(Photo via nba.com)
Coming off a strong win against the red-hot Portland Trailblazers Wednesday night, the Boston Celtics sit comfortably in the third spot in the east and are looking like one of the best teams in the league as of late. Led by 30 points for all-star point guard Isaiah Thomas, the Boston Celtics used an explosive third quarter to put the Trailblazers in their rear view and cruise to a commanding 116-93 victory. Boston outscored Rip City 30-12 in the third, coming out of halftime with fire and a soon to be dominant defensive performance. Boston held the elite guard tandem of Lillard and McCollum to just 37 points and a -22 +/- when both on the court.
When it comes to defense, the Celtics are certainly one of the 5 or 6 best teams in the league. Despite minor struggles since the All-Star break, Boston’s defense still ranks as one of the best, ranking top 5 in opponent field goal percentage, opponents assists per game and opponents field goals made per game, while sitting atop the league in both steals per game and turnovers forced per game. The tenacious defense combined with 109+ points per game since the All-Star break has the Celtics looking like one of the most complete teams in the league, even without a “proven superstar,” something many basketball analysts believe is essential to be a title contender.
As recently said by the team leader, Isaiah Thomas, the Celtics play with a “chip-on-their-shoulder” mentality as people are always undermining their ability due to their small-school backgrounds, stockpile of young players, and lack of a true superstar. The Celtics go out every night to prove to the league that they are a force to be reckoned with and are here to stay. The Celtics are one proven big man or one dominant scorer away from being an NBA Finals front-runner, but with how the team is playing now, they are certainly a contender for the Eastern Conference Finals
Between Boston’s red-hot play since the All-Star break and Clevelands recent struggles, I see the Celtics having a great chance at knocking off the Cavs in the playoffs and representing the East in the NBA finals. The Celtics have proven they can play in tough games against great teams, as they nearly took down the Warriors the night before their first loss in 2OT and beat the Cavaliers earlier this year in February 104-103. The Celtics roll into Cleveland tomorrow night looking to knock off the Eastern Conference leaders yet again, creating way will be an intense playoff environment in what could be a future playoff series. The Celtics will need to play their best the beat LeBron and his pack of followers, but I see them as the perfect team for the job. Tipoff is tomorrow night at 7:00 pm.
– J. Horrigan