The Boston Celtics have had a very good run entering the All Star Break of the NBA season, winning 11 of their last 13 games. What is even more impressive is that they are doing this without their star shooting guard Avery Bradley. Bradley was on the First Team All-Defensive last year and gained a very efficient offensive game over the off-season, but has missed more than 20 games due to an Achilles injury.
But the main story of the first half of the season has to be the play of All Star Isaiah Thomas. Standing at only 5’8,” Thomas has carried the Boston Celtics on the offensive side all season long. He is second in the NBA in scoring at 29.9 PPG, behind only Oklahoma City Thunder’s Russell Westbrook, and is currently listed 5th in MVP rankings. Thomas’ success is something no one could have seen coming into the season.
But you cannot talk about the Celtics without talking about their defense. Marcus Smart, a candidate for Defensive Player of the Year, is in the league’s top ten for steals per game at 1.72, collecting eight of those Wednesday night against the 76ers. At 6’4″, he is a dynamic defender, able to guard both on the perimeter and in the post. Jae Crowder is also a major key in the defense as he averages about one steal per game. But the paint is shut down by Al Horford, who averages 1.53 blocks per game. It seems that the only liability at defense on this team is Thomas, and with the way he’s scoring, I’m sure Head Coach Brad Stevens is fine with keeping him on the court.
A lot of the credit for this Celtics team has to go to Stevens. At only 40 years old, he has taken the team from a rebuilding stage into a contendor for the conference championship. With his efforts, Stevens and his staff were named the Eastern Conference coaching staff for the All Star Game.
The Celtics are only three games behind the defending champions Cleveland Cavaliers, maintaining a decent lead over the third place Washington Wizards. With the trade deadline coming up on February 23rd, many wonder if Celtics GM Danny Ainge will make a blockbuster deal to get that one last superstar into Boston. Some names that have been discussed include Jimmy Butler, Carmelo Anthony, Demarcus Cousins, and Andre Drummond.