With a blowout win over the Brooklyn Nets, the Boston Celtics are now 2-2 in the Orlando Bubble. Though they’ve shown some serious weaknesses and inconsistencies so far, it’s not time to write them off just yet.
The Boston Celtics are Fine, For Now
First Two Losses
Against the Milwaukee Bucks, the Celtics get a bit of a pass. Jayson Tatum put up arguably the worst performance of his young career, shooting 1-17 from the field (or 2-18 if you count the basket awarded to him when the Bucks scored on their own goal), and Kemba Walker was on a strict minutes limit. Add in the fact that Giannis Antetokounmpo might have gotten away with a handful of late fouls that would have forced him to exit the game, and the Celtics get a little extra slack. In the end, they were within two possessions of the NBA’s top team in their first game back.
Then, the Miami Heat exposed Boston. Even without their best player in Jimmy Butler, the Heat led the Celtics for the entirety of the contest. Boston had several chances to take over the game late but kept coming up short due to turnovers and missed layups. They couldn’t do anything but choke the game away late.
Weakness Against Size
In both losses, it was obvious that the Celtics have a serious issue with size. After losing Al Horford, Aron Baynes, and Marcus Morris in the offseason, the Celtics are left with Daniel Theis (who has played well lately), Enes Kanter, and, well, that’s about it. Against the Bucks, the duo combined for 15 points and 15 boards, though Theis carried most of that load with 12 points and 13 rebounds. Against the Heat, they combined for just 10 points but snagged 21 total boards.
Though those stats aren’t horrible, the real damage comes on the defensive end of the floor. Against Milwaukee, Boston gave up 48 points in the paint while notching just 38 of their own. Of course, no one in the league can truly “stop” Antentokounmpo from scoring, but the Celtics were unable to slow him down at all while also giving up 14 points to Brook Lopez. Then, in their loss to Miami, Kelly Olynyk and Bam Adebayo tore the Celtics apart inside for 36 combined points and 18 rebounds.
If the Celtics were to match up with a team like the Philadelphia 76ers in the first round of the NBA Playoffs, they could be in a ton of trouble right off the bat.
Win Over Portland Trail Blazers
Boston pulled out a nail-biting win over the Portland Trail Blazers in their second Bubble effort, 128-124. Tatum got back to his normal self, dropping 34 points and a career-high eight assists in the victory. Jaylen Brown continued his Orlando hot streak, notching 30 points and six rebounds. Walker and Gordon Hayward combined for another 36 points as the “big four” looked to be hitting their stride.
However, even though the Celtics were able to snag the victory, it was a bit too close for comfort. Though the Blazers are a team on the rise and are fighting for a playoff berth, they are still a sub-.500 team and were within a single point with just three seconds left.
A win is a win, but this one doesn’t feel as great after the loss to Miami.
Boston Celtics vs Brooklyn Nets Recap
A lopsided win over the Brooklyn Nets was surely a welcomed sight for Boston fans, but it doesn’t mean the Celtics are ready to take on the Bucks or Sixers in a seven-game series just yet.
The game was close early, but the extremely short-handed Nets just couldn’t handle the depth of the Celtics. Even though Boston was without Walker for the entire contest and Tatum missed most of the first half with foul trouble, the Nets just simply lack the firepower to truly compete with the top teams in the league.
Boston won the contest 149-115 behind double-digit scoring efforts from seven different players. It was their season-high in points. Overall, the contest highlighted the potential of the Celtics’ bench, with players like Robert Williams, Brad Wanamaker, and Romeo Langford showcasing their abilities.
With the win, the Celtics sit a full two games ahead of the Miami Heat for the third seed in the Eastern Conference. However, this is a team that still needs a lot of work to compete in the Eastern Conference Playoffs. This win was definitely a step in the right direction, but it’s far too early to declare the Celtics are ready to make a run at the NBA Finals.
What to Expect Moving Forward
The Boston Celtics are still legitimate title contenders. They certainly aren’t favorites, but they are one of a handful of teams that could conceivably win the NBA title, especially under the given circumstances. However, if the Orlando Bubble has shown anything so far, it’s that this is a team that still needs a lot of work to get to that level.
If the Celtics are fully healthy and clicking on all cylinders, they can compete with anyone in the league. They have some obviously exploitable weaknesses. However, at their best, they can be an elite team. Whether they maximize that potential or not, though, is ultimately up to them.
They take the court again for their fifth seeding game at 9 P.M. ET on August 7th on TNT when they will face the red-hot Toronto Raptors.
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