Forgive my tardiness with this morning check-in. Sometimes life gets in the way of writing.
The Celtics have won 10 straight games. That would be an impressive feat at any point in any season. The fact that it comes after losing a newly acquired All Star and with a roster returning just 4 players from last year is downright amazing.
This is pretty uncharted waters considering the circumstances, so it is anyone’s guess how this is going to play out the rest of the season. Water, as they say, finds its level so eventually we’ll find out if the team really is this good or if this is more of a short term collective over-achievement.
Let’s look at the pessimistic view first. The Celtics have beat up on some bad, young teams during this streak. The Knicks, Kings, Sixers, Lakers, and Hawks are all rebuilding or tanking depending on how you package it. The Spurs were without Kawhi Leonard and the Magic probably have been playing over their heads thus far this year. Beating the Thunder was a quality win but they’ve split games with the Bucks.
If you look through our preseason player previews and compare the performances of each (healthy) rotation player, most have outperformed expectations thus far. We’re getting a ton of production from some very young players. In case you haven’t noticed, young players can be inconsistent at best and rookies tend to hit metaphorical walls around the time the calendar flips to a new year.
In short, it wouldn’t surprise too many people if this team immediately went on a 5 game losing streak and joined the rest of the pack in the murky middle of the standings.
On the other hand, (yep, this is where I go glass half full) the Celtics are winning with defense. They are deeper than we expected and the offense hasn’t even gotten going yet. Jalyen Brown and Jayson Tatum have each had several nights where they look their age and the team has sustained success despite it. Kyrie Irving and Al Horford (get well soon) are the best versions of themselves and (with the normal health caveats considered) that seems very sustainable. We’re also just now seeing Marcus Morris start to contribute.
So can they keep this up? Well, they are currently on pace to win 68 games, which isn’t terribly realistic. But can they continue to beat bad Eastern Conference teams? Yep. Can they continue to be as competitive as anyone against quality opponents? Sure.
Will they pass by a struggling Cleveland Cavs team and roll right on through to the Finals? Well, let’s take things one step at a time. It is, as they say, a long season and a lot can change between the Fall and the Spring.