight for the Celtics.
A More Consistent Bench
Superstars aside, the play of the bench can help make a good team even better. In the case of the Celtics, it will be much needed during the stretch run.
As good as the fourth quarter has been for Thomas, in an ideal world the heroics wouldn’t be needed on what is turning out to be a game-to-game basis. This starts not only with the starters playing cohesively better, but the bench as well.
Obviously, something is going right for the Celtics. They are 25-8 over the past few months and are within sniffing distance of the Cleveland Cavaliers for the East’s best record.
More consistent play from the bench–aside from one player a night–would go a long way in making the Celtics better. Playing in his contract year, Kelly Olynyk has been coming on as of late, which is a good sign, but others need to join the club.
An encouraging sign was the play of the the bench to start the second quarter last night. Four bench players–on the court with Marcus Smart–helped extend the Celtics lead. Throw in the play of Gerald Green late in the first and the bench had an outstanding first half.
More efforts like this will be needed when the Celtics return from the all-star break. If it weren’t for a glaring need in rebounding and interior defense, I’d almost be content if the Celtics remained silent at the trade deadline.
The Return of The Injured
The eventual (hopeful) return of Avery Bradley will also shape this team in post all-star break era. Outside of Thomas, Bradley was the most consistent player on the Celtics in the season’s first two months.
Bradley also brings with him a strong defensive presence. When paired with Marcus Smart, the two are able to wreak havoc on the opposing team’s guards.
Resetting to 0-0, getting rest for this weary bunch, and the return of Bradley and Brown will all help. Hopefully, if a trade does occur, the core of this team remains in tact. And if no trade occurs? There’s very little here to say that this Celtics team can’t get it done.
It’s amazing what a little rest and re-focus can do. What the Celtics do with it from there is entirely up to them.