Move over, 2015-16 Warriors and 1995-96 Bulls. The 4-0 Celtics are coming for ya.
Well, OK, it might be a bit early to make that claim. Chances are the Celtics won’t win more than 65 games; but hey, this sizzling start isn’t too shabby.
They’ve averaged 127 points per game and have absolutely dominated the last two. Kristaps Porzingis and Jrue Holiday have adjusted seamlessly and Jayson Tatum is playing at a Most Valuable Player-type level.
When your Dad works evenings and you need a late night snack pic.twitter.com/jLZhw4SSpH— Boston Celtics (@celtics) November 3, 2023
Everything’s going swimmingly in Boston at the moment. But it’s a long season, and every game presents its own challenges (OK, maybe not the Wizards). The next test comes Saturday night, when the Celtics face the Nets at 8 p.m. in Brooklyn.
Here are three things to look for as they try to keep momentum on their side.
Can they dominate the first quarter again?
The Celtics have outscored their opponents, 141-92, in first quarters so far this season. They scored 42 against the Wizards and somehow one-upped it with 44 against the Pacers. That’s pretty, pretty, pretty good.
The early lead against the Knicks paid dividends in the end. The Wizards and Pacers games were essentially over before they began.
Will this one be decided in the first few minutes as well? My hunch is that the Celtics build a lead, but not a commanding one, and the Nets hang around before the Celtics pull away late.
Kristaps Porzingis: "What can I say? It's just hard to guard us honestly and we just got started, so it's looking good" pic.twitter.com/44rRJE4lET— Celtics on NBC Sports Boston (@NBCSCeltics) November 2, 2023
Can Jayson Tatum continue his torrid stretch?
Tatum had a stellar season last year. He finished better at the rim, rebounded at an elite level and had a bunch of “he played well even though he didn’t shoot well games.”
For me, the next step is to minimize those poor-shooting games and become even more consistent as a scorer. He’s off to a great start so far, shooting a career-high 56.3 percent from the field and 40.6 percent from 3-point range.
It's obviously super early so maybe this changes, but Jayson Tatum is scoring on a different level this season. Embracing contact, shooting well from outside, scoring at all three levels. This is the best stretch I've seen from him as a scorer.— John Karalis (@John_Karalis) November 2, 2023
Again, it’s a small sample size and quite early, but Tatum is absolutely playing at an MVP level so far. He’s averaging 29.8 points, 9.3 rebounds and 4 assists and has, frankly, made it look laugh-out-loud easy.
He’s had the hot hand to this point, but if things don’t go his way, can he find a way to shoot, say, 9 for 18, instead of something like 7 for 23? Sometimes starting strong, and converting on a few easy attempts, can make the difference between a win and or loss.
Can the reserves keep it rolling?
You could tell the reserves took it personally after they delivered a dud against Washington and (fairly) received criticism for it.
It must be annoying to constantly hear how amazing the top six is (which it is) and how the bench may not be deep enough. If I were in the NBA (I’m not), I’d use that as fuel.
Joe Mazzulla talks improvement from Celtics bench (46 pts) vs. Pacers— Celtics on NBC Sports Boston (@NBCSCeltics) November 2, 2023
Presented by your New England Ford Dealers pic.twitter.com/aGoMBAo3yA
They came back with a vengeance against Indiana and dominated that fourth quarter – somehow finishing with more points than their teammates did in the first. Payton Pritchard and Sam Hauser looked like the players Joe Mazzulla knows they can consistently be.
Forty-six points is nice, but this unit doesn’t have to do anything crazy. The backups have to move the ball, trust one another and hit open shots. If the starters keep dominating at this level, the reserves should get plenty of chances to prove themselves.