Don’t look now, but the Celtics are playing some pretty awesome ball. Cleveland stink aside, the Celtics are playing some very inspired basketball for coach Brad Stevens. Whether it is Marcus Smart getting another key stop, Crowder hitting the three with more consistency, Bradley catching fire or even Jerebko putting in solid work – the Celtics have become entertaining to watch.
The biggest reason behind their post All-Star resurgence is none other than the trade deadline buzzer beater that landed them Isaiah Thomas III. He has lived up to (and exceeded) all the hype around him being a go-to scorer, a spark plug, and being the league leader in 4th quarter points. The Celtics have been transformed over from a 4th quarter push-over to a legitimate threat behind Thomas’ fearlessness of the big moment. The last game against the Pelicans is just adding to his young growing legacy. He managed to rip the heart out out of the Pelicans in the 4th before they even had a chance to make a run – which is something that he has done multiple times already, and something that the Celtics could not do for the last season and a half. He is not the only player that has stepped up, but, he just very well might be the reason why others have also taken their game up a level.
One of those players stepping it up is Marcus Smart, who has finally received some recognition in the league by winning the Eastern Conference Rookie of the month. It’s a a far step from being snubbed for the USA vs. World rookie/sophomore game, which happened in that same month. He may not be scoring 20 points a game or averaging 10+ assists per game (yet), but if you are just looking at his stat line, you are doing him an injustice. He just wants it. Smart is the guy that will get that key steal, come up with the loose ball, make that key pass, or take the big shot – he will basically do whatever it takes. Once his skill level catches up to his will to win, we will have ourselves a serious player.
I could go through the whole team as everyone is playing extremely hard (special shout-out to Bradley and Bass), but the main reason behind that is coach Brad Stevens. People forget – or take it for granted – that he is a second year coach from college at only 38 years old. Make no mistake, we have ourselves a coach.
There are only a handful of coaches in the league that can get the absolute best out of all his players regularly, let alone from a team with a losing record. Enough cannot be said about the job he has done to extract everything from this young core, especially after losing his two best players mid season in Rajon Rondo and Jeff Green. After that happened, the Celtics could have easily mailed in the season, and no one would have said anything – how could he possibly win with that? That is not the way Stevens is built. He is constantly tweaking, constantly trying to get better, and it shows. Danny Ainge has found an absolute keeper that I hope is around for a lonnnnnnng time.
With the Celtics playing as hard as they are with an improbable playoff spot up for grabs, the future looks bright. Everyone in the front office is in sync, with Stevens excelling with what he has got, and Ainge slightly improving the team at every chance he gets, it is not unreasonable to suggest that the Celtics could be a great team sooner than what people think (especially with the treasure trove of 1st round picks and trade exceptions at Ainge’s disposal). If there are quality players out there to be had, you can bank on the fact that Ainge will try something.
I for one, will be sitting it back, and enjoying the ride – we are only going to get better from here on in and our future looks extremely bright. Besides, wouldn’t it be fun for these Celtics to make a run for the playoffs and possibly even sneaking in?