At the start of the season, it seemed like the Boston Celtics were set to embark on a season that would result in another deep playoff run. Yet as we near the end of the NBA season, the Celtics have found themselves in a relatively contentious spot for the time being, and the regular season is quickly coming to a close. This Celtics team has been very underwhelming for large parts of their season, and it could result in a quick playoff run as a result.
After making it all the way to the Eastern Conference Finals last season, expectations were high for the Celtics given their success last season. While Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown have been excellent so far this season, the rest of the team hasn’t, and the Celtics have labored through the regular season as a result. They are tied with the Miami Heat right now at 32-29, and while they hold the tiebreaker over them for the 6 seed currently, the Celtics are very close to finding themselves in the NBA’s play-in tournament if they continue to struggle throughout their final set of games.
A large reason for their struggles has been the play of their secondary cast of players. Kemba Walker appears to have regressed some from being the primary scorer last season, as he’s only shooting 41 percent from the field, including 35 percent from three. His numbers are the lowest they have been since his first couple of seasons in Charlotte, and while he’s showed signs of life in the last couple of games, his lack of production has killed the Celtics at times throughout the season. Missing key guys like Marcus Smart, Rob Williams, and Evan Fournier for long periods of time has hurt as well, but even when they have been on the court, their production has been inconsistent to say the least.
Speaking of Fournier, he was brought in to provide scoring depth for the Celtics at the trade deadline, but has only played six games so far, and has failed to even score a basket in three of those contests. Fournier was basically brought in as a replacement for Gordon Hayward, who signed with the Charlotte Hornets this past offseason. While there is still time for Fournier to improve, this move has really been awful for the Celtics, especially when you consider they had to use up the trade exemption they got from the Hayward deal. Fournier’s struggles have been indicative of the Celtics second unit struggles as a whole, as nobody has stepped up to take the burden off of the starting lineup so far this season, which is another reason for Boston’s ongoing struggles.
With just 11 games left on the season, the Celtics are running out of time to make a move up the standings. We’ve watched the New York Knicks go on a tear and claim the 4 seed for themselves, while the Atlanta Hawks somehow stay afloat despite Trae Young missing time with an injury. There are some very winnable games coming up over the final stretch, as the Oklahoma City Thunder, Orlando Magic, and Cleveland Cavaliers shouldn’t provide too much resistance for the C’s, but it certainly wouldn’t be surprising if the Celtics struggled against them either. A pair of games against the Miami Heat in May could end up determining whether this team ends up in the play-in tournament or gets a guaranteed playoff spot.
The way seeding currently plays out, the Celtics would be set for a series with the Milwaukee Bucks, which isn’t ideal. That’s why the race for the 4 and 5 seeds is so important. A series against the Knicks, Hawks, or really any other team in the East, is way more favorable for Boston than an opening series against the Brooklyn Nets, Philadelphia 76ers, or Bucks, which is currently the direction Boston is trending. Obviously they will have to go through these teams at some point if they want to go on a deep playoff run, but it would make their task easier if they didn’t have to accomplish that right out of the gate. The ideal position for Boston at this point if the 4 or 5 seed, but with time running out, the Celtics may be looking at a short playoff run if they can’t find a way to move up the standings.
Click on the images below to shop for new Celtics gear!