5 Things We Learned About C's in November
BOSTON – December is upon us, which means November is in the books. We’re already more than a quarter of the way through the season, and the Celtics own a league-best 19-4 record.
We’ve gleaned loads of information from the team’s first 23 games of the season, and in particular from November. Here’s a list of our top five takeaways.
No. 1 – This Team Fits Together
The biggest question mark in Boston heading into this season was how a team with only four returning players and 10 new players would connect on the court. We’ve quickly learned that each player on this team is like a piece of a puzzle, and they all fit together perfectly.
Every player has a role. Every player has bought into his role. And it’s beautiful to watch.
Kyrie Irving is the scorer and closer.
Al Horford is the leader.
Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum are the versatile wings.
Marcus Smart is the heart and soul.
Aron Baynes is the interior defender and rebounder.
The list goes on and on. No one complains, right on down to the 14th man. All they do is execute, and they do so for the betterment of their team.
No. 2 – This Defense is No Joke
The Celtics have been atop the league all season long in both defensive rating (98.4) and opponent scoring (96.8 points per game). The numbers are no farce, and here’s why.
The C’s have racked up these numbers despite ranking 16th in the league in steals per game (8.1) and 19th in the league in blocks per game (4.3). Do you know what that means? Boston’s defensive is as pure as it gets. It forces misses and inefficient offensive possessions, point-blank.
Length is the key to Boston’s defense. Every player in its starting lineup is 6-foot-3 or taller, and each player from shooting guard to center is 6-foot-7 or taller. The Celtics are taking away shooting and passing lanes with their height and length, and even Irving is widening eyes with his effort and quick hands at the defensive end.
No. 3 – The Celtics Have Had Some Good Fortune
This 19-4 record is in the eye of the beholder. On one hand, the C’s have done what has needed to be done to win 19 of their first 23 games. On the other hand, the C’s have had a lot of things happen that have eased the challenge of their first 23 games.
Let’s start out with opposing injuries. This is the lengthy list of players who have missed games against Boston: Isaiah Thomas (Cleveland), Hassan Whiteside (Miami), Kawhi Leonard (San Antonio - soon to be twice), Elfrid Payton (Orlando - along with backup point guard D.J. Augustin), Nicolas Batum (Charlotte), D’Angelo Russell (Brooklyn), Victor Oladipo (Indiana), and Joel Embiid (Philadelphia).
Boston went 7-1 during those games, while teams played without arguably their best, second-best, or third-best players.
The schedule has also been kind to Boston.
The C’s have played three games on the second night of back-to-backs, and on two of those nights, their opponent was also playing on the second night of a back-to-back. This erased any advantage the opponent would have otherwise owned.
On the flip side, Boston has hosted three teams (San Antonio, Sacramento and Philadelphia) on the second night of their back-to-backs, all while the C’s came off at least one day of rest.
… And let’s not forget about all of those double-digit comeback wins.
No. 4 – Youth Hasn’t Deterred Winning
Six of Boston’s rotational players are playing on their rookie-scale contract or on their first NBA contract. Two starters, Brown and Tatum, are 21 years old or younger.
Many thought the C’s reliance on youth would be an issue. It has turned out to be a non-factor.
Brown, in his second season, is showing All-Star potential. Tatum, a rookie, has played beyond his years and is living up to the “old soul” title assistant coach Jerome Allen gave him during the summer.
Then there’s Smart, Terry Rozier, Daniel Theis and Semi Ojeleye. All four players, two of whom are rookies, have played fantastic basketball. They have given the team all it could have hoped for.
No. 5 – All-Star Weekend Might Be Very Green
The Celtics haven’t had multiple All-Stars since 2013. That streak should end this season.
Kyrie Irving is a shoo-in. Al Horford, who’s shooting 54.5 percent from the field and 44.1 percent from long range while averaging 13.9 points, 8.1 rebounds and 4.9 assists per game, should also make the team.
They need to just put Al Horford in the All-Star Game. Now.— Jeff Goodman (@GoodmanESPN) December 1, 2017
Brown and Tatum, meanwhile, should undoubtedly be selected to the BBVA Compass Rising Stars Challenge, and each youngster also has a legitimate shot at partaking in All-Star Saturday Night.
Brown has showcased time and time again that he is one of the top dunkers in the league. He could very well get the call to participate in the Verizon Slam Dunk contest. Tatum, meanwhile, ranks sixth in the league in 3-point percentage (48.6 percent) among players who have attempted at least 40 treys. That stat, combined with his quick and effortless release from long range, make him a prime candidate for the JBL Three-Point Contest.