It has been a rough year for the Boston Celtics. They’ve had the largest amount of player days missed due to COVID protocols in the entire NBA. Kemba Walker missed the first eleven games of the season and has been load-managed all year. Marcus Smart missed over a month with a calf tear. Jayson Tatum and Robert Williams both contracted COVID, and Evan Fournier may have as well. Just about every single player on the team has appeared on the injury report at some point. These health issues have unquestionably been the main factor for the Celtics’ sluggish start to the season. Yet since the turn of the calendar to April, the Boston Celtics have found a winning formula.
The Boston Celtics Are Figuring Things Out
Winning with Adaptation
When Walker first came back from injury this season, there was trouble integrating him into the lineup. Walker is a scoring point guard on a team that has two wings averaging 20+ points per game. Not to mention Marcus Smart can put up 20 points from time to time as well. The team needed a facilitator or two, and it didn’t seem like they had one in-house. Trade Walker! Trade Smart! These were the cries of Boston fans. Instead, those two have adapted and taken the back seat. They facilitate, while Jaylen Brown and Tatum handle the scoring.
Of course, the Celtics still rely on Walker and Smart to contribute with scoring, but let’s look at Boston since the month of April started. They’ve played nine games and are 8-1, currently on a six-game win streak. In those nine games, Tatum or Brown have been the team’s leading scorer in all nine. In six of those nine games, Tatum and Brown were the top two scorers on the team. The three they weren’t? Brown missed being second by one point, Tatum missed being second by one point, and Brown did not play due to injury.
Looking at the same nine-game stretch, either Smart or Walker has led the team in assists in all nine. In five of those nine games, including four of the last five, they have both been the top two assist-getters for the team. It sounds like a simple solution: feed your best scorers. But it has taken the Celtics about 50 games or so to put it all together.
Their Next Winning Formula: Health
If you take Kemba Walker and Marcus Smart for their word, they’re the healthiest they’ve been all season. Their increased availability has helped turn around a difficult season, but the team has still yet to reach their true, injury-free form.
Coming off possibly their best win of the season against a hot Golden State Warriors team, the Celtics were without Brown, Williams, and Fournier. Fournier has missed seven games in a row due to Covid protocols; coming on the heels of Tristan Thompson missing a similarly long time due to protocols. Romeo Langford was ready to return from wrist surgery after the All-Star break, only to find himself landing in protocols before his eventual return eight games ago.
Point is, the Boston Celtics are now finding ways to win when not at full strength. This is something they couldn’t do early on and is something a team like the Brooklyn Nets have perfected this year. If Boston can get a fully loaded squad for a decent stretch and into the playoffs, they may still be a legitimate threat in the Eastern Conference. They’ve developed the winning formula, it’s just a matter of keeping the elements in order.
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