A big week ahead is on the docket for the Boston Celtics. Three Eastern Conference foes are upcoming, with yet another prime opportunity for Boston to climb the ladder in the standings.
Overwhelmingly, as of late, depending on how the two stars perform, so, too go the Boston Celtics.
Help needed for the Boston Celtics stars
When Brown and Tatum are locked in, Boston is difficult to beat. This was evident in victories over the Sacramento Kings and New Orleans Pelicans (a game which the Celtics did their best to give away despite a combined 69 points from their two stars).
The need for a consistent third scorer has plagued the Celtics throughout the season. The early going provided hope that Dennis Schroder might fill that void, whether as a starter or a spark plug off the bench.
As of late, though, Schroder has put down a grand total of 24 points in the last five games.
And in a game like the very disappointing loss to the Atlanta Hawks, where Tatum and Brown both struggled, a third scorer and better bench play was desperately needed.
Tatum and Brown are the “go-to” guys and yes, much of the team’s success will be predicated on their performances. But in recent victories they’ve simply shouldered more than their fair share of the workload. (And that’s not to say they can’t be better as well, as noted in the loss to the Hawks where turnovers and bad shot selection hampered the duo).
Smart has often been best when he’s not forced to be that third scorer. He had 17 points –on only eight shots — in that loss. He’s not going to shoot 75 percent every game if he can contribute 10 or 12 points per game without shooting the ball 15 times, it’s a plus for this team.
So, too, is Smart’s ability to distribute the ball. Since his return to the lineup, the Celtics are 3-1. Smart has 27 assists in these games, including 12 against New Orleans.
Williams, on the other hand, could stand to get more touches in the offense. And by that, much more than just facilitating things through him. Finding ways to get Williams to contribute 14 to 16 points per game would be ideal.
Of course, the sky is the limit for Williams, who is currently playing like the All-Star many think he could be. Blocked shots sit at an average of 2.6 per game in January. Williams is pulling down 11.2 boards this month, averaging a shade over 14 the last three games.
Much more is needed besides Smart and Williams but it’s a start.
Despite the inconsistencies, Boston has won three of their last four. At 26-25, they sit in ninth-place in the East, 6.5 games back from the top spot. And it against the team with the best record who the Celtics face to open the week.
Boston Celtics: Upcoming schedule
On Monday, the Celtics welcome the Miami Heat to town. The Heat have skyrocketed up the standings, winning nine of their last 12 games to move into 1st-place. Miami is coming off a triple-OT loss to Toronto on Saturday night.
Back in November, Boston defeated Miami by 17 in their only meeting so far this season. It was one of the few early-season games in which Boston had their core five starters. And it was one of the better games from the bench, too, as Schroder, Aaron Nesmith, and Romeo Langford combined to score 39 points.
On Wednesday (2/2), the Celtics are again at home, this time facing off against Charlotte, which currently is two games ahead of Boston. The teams have split their games this season, with Charlotte winning the most recent affair 111-102.
A road game with the Detroit Pistons on 2/4 follows. It is the first game between the teams this season as the teams will meet four times within the next 35 days. The Pistons are lingering near the bottom of the Eastern Conference.
Marching towards the All-Star break, the upcoming week needs to see the Celtics win at least two games. Hoping for all three is a lot, considering the mediocrity the Celtics have displayed this season. Conquering each week with a winning record in games played that week is a plus, and should allow Boston to continue to slowly — and surely — make a climb.