Five reasons to be optimistic about Celtics
Hope on horizon amid the Celtics losing streak
This has been a season full of cheery storylines for the Celtics. But the Green Team now finds itself at arguably its lowest point with the playoffs less than a month away.
Boston (39-30) has lost four in a row, which ties its longest losing streak of the season.
Injuries are starting to become a factor with Jae Crowder (high ankle sprain) and Jonas Jerebko (ankle) both out of action.
And the recent skid has Boston near the back of the pack in a four-team tussle with Atlanta, Miami and Charlotte for the No. 3 spot.
But all is not lost, Celtics fans.
While the Celtics certainly aren’t where they would prefer to be at this point in the season, there’s still plenty of reasons to be optimistic going forward:
5. More winnable games on the horizon
Even with a roster at full strength, the Celtics would have been hard-pressed to escape this recent three-game gauntlet without suffering a few losses if not dropping all three. And while there’s still plenty of playoff-bound teams on the schedule, Boston is embarking on what should be their most winnable stretch of games with three of their next four foes (at Philadelphia; Orlando and at Phoenix) being non-playoff teams.
4. Hitting the home stretch
This Celtics team set a franchise record for most consecutive wins (14) at the TD Garden, a key to any team’s hopes of making a deep playoff run. Having that confidence should come in handy in the final month of the season which is when the Celtics are at the Garden for four of their final five games. That includes a pair of potential playoff preview-type games against Charlotte on April 11 and Miami on April 13.
3. Brad Stevens
He’s often praised for his Xs and Os, but Stevens’ impact on this team is much deeper than that. He has an unshakeable confidence that has permeated down to every player on this roster, which is why no matter how many points they may be down or how much time remains, they never feel they’re out of a game. Coaches talk all the time about playing with that mentality, but few have the ability to get their players to totally buy into it. With the ups and downs that come in the postseason, having that stealth-like confidence will allow Boston to better handle the hurdles that are sure to come their way in the playoffs.
2. Thomas’ leadership grows
Leadership has been hard to discern with the Celtics because they have so much parity, but that has changed in recent weeks.
Isaiah Thomas is this team’s leader, and it has shined through brightly during this team’s recent skid. He has been the most outspoken player when it comes to explaining what’s not working, referring to his teammates at times playing “soft as tissue.” And while he probably spends more time than he should griping with officials, kudos to him for fighting for what he feels is his team not being treated with the same respect as others. At the end of the day, the NBA is still a player’s league and Thomas has been quick to put the blame for losses on himself and his teammates. Having a player hold everyone – including himself – accountable goes far in not only establishing respect in the locker room, but also among the coaching staff. It fosters a bunker-like mentality among the players which could be the difference between getting bounced in the first round or moving on to the Eastern Conference finals.
1. Crowder’s return
Isaiah Thomas may be Boston’s best leader, but it’s Crowder who is the team’s most indispensable player. While the sample size is small, Boston’s next win without Crowder playing will be their first win without the 6-foot-6 do-it-all-player.
And in the recent three games he missed due to the high ankle sprain he sustained on March 11 against Houston, the players at the position he would have guarded have each gone off for big games against Boston that factored heavily in the Celtics losing all three games.
Fortunately for Boston, Crowder should return in plenty of time to get a few regular season games under his belt to shake off some of the rust, and do so prior to the playoffs beginning.
All season, there has been very little margin for error when it comes to Boston having a season that exceeded the expectations that many set forth for them, which prior to Crowder’s injury, was indeed the case with this group.
When healthy, Boston has the potential to beat just about any team in the Eastern Conference with a healthy Crowder being a big part of that happening.