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All Out of Luck

Boston Celtics guard Kyrie Irving during the first quarter of a preseason basketball game versus Kemba Walker’s Charlotte Hornets in Boston, Sunday, Sept. 30, 2018. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa) https://www.wbur.org/radioboston/2018/11/21/celtics-thanksgiving-football

Boston Celtics guard Kyrie Irving during the first quarter of a preseason basketball game versus Kemba Walker’s Charlotte Hornets in Boston, Sunday, Sept. 30, 2018. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa) https://www.wbur.org/radioboston/2018/11/21/celtics-thanksgiving-football

Boston Celtics guard Kyrie Irving during the first quarter of a preseason basketball game versus Kemba Walker’s Charlotte Hornets in Boston, Sunday, Sept. 30, 2018. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa) https://www.wbur.org/radioboston/2018/11/21/celtics-thanksgiving-football

Boston Celtics guard Kyrie Irving during the first quarter of a preseason basketball game versus Kemba Walker’s Charlotte Hornets in Boston, Sunday, Sept. 30, 2018. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa) https://www.wbur.org/radioboston/2018/11/21/celtics-thanksgiving-football

Luke O’Donnell, Staff Writer

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Boston Celtics guard Kyrie Irving during the first quarter of a preseason basketball game versus Kemba Walker’s Charlotte Hornets in Boston, Sunday, Sept. 30, 2018. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa) https://www.wbur.org/radioboston/2018/11/21/celtics-thanksgiving-football

“Celtics timeout… Warriors up by one with three seconds to go… The Celtics are looking for Kyrie… Kyrie in the corner! Takes it… MAKES IT. The Celtics are your 2019 NBA Champions, completing the 3-2 comeback on the road.” This is what is going to happen when June rolls around, maybe not exactly, but the Celtics will be your 2019 NBA Champions and here’s why.

 

Over the course of the last week or two, the Celtics have turned themselves around offensively, going from the 27th ranked offensive team (third worst in the league) to the 12th ranked offensive team, a significant improvement. In fact, we recently had five straight games scoring 115 points or more, the best offensive run for the Celtics since 1988. We also gave the Chicago Bulls the largest defeat in their franchise history (56 points). Offense was our biggest problem early on in the season, so this recent success bodes well for the Celtics’ playoffs hopes.

 

Before Thanksgiving, the Celtics were 9-9, the 17th best record in the league. Our offensive rating was the third worst in the league (104.3 points per game). Our defense has never been a problem this season; we were the second best in the league, and we continue to be one of the best defensive teams in the league. This next statistic is what I think really held us back early in the season: Our field goal percentage was 43.4%, which was the second worst field goal percentage in the league. In my opinion this was a result of players forcing up shots and trying to find their role on the team with the addition of Gordon Hayward and Kyrie Irving,Who had just returned from season-ending injuries they endured last year.

Marcus Morris of the Boston Celtics taking a mid-range jump shot with the shot clock running down versus the Atlanta Hawks. (Luke O’Donnell)

After Thanksgiving we were 6-1 (15-10 for the season). The team’s turn around in record has led for improvement in other statistics. The Celtics offensive rating went up to 121.6 points per game, the number one offensive in the league. Going from the third worst offensive team in the league to the best offensive team in the league is no fluke. This is a result of the Celtics taking better shots and making more field goals. Players have found their new role in this talent stacked team and the change of field goal percentage proves that. Our field goal percentage after Thanksgiving went up from the second worst in the league to the second best in league (50.2%).

This improvement is no fluke either. Currently when I am writing this the Celtics have gone on a eight game winning streak and are currently 18-11. Our offense has stayed effective and our defense remains a top defense in the league. People’s fears about the Celtics in the early part of the season was always about the offense, with Kyrie only scoring three points in an early game. These worries have been put to rest with our recent success and our success has no sign of stopping.

 

What is another knock on the Celtics when it comes for their hopes of a Finals appearance? The competition. More specifically, the Philadelphia 76ers, Milwaukee Bucks, and the Toronto Raptors. Let’s start with the 76ers. The Celtics have never struggled with the 76ers in the past two seasons. Last year in the playoffs we beat them 4-1 in the second round without Kyrie or Gordon Hayward and we blew them out In the first game of this season. Joel Embiid (The 76ers All-Star center) had this to say about the Celtics: “This is not a Rivalry,” “I don’t know our record against them [The Celtics], but it’s pretty bad, they always kick our a**.” It is fair to acknowledge the recent addition of Jimmy Butler, an All-Star player, to the 76ers. However, I feel like that cancels out when we also have the addition of Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward since the last time we played in the playoffs.

 

Next up is the Milwaukee Bucks, who have been playing exceptionally well this season. They have the second best record in the league, but against the Celtics they are 0-1. We beat them last year in the playoffs in seven games as well, even when many people thought it would be an easy series for the Bucks, and teams were actually losing games on purpose in order to compete against us in the playoffs. Giannis Antetokounmpo is the leading reason for their success and might be their MVP this season. There really is nothing any team can do to shut down Giannis; They can only contain him, Which I think the Celtics are very good at. Giannis Antetokounmpo had 33 points and 11 rebounds when he played against the Celtics this season. That may sound like an amazing game for any normal player but for Giannis, that is a bit below average. The key to beating the Bucks is shutting down their other offensive threats such as Eric Bledsoe, Malcolm Brogdon, and Khris Middleton. If the Celtics can shut down their shooters, there is only so much one player can do to win a game.

Now, the Celtics biggest threat in the East… the Toronto Raptors. The Raptors are playing outstanding basketball this season and are 1-1 against us. The acquisition of Kawhi Leonard has been a huge part of this success. Their team is also very deep, just like ours,making them our biggest obstacle in reaching the Finals. So, why will we beat this team even though they are playing better than us right now? The first reason is that the Toronto Raptors tend to be a regular season team, meaning that they perform great in the regular season but struggle in the playoffs. For example, last season the Raptors finished with the best record in the Eastern Conference, but then got bounced in the second round by the Cavaliers. So I think there is a high chance that the Raptors will struggle in playoffs this year, too. This is because of one player, Kyle Lowry. Kyle Lowry has been known to disappear in the playoffs when it matters most. For example, when the Raptors faced off against the Bucks this season (December 9) Kyle Lowry shot 0% from the field (0/5) and didn’t score any points. Then, in an elimination game against the Cavaliers (last year’s playoffs) Lowry only scored 5 points (2/7 from the field). For your second best player to disappear like this in clutch games, it will only end in your downfall. I think the Celtics will capitalize on this and will remain effective offensively because of the amount of players that can score 20+ points per night on our team.

If the Celtics continue to play the way they have been playing recently, I don’t think there is a team in the East that can stop them from getting to the NBA Finals. Everyone must remember the law of averages, “The principle that supposes most future events are likely to balance any past deviation from a presumed average.” means that when we are in our lows, our highs are just around the corner.

 

 

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