UMass Boston's independent, student-run newspaper

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

11/27/23 pdf
November 27, 2023

Expectations for the Boston Celtics heading into the playoffs


Jaylen Brown of the Boston Celtics performs a slam dunk.

Arguably the biggest story in Boston sports since the new year, has been the unbelievable turnaround of the Boston Celtics. The Celtics spent most of their time sitting in the play-in tournament portion of the standings, and many believed that they wouldn’t even make it out of the play-in. But now, here we are with the Celtics being one of the top teams in the east. So, with their epic turnaround in the rearview mirror, we can officially look ahead to playoff season.

Last season, the Celtics looked like a lost team, and when they lost Jaylen Brown for the remainder of the season with a hand injury, the playoffs were nothing more than a lost cause. The Celtics were handed a gentleman’s sweep as the Brooklyn Nets rolled over Boston in five games.

So, what’s different from last year?

Last season the only difference in the starting lineup was that they got rid of Kemba Walker, brought back Al Horford and dropped Tristan Thompson. With Marcus Smart taking over that starting point guard position, Horford manning the middle with Robert Williams completely changed the game defensively. Then on the offensive end, Smart demands less shots and can facilitate better than Walker did, giving the offense a much better flow than it had a season ago. It seemed the question was never whether the Celtics had enough skill to be a contender, it was more about whether the personnel was a good fit. Now it seems they have a group that fits well, and therefore, can play good team basketball. With that being said, here are some realistic expectations for the Celtics as they enter the playoffs.

Even with Williams being out for the first round, the Celtics have shown that they can beat the teams at the bottom of the east without him—unless the team they have to play is the Nets. However, even if the Celtics have to play the Nets at some point without Williams, Brooklyn hasn’t given anyone a reason to believe that they can make a deep run despite their superstar personnel. 

Now, assuming the Celtics make it past the first round and get Williams back in the lineup, they should be the favorite to make it out of the east. Obviously, Boston would have to out-perform the likes of the top-seeded Miami Heat and the defending champion Milwaukee Bucks, but the Celtics have undoubtedly been the hottest team since January, and if they can keep that momentum in the playoffs, then there isn’t a team in the east that can keep up.

With how good the Celtics have been over the past four months now, Boston has shown that they have the potential, not only to win the conference, but to win the NBA championship this season. The Celtics have proven that when completely healthy, there is not a single starting lineup that can compete with the starting five the Celtics throw out there. The Celtics typical starting five of Smart, Brown, Tatum, Horford and Williams has a plus-minus rating of plus 218 in 34 games together. The next closest team in plus-minus that has played at least 30 games together are the Denver Nuggets, who are a plus 128 in 40 games played. This just goes to show that if the league lets the Celtics get completely healthy in the playoffs, then there is a good chance that banner 18 officially makes it to Boston.