The jockeying for playoff position is officially under way for the Boston Celtics. A recent four-game win streak can be thanked for their recent rise.
Boston (29-25), with their recent run, is sitting in eighth place in the Eastern Conference currently. While that’s not exactly where the C’s want to be in the standings, they are only five games behind the Chicago Bulls (the current #1 seed in the East) which is something to keep an eye on.
With roughly one-third of the season left, there’s really no clear-cut powerhouse in the East. Teams have battled injuries and the Health and Safety protocols throughout, so it will definitely be interesting to see what teams — if any — begin to separate themselves from the pack.
For now, Boston is playing some of its best basketball of the season.
Momentum building for Boston Celtics
Reasons for success can be pointed in multiple directions. All-Star Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown both continue to shine. Tatum shot 60 percent or higher from the field in three of his last seven games, finishing January averaging 27 points per game in the month.
Brown, too, has been a force, averaging nearly 30 points in the last four games of January (though February’s two games have been a slow start, with Brown only totaling 28 points).
One of the things that had slowed Boston is other players not performing when the two stars do happen to struggle. That has changed as of late, with multiple players settling into roles and delivering.
The top of that list is Marcus Smart, who has been locked in. Shot selection has improved, leading to a cumulative 24-39 from the field in his last five games. Smart has also dished out 66 assists in this span and has given a spark to a suddenly rejuvenated defense.
During this four-game winning streak, the Celtics are holding opponents to 97.3 points per game. Going further, Boston has won 8 of their last 11 games, and in six of those wins their opponent has failed to reach the century mark.
Like Smart, Boston as a team has had better ball movement and better shot selection. With Smart running point and Robert Williams and Al Horford facilitating action on offense, the Celtics are finding more open looks. Boston has always been best when getting good action and ball movement, with the last four games the Celtics finding more consistency in that aspect.
It also can’t go without mentioning Josh Richardson and his play off the bench during the winning streak. Richardson averaged 14 points during this stretch and it’s nice to see him finally finding a rhythm this season.
Boston had a good week, defeating the team they should (the Detroit Pistons) and taking care of Eastern Conference foes in the Charlotte Hornets and Miami Heat. Opportunities abound again this week in both of those columns.
Boston Celtics: The week ahead
A Sunday (2/6) matchup with the Orlando Magic tips things off this week. The Celtics own two wins over the Magic this season, the most recent on January 2nd. This was a five-point overtime victory in which Tatum and Williams did not play. It was also the game where Brown willed the team to victory with a 50-point performance.
Next up, on Tuesday (2/8), might be Boston’s biggest game of the week. It will be the second meeting of the season with the Brooklyn Nets. The teams haven’t played each other since late-November, a blowout victory by Brooklyn.
There was no Williams for that game, either, and Tatum and Brown combined to only score 28 points on 9-31 shooting.
Boston, after these two road games to begin the week, returns home to face the Denver Nuggets on Friday (2/11). It will be the first game between the teams in 2021-22.
Life is going well for the Boston Celtics. Another perfect 3-0 week would be ideal but a 2-1 mark would bode well, too. It’s not all perfect play on the court but the Celtics are doing things right when needed. Playing as a team goes a long way and, if they continue to do that, wins are going to continue to mount up.