The Celtics are better than their record suggests, having now put a thoroughly mediocre start behind them. Boston started the season 10-9, before then picking up play by moving into December with an eight-game winning streak.
As a result, the Celtics trail only the Bucks and Warriors in net rating since December 1, outscoring opponents by 7.6 points per 100 possessions and looking like an offensive juggernaut.
And still, there are nights like Boston’s pre All-Star meltdown against the Clippers, when Brad Stevens’ team blew a 28-point lead to lose by 11. Something is not quite right in Beantown.
Kyrie Irving switching between MVP-like bursts and unnecessary locker room agitation certainly doesn’t help. Neither does Gordon Hayward‘s struggle to regain his pre-injury form, or Al Horford‘s occasional inconsistencies this season. Perhaps most significant of all, though, is how all of the ups and downs of that group have affected the minutes and form of the players behind them in the rotation.
Contract years for Marcus Morris and Terry Rozier, and shifts in status for Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown have contributed to a much more complicated mix of personalities, desires and goals for Brad Stevens to manage.
At present, it’s by no means certain as to whether he’ll manage to do so successfully in the months ahead. To the Celtics’ advantage, they offer a very different look to the frontcourt size boasted by their conference rivals. They’re best equipped to mix things up, and that could cause the Bucks and Co. a wide variety of headaches come playoff time.
On the other hand, if the postseason begins with one of the bad weeks that the Celtics have produced on many occasions this year, what once shaped up to be the NBA’s next great dynasty could come under threat in a very brief period of time.