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The Milton Measure

Despite Injuries and Adversity, the Celtics Defy the Odds

by on Friday, April 14th, 2017

Coming off a strong regular season, the Celtics are going into the playoffs ranked second in the eastern conference. The last time they were seeded this high was the 2008-09 season, in which they met their unfortunate defeat in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. This year, the fans hope for a stronger run than the last two seasons; both times the Celtics lost in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs.

In the last four seasons, the Celtics’ head coach Brad Stevens has turned the team around. Despite their recent playoff disappointments, experts speculate the team will enjoy a strong playoff run. Additionally, they will have guaranteed home court advantage in the first and second rounds. Their odds of beating their first round opponents, the Indiana Pacers, are strong. In the regular season, the Celtics went 3-0 against the Pacers, defeating the Pacers marginally in each matchup: 105-99, 109-102 and 109-100. Given the Pacers’ often erratic nature, the Celtics look good for round one. Round two is likely to be a tougher fight.

Health has also been a major concern for the team both this season and in the past. Last year, their loss to the Hawks occurred without Avery Bradley. Bradley, who was out due to a hamstring injury during game 1, averages 16.4 points per game and remains a major asset to the team. Last year, Jae Crowder was also hurt with an ankle injury. This season, both players seem to have continuing problems remaining healthy. Bradley has missed 27 games and Crowder’s elbow is acting up. If the Celtics come into the playoffs with a healthy roster, they are likely to go far, but history may repeat itself if injuries prevail.

Since last year the team has seen changes in mindset and talent. Jared Sullinger said, “As a team, we were shocked to be in the Playoffs [last year], I think this year we have a mindset of saying, ‘We deserve to be in the Playoffs.’” This switch is likely to carry over into the court, leading to more confident play. Jae Crowder conveys the same sentiment recalling, “This time last year we were just excited to be here, I think this time, now, it’s a different mentality. We feel like we belong. We’re here to do more than just play in a series right now.”

A big disappointment at the outset of the season has been the Celtics’ defense. With a top three defense in the 2015-16 season, a bottom ten defense this year was surprising. Despite this vulnerability, the Celtics’ offense has improved in all areas. With a more effective inside game, strong ball movement and all around improvement from the team’s best shooters, the offense has made up for some of the defensive gaps. Additionally, as the season progressed, their defense has gotten stronger. Al Horford and Amir Johnson have been essential for the team’s interior defense while Marcus Smart and Jaylen Brown have been of great help outside. Because of these changes, the Celtics are in the top 10 for defensive efficiency. The improved defense allows the Celtics to be a much more balanced and fluid team.

Besides the playoffs, the Celtics have the top spot in the NBA draft lottery. After the Phoenix Suns’ beat the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Brooklyn Nets officially have the worst record in the league. The Celtics will get to swap picks with the Nets and can look forward to a good draft this June. After their recent acclaim as the the NBA’s first Eastern Conference team to reach 50 wins this season, the Celtics are likely to have a strong playoff run.

 

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Posted by on Apr 14 2017. Filed under Sports. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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