Brad Stevens is a wonderful coach and he gets his players prepared to win basketball games as well as anyone on Earth (regardless of its shape). Which is why it was always so odd that the Celtics have struggled early in each season under Brad... at least until now.
Here’s a fun chart of the first 26 games for each season in the Stevens era.
The early years started out with low expectations but he still managed to finish strong. The last few years were very successful, but still include starts hovering around the .500 mark.
The popular theory is that Stevens likes to tinker early in the season. He switches the starting lineup frequently (sometimes due to injuries but not always). He mixes and matches rotation lineups. He even gives guys at the end of the bench a chance to earn their way into the lineup with real time action.
By the time Christmas rolls around, he usually has a good enough sample size of data to have a feel for what works and what doesn’t. So he maximizes the good and minimizes the bad and the record picks up accordingly.
So what happened this time that made everything click so well right away? Was he just lucky in the lineups he picked? Unlikely, considering that various injuries have seemed to change the rotations daily. Was the roster just so good and developing so fast that he didn’t need to adjust too much to make it work? Perhaps, but it might be a bit early to make that assessment.
Personally, I think it is a little bit of luck and a little bit of both Stevens and his squad executing better than what anyone could have hoped for. As Brad or any coach will be happy to point out, there have been several games that the Celtics were down in and for long stretches didn’t look like they deserved to win. Some late game heroics were necessary and that isn’t really a sustainable model of success.
On the other hand, they earned that record fair and square and deserve the praise associated with it. “You are what your record says you are” as Bill Parcells would say.
So where do we go from here? Can Brad Stevens get this team to finish strong again? If so, how many wins can they get? It seems unlikely that the team will go all season winning 80% of their games but I don’t think this team will fall back too far either.
So how many wins do you think the Celtics end up with?