My Confidence Levels for the Celtics Heading into the Restart of the NBA Season

The Boston Celtics’ scrimmages have officially come to an end, and now it’s time to look forward to the restart of the regular season. The Celtics finished their three games with a record of 1-2, and although that’s not ideal, you have to remember that they were just scrimmages. Also, Boston didn’t play seven of their top players last night, so you can argue that the Houston game really didn’t matter.

Some Boston players had great showings during the scrimmages, including Jaylen Brown, Grant Williams, Romeo Langford, and Tremont Waters. Jaylen Brown has shown that he hasn’t missed a step, and he’s more than ready to get the season going. The rookies had their time to shine, especially in last night’s game, and have shown promise that they can provide some spark off the Celtics’ bench.

The most important thing is that nobody got injured. We saw Eric Gordon injure his ankle last night and was assisted off the court. He’s expected to miss 1-2 weeks for the Rockets. Anthony Davis had to leave the Lakers’ game because he got poked in the eye. Frank Vogul said there’s “some concern” he might miss the Lakers’ opener on Thursday.

Although the Celtics’ bench got blown out by the Rockets last night, it was smart for Brad Stevens to rest his top players heading into their first regular-season game on Friday. There’s no reason to risk one of your best players getting injured in a game that means nothing.

After seeing what we did from Boston and every other playoff team across the league during these scrimmages, what are the confidence levels for this team heading into the restart of the regular season?

Personally, I feel no different about the team now than I did before the scrimmages were played. Despite Jayson Tatum shooting a combined 7-23 in the two games he played in, I have confidence Tatum will pick it up and get better as the season progresses. He came out of the gates rusty, which we should’ve expected from a lot of our players. I mean, they haven’t played organized basketball in over 130 days at that point. It’s excusable and nothing to lose sleep over. The real test will come against Milwaukee on Friday.

Jaylen Brown looks like he can be Boston’s best player going forward. Obviously, Tatum will be the guy on this team that leads the charge on offense, but Brown has proven that he can be the most reliable option on offense. He’s been playing solid defense, hitting turnaround jump shots, pull-up threes, and finishing strong at the basket. He has evolved his game on offense and has become somebody the Celtics can trust to put the ball in the basket. I have a feeling people are going to be talking about Jaylen Brown a whole lot more when this season is done.

Although he only played less than 10 minutes in his one scrimmage game, Kemba Walker looked solid and seems to be nearly back to his old self. His knee injury had worried some fans about whether he’d be 100 percent by the time the season restarted, but it looks like he’ll be ready to go against Milwaukee. I just hope Boston doesn’t push him and cause his knee to become a problem again before the playoffs begin. That’s when Boston will need Walker the most, and having him fully healthy for the playoffs is what’s most important.

The one big thing the Celtics need to improve on is their defense. Against Oklahoma City and Phoenix, their interior defense looked terrible. They need to tighten up their D, get back on transition, and stop giving guys open shots on the perimeter. You can argue that they weren’t giving their full effort because they’re meaningless games, but that’s a terrible excuse. Whether it’s a scrimmage or a regular-season game, you have to come out and give your full effort on both sides of the ball. The offense looks fine, it’s the defense that needs to play catchup. Hopefully Boston will clean up their defense before Friday’s game against Milwaukee because if not, they’ll get eaten alive by Giannis, the Bucks’ big men, and their multiple three-point threats.

With all of this being said, I think Boston is still a top-5 team entering the restart of the regular season. I’d put them at #4 behind the Bucks, Lakers, and Clippers and one spot ahead of the Raptors. I believe Boston and Toronto are neck-and-neck, but I would give Boston the edge in a seven-game series.

Once Boston seriously gets back into the swing of things, shakes off all the rust, and turns back into the team that has a top-5 offense and defense, they’ll be tearing up the league just like they were before the suspension. No team entering the NBA restart has three players averaging over 20 PPG like Boston does. No team has a fourth starter who’s averaging over 17 PPG like Boston does. The Celtics are, and have always been, equipped to make a deep run in the playoffs this year. If the team stays healthy throughout their run, they can take down any team in a seven-game series.

It was nice seeing the Celtics get back to playing basketball during the scrimmages, but now I’m ready for the real games to start. The biggest test will come game one against Milwaukee on Friday, and I’m excited to see how the guys start their season back up.


Photo: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

 

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