The Boston Celtics: Remain Perfect At Home, Yet Still Unsatisfied

When this blog last left the Boston Celtics, they had not lost a game at TD Garden. Okay, yes, that was because they had not yet played one there. Since then, the Celtics have played 20 games at home and have won them all. The last time they looked this unstoppable, Kevin Garnett was the new guy in town.

Following a 117-98 win over the San Antonio Spurs on Wednesday, the Celtics improved their overall record to an NBA best 32-9. This is particularly welcome considering that both the Boston Red Sox and the New England Patriots have devolved into shadows of their former selves.

Let’s be honest: the offseason could have been a disaster. Many Celtics fans did not want to part with Marcus Smart in the summer. Considering that Kristaps Porzingis’s New York Knicks tenure ended in a trade request there were legitimate reasons to be concerned that this could end up being another Kyrie Irving situation. So far, there have been no issues whatsoever.

There were no such character concerns surrounding Jrue Holiday. Holiday, after all, has won the NBA Teammate of the Year Award three times. When he suddenly became available after the Milwaukee Bucks traded him to the Portland Trail Blazers in the Damian Lillard deal, the Celtics wasted no time in swooping him in to grab him as the proverbial final piece of the puzzle.

So far, the changes have worked out. While the team almost certainly misses Smart, it opened up a spot for Derrick White to thrive in a starting role. White’s currently a dark horse candidate to make the Eastern Conference All-Star Team.

Jaylen Brown, meanwhile, has been proving his worth. The NBA’s highest-paid player has responded with offseason slings-and-arrows by working on the holes in his game. He’s averaging 23.3 points and 3.5 assists per game and looks nothing like the turnover machine he became in last year’s playoffs.

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Meanwhile, the Celtics bench—which could have been this top-heavy team’s clear Achilles’s heel—has outperformed expectations in the season’s first half. On a night when one or more of the stars are unavailable or simply underperforming, the role players have been stepping up. Special credit should be given to reserve forward Oshae Brissett who reliably changes the game’s energy when he comes off the bench.

All this means that Tatum has only rarely been forced to save the team. He’s quietly having another amazing year where he’s fully committed to playing team-first basketball. Tatum’s ninth in the league with 27.1 points per game while also averaging 8.4 rebounds and 4.4 assists. Like Brown, he could probably put up better numbers if his team needed him to, but he seems more concerned with making his teammates better than his stats.

Okay, this all sounds corny but that’s not on me! It’s a credit to the Celtics that they are embracing all of the boring clichés that you’re sick of hearing about: playing selfless basketball, having a team-first mentality, showing competitive spirit, etc.

 

 

Gideon Canice

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