We’re seeing the necessary contributions needed for the Celtics to stand any competitive chance in the playoffs enter visibility. Greg Monroe’s substantial ball time, especially navigating the high-post and facing up defenders on his way to an 8-of-10 shooting night, flashed potential as an offensive archetype for Brad Stevens in the playoffs.
Monroe’s emergence as a possible postseason x-factor, through his passing, second-chance opportunities, feel for the game on the ball, ability to put it on the floor and make pristine passes while moving toward the basket. Put in effective lineups, his slow defensive feet, finishing inconsistency and lack of shooting could be hidden. Perhaps that’ll be alongside Al Horford.
The Celtics, 8-4 since the devastating Mar. 11 game, continue to show there’s incredibly talented skill sets available.
The contributions of Jabari Bird and Jonathan Gibson made a snoozer that Marcus Morris escaped early, via ejection, extremely watchable through the fourth quarter. However, neither will be playoff-eligible.
For Jayson Tatum and Al Horford, necessary rest arrived and Stevens’ system still produced 111 points. I speak of the system here, because while extra ball time for Terry Rozier and Tatum may generate more shots for both, the rock will move to open spots thanks to the number of playmakers remaining and this team’s success will be dictated by their ability to finish those looks.
Throughout the Stevens era that’s been a concern and it continues today; can the team finish the great looks they naturally produce? Tonight they flushed 55.6 percent and flourished.
Sure. The season has been wrecked by injuries. But I can’t remember a more fun and enjoyable group of Celtics. They’ve more than adopted the “Next Man Up” approach. And night’s like tonight show it. Monroe triple-double. Bird and Gibson breakout games. Jaylen Brown with a career-high 32 points. Contributions up and down the roster.
If the Celtics are going to hang around in the playoffs, they’ll need all that and more. But they’re playing with house money now. All the pressure is off and the expectations should be nothing more than for them to play hard with supreme effort. But chances are we’ll get more than that, because...well...we have all year long!