I have neglected my beloved Celtics for some time now, I know. Maybe because the very idea of not seeing Kyrie break ankles for the rest of the season devastates me. Or because I don’t get to see Marcus Smart’s energy and routine sacrifices on defense. It could be because one of our most dynamic bigs (who also happens to be a 25-year old rookie) has been and will be out for the rest of the season. Quite possibly—it could be all three.
Stepping Up Big
My depression of key pieces lost should not take away from what this team has been able to do in their absence. Since March 11th, which we can argue is when everyone started dropping like flies, the guys are 5-3. One of those losses was a thrilling double-OT against the Wizards, which was hard fought. The wins included another thriller against OKC and a come-from-behind-rally in the fourth against Portland. So who do we have to thank?
- Al Horford: I’m not going to give you his stat line for this period because it doesn’t matter, not really. All that matters is what he brings to this team, especially when Kyrie isn’t there. This athletic PF can play C AND run an offense, which is the most important in this case. He doesn’t always have to give you 15 points to make a difference.
- Jayson Tatum: the rookie had been climbing his way out of his slump and it looks like he’s back to early season form. His stat line for the last eight games: 17.5 pts, 2.4 ast, 6.6 rbs, and shooting 50% from the floor.
- Terry Rozier: Its not surprise this guy continues to have an impact. He stepped up the first time Kyrie had to sit out, recording a triple-double in his first career start. Not to mention the very next game he recorded a career-high 31 points. Well, he topped that in the game against the Kings by recording 33 points. His last eight games: 18.3 pts, 4.4 ast, 6 rbs, and shooting 40% from the floor.
- Marcus Morris: this guy has always been our dark horse. People are still surprised to see when he is a top scorer for the team or when he hits the game winning three. I’m not sure why because his style of play is the reason why we wanted him in the first place. His last 7 games (missed one due to an ankle): 19.7 pts, 5.6 rbs, and shooting 51% from the floor.
- Greg Monroe: special shout out to Moose Monroe and his last eight games: 11.5 pts, 6.6 rbs, and shooting 52% from the floor. I knew he would be a great addition to the team and he’s been getting it done in the paint/post for us. Let’s hope it continues.
- Brad Stevens: just four words–> COACH OF THE YEAR. That’s all.
I pointed out specific members of the team, but of course there are others who contribute in important ways as well. Together they succeed, not individually.
But What Expectations Should We Have?
I mentioned this a bit before in another (very) short article but I will say it again. This team has already exceeded the expectations of everyone. When Gordon Hayward went down, no one thought the Celtics would subsequently go on a 16-game win streak and hold the top spot in the East for the majority of the season. But they did, and I couldn’t be more proud. So with that being said, I’m going to be realistic. This team could more than likely make it past a first round match up and depending on the opponent, maybe a second. Though, I’m not really looking for them to have some sort of Cinderella not really) run like they did last year. It should be seen as an opportunity to gain experience in a play off atmosphere for those who haven’t experienced it yet. So, for those who are saddened by the multiple injuries, don’t be. What has happened this season wasn’t even supposed to. But yes, we will continue to support our Celtics for as long as they stay alive. And we will also get excited for what’s to come next season: healthy roster full of talented young players.
Watch the Celtics go for 5 straight tonight against the Jazz on ESPN/ NBC Sports Boston.