After another convincing win against the Memphis Grizzlies and extending their win streak to four games, the Boston Celtics look like they’re ready for the playoffs.
Since losing their first game to the Milwaukee Bucks, Boston has been on a tear in the bubble. Despite losing to Miami, Boston has won 5 out of their last 6 games, including 34, 22, and 15 point victories. They’ve fought off the Trail Blazers after blowing a 24-point lead and came up clutch against Orlando, winning in overtime. With only one more seeding game remaining, the Celtics are looking towards the playoffs.
Despite scoring five points and shooting 2-17 from the field against Milwaukee, Jayson Tatum hasn’t let that performance hold him back. In the past six games, Tatum’s been averaging 25.3 points, 5.8 rebounds, and 3.8 assists on 53.7/48.9/87.5 splits. He’s also leading the team in plus/minus (12.2) while playing less than 32 minutes a game. He hasn’t let one of the worst games of his career affect the rest of his time in the bubble.
Despite being restricted to 25 minutes a game, Kemba Walker has looked healthy and is beginning to look like the old Kemba as he continues to play more games. His averages are lower than usual, of course, but he’s made the most of the limited minutes he’s been given. He’s averaging 14.2 points and 3.5 assists on 49/43/82.4 splits. Once the playoffs start and he’s back to his usual workload, we should expect to see the Kemba we’re all used to seeing.
Gordon Hayward has been one of Boston’s best players in the bubble, and I think we need to start appreciating that. In seven games, he’s averaging 18.7 points and 3.9 assists per game while also leading the team in rebounds (7.7). Hayward has been more aggressive when driving to the basket and is actually leading the team in drives per game. He’s stepped up when the team has needed him to, especially in his 31-point performance against Orlando. When Hayward is at his best, this team is hard to beat. Don’t forget, he’s our fourth option.
Jaylen Brown has continued to look like one of Boston’s best players despite Jayson Tatum and Gordon Hayward stepping up in the bubble. He’s the second-highest scorer on the team averaging 19.6 points per game on 42.6/38.6/63 splits. He’s also averaging 6.6 rebounds per game, which would be the second-most on the team, and 1.3 assists. The assist numbers might be low, but Brown has put an emphasis on his playmaking in the bubble.
The same should be said about Jayson Tatum, too, whose assist averages have gone up by 1.1 since being in the bubble.
Brad Stevens seems to have his rotations figured out now. When your top four players are healthy, it’s easier to solidify your rotations. Stevens can always have one of Kemba, Jaylen, Jayson, or Gordon on the floor and not have to worry about the bench not being able to put up points.
Robert Williams has finally been given solid playing time and is making the most of it. Being able to throw Williams in off the bench will not only help the team on the defensive end but will also create a spark to get the rest of the team going.
As much as I hate that he’s getting minutes over Tremont Waters, Brad Wanamaker has been pretty solid off the bench for the most part. I always give credit where credit is due, and Wanamaker deserves credit for being a solid contributor off the bench. In the bubble, he’s leading the team in plus/minus (9.7) and averaging 9.7 points on 59/40/90 splits.
Of course, you have Marcus Smart off the bench, but then you throw in a little Enes Kanter and Romeo Langford and you have your bench figured out. Stevens can give Semi Ojeleye minutes in situations where the team needs more defense, but I’d rather not see him on the court too often.
The Celtics are less than one week away from the start of the playoffs, and I couldn’t be more thrilled. Boston is most likely going to match up with the Philadelphia 76ers in the first round. Without Ben Simmons, I’m not too worried about Philly and think Boston will take care of them in five or maybe six games.
I’m excited to see how both the Jays step up in the playoffs and watch Cardiac Kemba do his thing. Exciting times are ahead, and now I’m just counting down the days until the playoffs begin.
Photo: Ashley Landis, Pool Photo via USA TODAY Sports