After Boston’s game two victory over the Toronto Raptors, I think it’s fair to say now that the Celtics are currently the best team in the NBA. The Celtics are one of only two teams that are still undefeated in the playoffs and have looked like a legit championship-contending team along the way. Led by Jayson Tatum, this team looks as good as they ever have.
In the NBA bubble, the Toronto Raptors are 11-0 against every team besides the Celtics. They’re 0-3 in the bubble against Boston in both the regular season and playoffs and 1-4 overall throughout the entire season. It’s safe to say the Celtics have the defending champ’s number, and they’ve proven that after going up 2-0 in the Eastern Semifinals.
Jayson Tatum had a dominant first-round series against the Philadelphia 76ers and has kept it rolling into the second round. In the playoffs, the 22-year-old All-Star is averaging 27.2 points and 9.3 rebounds per game. Not only is Tatum playing at an elite level, but he’s quickly climbing the NBA ranks for best players in the league. I’d consider Tatum to be in the 12-15 range amongst NBA players, but if he continues to show out like he has so far in the postseason, he can become a fringe top-10 player.
Even without Gordon Hayward, the Celtics have found ways to be successful because of their depth. Marcus Smart has stepped into the starting lineup and stepped up in Hayward’s absence. Smart’s put on scoring performances in the second round and has hit a combined 11 threes in two games thus far. Whether it’s starting or coming off the bench, Marcus Smart does whatever he has to do to help his team win.
Jaylen Brown hasn’t even played his best basketball against Toronto, but that isn’t an issue for this team because of how his teammates have stepped up. Even Kemba Walker played his worst game in game two but still hit the two biggest shots of the game that ultimately put the Raptors away.
The chemistry on this team is on another planet. Watching a team that fully trusts each other is a thing of beauty. Even when Kemba doesn’t have a great shooting game, his teammates still have confidence in him to shoot the ball. Even if Marcus Smart isn’t the greatest shooter in the world, his teammates still trust him to shoot five straight threes and cash each one of them. The love and appreciation this team has for each other is just another reason why they’re so successful.
It’s hard to ignore the amount of depth this team has when two of their best players play below their standards, but their team still manages to get a win. It’s impressive considering they’re missing another guy that can score 20 points on any given night. Having players like Marcus Smart and other bench pieces that help make up for Hayward’s absence is like a breath of fresh air.
I’d also like to point out how excellent Robert Williams has been against Toronto this year. In 62 minutes against the Raptors this season, Williams has scored 37 points on 17-18 shooting, has grabbed 19 rebounds, and blocked four shots. When he’s on the floor, the Celtics have outscored the Raptors by 49 points. Williams has been a difference-maker against this team and continues to impress whenever he steps on the floor for the Celtics.
All eyes will be on the Celtics going into game three tonight. After going up 2-0 against the defending champs, people have seriously started to take notice of what Boston is cooking up in the East. In fact, the Celtics are now not only the favorites to make it out of the Eastern Conference, but they’re also the favorites to win the 2020 NBA Finals, according to FiveThirtyEight.
Also, since losing to the Miami Heat back on August 4th, the Celtics have gone 10-0 against playoff teams with a +14.2 scoring differential. The Celtics aren’t just hot right now; they’re blistering hot.
These are all the reasons why the Celtics are the best team in the NBA currently. The only other team you can make an argument for, in my opinion, is the Miami Heat. They’re also 6-0 in the playoffs and look like a team on a mission. Still, Boston has been playing at a higher level and will look to continue to build their momentum in game three.
I’m not trying to get too ahead of myself because, in basketball, anything can happen. But I’m impressed with what the Celtics have been able to accomplish so far in the playoffs. I didn’t expect them to sweep the Sixers or be up 2-0 against the Raptors in the second round, but here we are.
I couldn’t be more excited for game three. Let’s keep it going, Boston. LFG Celtics.
Photo: Kim Klement