Following a 109-98 victory over the Brooklyn Nets on Thursday night, the Boston Celtics extended their win-streak to five as they head to Charlotte for a two-game series against a bad Hornets team.
Monday’s game was without Jaylen Brown and Al Horford for Boston, as well as Kevin Durant for Brooklyn. The way the Celtics continued to battle during the second night of a back-to-back and third game in four nights, showed just how good this team is.
That game probably didn’t tell us much about how these two teams may matchup in a potential NBA Playoff series, but it’s noteworthy that Boston has now won nine straight games against Brooklyn.
The Celtics match up well with the Nets. As we saw in last year’s postseason, the Celtics defense gave Kevin Durant fits all series while the offense was able to flow well through Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown en route to a four-game sweep.
Make no mistake, the Nets are an offensive powerhouse. Brooklyn has won 18 of their last 21 games, albeit two of their three losses coming to Boston, but the Celtics have continually found ways over the past couple of years to shut them down.
Looking at the other contenders in the East, it’s just the Milwaukee Bucks and Cleveland Cavaliers.
The Celtics have also seemingly found a hole in the Bucks system. Going back to Game 6 and 7 of last season’s series, Boston had shot extremely well from three-point land against Milwaukee. The Bucks lack a perimeter defender that can keep up with either Tatum or Brown, and even in this year’s Christmas Day win over the Bucks, the Celtics shot an exorbitant amount of threes and moved the ball well, leading to 140 points on the offensive end.
On the other side of the ball, the Celtics have found ways to limit Giannis’ scoring ability, usually with a mixture of Al Horford, Jayson Tatum, Grant Williams, Jaylen Brown or Marcus Smart as the primary defender. However, Boston’s strategy to limit Giannis has often times opened up opportunities for other players to have great scoring nights, such as Bobby Portis, Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday. Grayson Allen has also been an effective offensive player against Boston, but if you can throw Giannis off his rhythm, you can take the blows from other players.
The Cavaliers have had the Celtics number this season, defeating Boston both at home and on the road earlier this year. The Cavs addition of Donovan Mitchell has added a new dimension to their team, while Jarrett Allen continues to grow as one of the best rim protectors in the association.
The key to Boston defeating Cleveland in a potential playoff matchup would be to take Mitchell out of the equation and force other guys to beat them, while also using Robert Williams to neutralize the impact of Allen near the rim.
Looking at the Western Conference, the Celtics continue to match up well with most of the contenders.
Boston has beaten the Memphis Grizzlies in all three of their previous matchups since the beginning of the 2021-22 NBA season. Ja Morant has played well against the Celtics, but Memphis’ defense has never had an answer for Boston’s offense, allowing the Celtics to post over 108 points in all three games, including two games over 120.
The Celtics had trouble with the Nuggets out in Denver, allowing two-time MVP Nikola Jokic and the rest of the squad to shoot the lights out. Boston’s lackadaisical effort could be attributed to a west-coast road trip and a difference in the altitude, but either way, not a place Boston wants to go play in a potential NBA finals series.
Finally, the New Orleans Pelicans are a team the Celtics have pretty much never had any problems with. Without Zion or Brandon Ingram earlier this week the Celtics handled the Pelicans pretty easily, with Tatum and Brown combining for 72 points in the victory. Boston hasn’t lost to New Orleans since March of 2021, making them a fairly easy matchup in a potential NBA Finals.
The Celtics are in a full championship or bust season, and it’s easy to see why the team has the NBA’s best-record. Their depth combined with Tatum and Brown make them the clear favorites to win the East and ultimately the NBA Finals.
Written by: Zack Hochberg (@ZackJHochberg)
Edited by: Josh Bhagratie (@jshyb_)