When the regular season ends for Boston and they officially begin gearing up for the playoffs, there won’t be any talk of Monday’s win over Chicago.
This was a team Boston was supposed to beat with no problem.
And since coming back from the All-Star break, the Celtics have done just that -- beat the teams they’re supposed to, with relative ease.
While that may not seem like that big a deal, it is for a team that spent the better part of this season mounting comeback win after comeback win over all teams, good and bad ones.
For them to be at a point where they’re handling bad teams with ease, is indeed a sign of their growth from where they were when the season began.
“We played well,” Boston’s Jaylen Brown said after the win. “We came with the right mindset. Last time we played them on this floor, they beat us by 20-plus points. We knew that coming in, so we wanted to get them back.”
Here are five other takeaways from Boston’s 105-89 win over Chicago.
AL HORFORD REDEMPTION
In Boston’s loss at Houston, it was definitely a below-average Al kind of game. But to his credit, he made it clear that his play against the Rockets was bad and that he had to be better for the team going forward. He wasted no time going to work against the Bulls, scoring nine of his 13 points in the first quarter which helped set the tone for Boston’s blowout win.
BENCH STRENGTH CONTINUES
The strength of the Celtics is their bench. Words you didn’t expect to see, certainly not based on how this group played at the start of the season. But since coming back from the break, the Celtics’ second unit has been as strong a bench as there is in the NBA. They scored a season-high 67 points at Houston on Saturday, and followed that up with 44 points against Chicago on Monday. Since the all-star break, Boston’s bench has averaged a league-best 54.2 points per game according to hoopsstats.com.
WINNING WITHOUT KYRIE
There is no mistaking at the Boston Celtics are a better team when Kyrie Irving isn’t on the floor with them. But to their credit, they have managed to make up for his absence consistently this season, with Monday’s win at Chicago being the latest example. Without Irving on the floor this season, Boston has an impressive 5-2 record which includes wins in the last four games without him by an average of 14 points per game.
Often overlooked in Boston’s success this season has been Jaylen Brown’s role as the team’s No. 2 scorer. When the opportunity to step up in a more prominent role – like when there’s no Kyrie Irving around, Brown has often made the most of it. In seven games this season without Irving, Brown has averaged 16.1 points while shooting 47.4 percent from the field and 44.4 percent from 3-point range – all better than his regular season average in each of those offensive categories.
IN CASE OF EMERGENCY: SHANE LARKIN
Celtics head coach Brad Stevens has leaned on Shane Larkin when the team has been in a bit of a jam, whether it be injury-related or the team needing a spark of some kind. But Monday was the first time Stevens called upon him to fill the role of being a starter. Although he was filling in for Kyrie Irving (left knee soreness), Larkin wasn’t charged with producing Irving-like numbers. What he did was play his game, contribute at both ends of the floor and take advantage of whatever in-game opportunities came his way. He made all three of his 3-point attempts, finishing the game with nine points along with four rebounds, four assists and two steals.