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The Mass Media

A look at the Celtics recent hot streak

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Erik Drost
Jayson Tatum of the Boston Celtics in 2018. Photo courtesy of Erik Drost via Flickr.

It seems that the Boston Celtics’ season has done a complete 180 over the course of the past three weeks. Since Jan. 29, the Celtics have won nine out of 10 games. What looked like a team dead in the water, now looks like a squad poised to make a deep playoff run. Now, with the all-star break upon us, we can take a look at a realistic outlook for the remainder of the Celtics season.
The Celtics typical starting lineup of Marcus Smart, Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, Al Horford and Robert Williams has always had the ability to compete with some of the best teams in the league, but the question of effort and consistency has yet to be solved. However, over the past three weeks we have seen this team play relentlessly on defense and cohesively on offense for the first time all season, and they are putting the league on notice.
The Celtics also made one relatively significant move in last week’s trade deadline when they added shooting guard Derrick White from the San Antonio Spurs in exchange for Josh Richardson and a first-round pick. At the time of this trade, it seemed like a lateral move as the Celtics got White, who is a worse three-point shooter but a better facilitator of the ball and can play point guard at times. The biggest reason this trade was arguably a win for the Celtics is because both Tatum and Brown competed with White on Team USA in 2019, who was also coached by Ime Udoka. So, it seems like General Manager Brad Stevens may be taking into account who Brown and Tatum want to play with, and it looks like White might have been one of those guys.
The Celtics haven’t yet had a huge sample of what White can do, as he only played four games with the team to this point. In his first three games, White served as a valuable piece off the bench who can supply good scoring with a strong ability to facilitate and shoot from the corners. However, in his most recent game against the lowly Detroit Pistons, White got an opportunity to start, but was only able to muster nine points, shooting 3–10 from the field in a one-point loss. Not the greatest effort you want to see going into the all-star break.
Despite their most recent loss, the Celtics now sit in sixth place and just four and a half games out of first place in the Eastern Conference. A big turnaround from barely keeping their head above water in the play-in tournament.
One of the most glaring stats the Celtics hold all season is that they are just 4–13 in games decided by five or less points. If the Celtics were just able to go 8–9 in games decided by five or less points, then they would be just half a game out of first place. This statistic further shows that Boston has a serious issue with being able to hold leads and close out games. With just four minutes remaining against the Pistons, the Celtics were up eight points and managed to blow it. I don’t mean to discredit the Celtics’ great play of late, but if the Celtics want to make a deep run, they are going to need to learn to close out these tightly contested games.