The Boston Celtics came out on top against the Portland Trail Blazers Sunday, beating them 128-124. Considering Portland’s 8th spot in the west is the equivalent to the 5th or 6th spot in the east, I would say that was a pretty big win for Boston. Jayson Tatum got whatever he wanted with a total of 34 points, 8 assists, and 4 rebounds. Their defense was stifling their ball movement was incredible, they looked young, hungry, and focused.
Then…. they lost to the Miami Heat on Tuesday 112-106.
Boston is somewhat of an enigma; they appear to be their own nemesis.
Their season was strong going into the pandemic, playing with poise and discipline, a product of coach Brad Stevens coaching style. Yet there were periods where they played with an unfocused laxed mentality; point in case, they lost 3 games in a row going into Thanksgiving, a total of 6 games in January which were back to backs, and back to back losses on February 29th and March 30th against the Toronto Raptors and the Brooklyn Nets, and then again on March 6th and March 8th against the Utah Jazz and OKC.
What’s with the slumps?
Boston has the potential to take the east, as a matter of fact their makeup is similar to what Golden State looked like at the beginning stages of their success. Like Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, Steph Curry and Klay Thompson were fresh meat making a name for themselves. They had notable players like Andre Iguodala, Shaun Livingston, Leandro Barbosa, and David Lee, but no superstars. Both Iguodala and Livingston were coming off the bench, with Iguodala taking the bigger hit to his ego coming from Philadelphia as a starter and a star in his own right. Likewise, Gordon Hayward coming from Utah where the Jazz were in the same dying state as the Sixers were when Iguodala jumped ship. Both went to their respective new teams being the player with the most notoriety, and the intent of continuing the same roles they had on their previous teams, being the first option, while just the opposite happened. Hayward broke his ankle/leg, and Iguodala went from a leading starter to coming off the bench. In the end Iguodala was MVP, the sixth man, and earned 3 NBA championships with the Golden State Warriors. Makes me wonder if it would be better for Boston if Hayward came off the bench with Marcus Smart, giving their 2nd unit an extra punch.
Strengths and Weaknesses
When Boston centers themselves for a full 48 minutes, their defense is suffocating, and their ball movement is unselfish, crisp, and purposeful. With Daniel Theis and Enes Kanter being there go to centers their lack of height could cause an issue. With the ability to play a 4/5, Theis is strong and gritty giving the Celtics everything he has on defense; going after 50/50 balls, 2nd chance points, block, rebounds…. every game. Kanter on the other hand is a liability. He has the potential to do great things; one game he’s playing like a beast that can rival with the best of them, the next game he’s timid and scared, he gives me whiplash always has.
The X Factor
Enes Kanter is their X factor. Against the Miami Heat Tuesday night, he played a total of 15 minutes in which he scored 10 points, 4 rebounds, and 1 assist. If Kanter can remain consistent with his defense throughout the playoffs he can change the complexion of any game.
In the end it all boils down to poise and discipline, do the Boston Celtics have what it takes?