I know I’ve been slacking on the Celtics content lately, but I have my reasons. Firstly, there really hasn’t been much to comment on over the last two weeks. They’ve played pretty much the way I’ve expected: some stupid, disappointing losses mixed in with solid wins. Secondly, it has been harder for me to watch games. As you’d expect for someone living on the VA-DC line, the Celtics don’t get a lot of airtime at the bar, even when the hometown team is a red hot piece of trash that just fired their GM. Lastly, and this is the bigger reason why I haven’t been writing much, I’ve done a lot of drinking since I moved to Virginia.
Maybe I’m just out of the loop because I’m from Massachusetts, but they have real happy hours down here. They’re amazing and probably my favorite thing in the world right now (unless my wife is reading this). From at least 5-7 at just about every bar, and with extended hours at a lot of them, you can get seriously discounted drinks and small plates in half the city. It’s incredible. Mass has a rip off happy hour where you get $1 off of nachos or some shit you can make at your house, but this shit is legit. And rest assured I’ve been taking full advantage of it.
As for the Celtics, although they had a 4-game losing streak in the middle of March, including a pathetic showing against the Hornets in Charlotte, they were able to come away with wins in the two most important games down the stretch: a home and away against the Pacers that has left me 100% sure we will make it to the second round. Although the game at the Garden was a close one, this last win in Indy without Brown and Morris proved that we are a legit force. With multiple games against the Pacers and a home-and-away mini-series against the Heat, the Celtics have actually had a little taste of the playoff format already. Al Horford said having games like this were good practice for the playoffs, and I’m in full agreement.
The biggest factor in getting this team playoff ready for me is moving Morris to the bench and replacing him with All of Australia. Baynes brings toughness in the paint and relegates more scoring the to second unit, two things that were much needed. Playoff basketball is very different than regular season basketball, and something the Celtics have lacked since the days of KP43 is a force in the paint. Baynes, in the two games against the Pacers, put up 13 and 13 at home at 11 and 11 on the road with a few blocks mixed in. He’s also done it without fouling, something isn’t always able to avoid.
Another great sign in the blowout the other night was the perfect game (9-9 from the field, 3-3 from the line) from Gordon Hayward. This was the best such performance since Kevin McHale had 25 in a perfect game back in 1986. It was also the first time this season Gordon put up 20+ in consecutive games, pushing the Celtics to 6-0 when he hits that scoring mark. He’s been more physical and aggressive every game, and I think he’s really starting to show that confidence that was missing for the first several months of the season. I mean shit, he played 38 minutes last night. He may not have lit up the scoreboard, but he was very efficient. The more consistent he can be, the deeper we’ll go in the playoffs. If Gordon and Baynes play at a high level, and Kyrie, Brown and Al continue to play the way they have been, that will open up the floor for everyone else. Tatum looked to be back on track against Indy as well, leading the team in minutes and scoring.
Health will be a concern for sure, especially after last night. However, I don’t expect the shin contusion Tatum suffered to be all that serious. We’ll see about the hip injury to Marcus Smart, but he’s a tough bastard that will fight through it. I would expect Tatum, Smart and Irving at the very least to be out for tomorrow’s matchup against the Wizards, but only for a little extra rest. The only disappointing part about the rest is I will be at the game tomorrow rooting on….idk, Yabu I guess? I really don’t expect many people to play, and wouldn’t be surprised if those three I named aren’t the only ones missing time. Oh well. If all of the pieces fall where they should, this team can be the title contender that we all thought they’d be at the start of the season. I can’t wait to watch what they can do and find my hopes rising every day for this team.