Celtics

Countdown to Celtics Camp: Record predictions for the 2019-20 campaign

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NBC Sports Boston Illustration

Countdown to Celtics Camp: Record predictions for the 2019-20 campaign

Entering training camp a year ago, expectations were sky-high for the Celtics. Most pundits considered them the team to beat in the East. Vegas fancied Boston as a 59-win team, the second-highest win total behind only Golden State. And a Finals matchup between those two teams was far from a pipe dream.

Fast forward a year and expectations have been tempered. The Celtics lost a pair of All-Stars this summer in Kyrie Irving and Al Horford and, despite signing another in Kemba Walker, the team finds itself widely considered a Tier 2 team in the East behind projection darlings Milwaukee and Philadelphia.

So what happens this year? Do the Celtics go back to being the sort of overachievers that have defined Brad Stevens’ coaching career? Will a younger roster struggle to simply meet even the lowered expectations of this season?

To wrap up Week 1 of our Countdown to Camp series, we asked our NBC Sports Boston panel to look into their crystal balls and predict not only Boston’s final win-loss record but how far they’d advance in the playoffs.

The  Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook projects Boston at 49.5 wins this season. The Bucks (58) and Sixers (55) top the Westgate projections and the next five teams all reside in the west. 

The Celtics went 49-33 last season, settling for the fourth seed in the East. They swept the Victor Oladipo-less Pacers in Round 1 but bowed to the top-seeded Bucks in five games in Round 2.

When you consider that Westgate’s four lowest win totals reside in the East (Knicks, Wizards, Cavaliers, Hornets) and seven East teams sit below 40 wins, it feels like the Celtics should reasonably win 50+ games despite the roster changes.

So we’ll put the Celtics at 52 wins and a spot in the East semifinals. That seeding would likely mean a second-round matchup jousting with either Giannis’ Bucks or Embiid’s Sixers and Boston’s frontcourt development might dictate just how competitive those series could be. Remember, too, Stevens tends to produce his best magic when you least expect it.

The irony, of course, is that the Celtics could win 49 games this season and get bounced in Round 2 again but if they develop chemistry and are more enjoyable to watch then last year’s gang, then Celtics fans will be far more OK with that script playing out a second time — well, so long as players make the sort of strides that suggest more is possible in the coming years.

Abby Chin: 50-32 Eastern Conference Finals

I think purely based on better chemistry and grit, this team will improve on last year’s win total. And, I’ll bank on some luck in the playoff bracket. Maybe with injuries, or regular season Al Horford, Philly and Milwaukee fall to the 2 and 3 seed so the Celtics could avoid them in the first couple rounds.

 

A. Sherrod Blakely: 50-32, East Finals

I'm gonna keep the cookies on the bottom shelf with this one. They are a better team (team not individuals) than they're going to get credit for, and they have a roster that's full of talent with a huge chip on their shoulders from the coach on down. This group will play harder, smarter and win a lot of games they probably shouldn't and by doing so, keep Celtics fans extremely happy all season.

Max Lederman: 51-31, lose in 2nd round

Before last season the Celtics have always overachieved under Brad Stevens. I expect a return to that with lowered expectations this season. The Celtics also had their worst record vs winning teams last year since Brad's 2nd season. They should put up a better fight this season.

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Celtics' bench power surge just in time with trip out West on the horizon

Celtics' bench power surge just in time with trip out West on the horizon

BOSTON — There has been little to be overly critical about when it comes to the Boston Celtics this season. 

Wednesday’s high-scoring affair with Washington ended with Boston prevailing 140-133, giving them a ninth straight win to improve upon their league-best record of 9-1. 

But the win over the Wizards was different than most this season because of the significant contributions made by the bench, a group that hasn’t been that impactful this season. 

According to Hoopsstats.com, the Celtics bench averages just 27.7 points per game, which ranks 29th (out of 30 teams) in the NBA. 

But against Washington, the second unit outscored their Washington counterparts 40-29, with all six of the Celtics off the bench scoring at least two points.

That was a bit surprising, not only because of Boston’s lack of scoring punch off the bench, but also because bench scoring has been one of the few strengths of the Wizards this season. Washington’s bench averages 43.4 points per game, which ranks sixth in the NBA.  

For Boston to have such a collectively strong game could not have come at a better time with the Celtics heading out for their longest road trip of the season beginning Friday at Golden State. 

Among the backups to step up against Washington was Brad Wanamaker, who had 10 points and five assists in the Celtics' victory. 

He is well aware that the team’s second unit is viewed by some as the team’s weak link. But such talk doesn’t faze him. 

“Ignore the outside noise,” Wanamaker told NBC Sports Boston. “We know what we’re capable of doing in this locker room.”

Part of the challenge for Boston’s bench has been injuries that have forced the Celtics to elevate players on the second unit to starter status. 

Marcus Smart has been called up from the bench and inserted into the starting lineup to replace Gordon Hayward, who will be out for another five or so weeks following surgery to repair a bone fracture in his left hand. 

And Daniel Theis — who has been the team’s primary starter at center — did not play against Washington due to a dislocated finger injury. His primary backup this season, Robert Williams III, was a late scratch Wednesday with a sore ankle. 

That meant Enes Kanter (13 points, nine rebounds) was back in the starting lineup while rookie center Vincent Poirier was eleveated from the end of the bench to be a prominent part of the rotation. 

“It is great to help the team,” Poirier told NBC Sports Boston. “I knew I would play because we had two guys out (Theis and Williams III). I was ready. Ready to help the team and do my best.”

Poirier tallied three points, four rebounds and three assists in addition to setting screens that frequently freed up teammates for great looks at the basket. 

Boston also got a career game from Carsen “Boogie” Edwards, who led all of Boston’s backups with a career-high 18 points. 

“It’s important for nights like this,” Edwards said. “It’s good for games like this when we do get minutes, to try and make the best of them and help the team.”

And that aid will be needed in the coming days as Boston (9-1) puts their league-best record to the test beginning on Friday at Golden State, followed by road games at Sacramento (Nov. 17), Phoenix (Nov. 18), the Los Angeles Clippers (Nov. 20) and finally Denver (Nov. 22).

“We gotta have everybody; it’s gonna be team wins so we’re going to need everybody,” said Jaylen Brown. “So for everybody to stay ready, that’ll be great for us.”

Kemba Walker had similar thoughts on the bench’s impact going forward. 

“It’s about staying ready,” Walker said. “We need our bench, we need those guys to step up and just come in and just do what they can to help us. Of course a lot of attention will be on myself and the rest of the starters, but those guys coming off the bench and come in, they’re gonna be huge for us.”

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Don’t miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Warriors, which tips off Friday at 9:30 p.m. ET with Celtics Pregame Live, and then Mike & Scal have the call of the game at 10:30 p.m. You can also stream the game through the MyTeams App.

Celtics Talk Podcast: Are the Celtics better than we thought? Or will the West be a reality check?

Celtics Talk Podcast: Are the Celtics better than we thought? Or will the West be a reality check?

With the Celtics riding a league-best nine-game win streak, Kyle Draper, Chris Forsberg and A. Sherrod Blakely discuss the key ingredients to Boston's surprising start, the biggest differences between this season and last year, and what lies ahead on the C's road trip against the Western Conference.

1:00 — How surprising is it that the Celtics have the best record in the NBA?

3:15 — How much will this West Coast trip tell us about the Celtics potential?

4:50 — Forsberg explains how Kemba Walker’s ‘got a little I.T. in him in the fourth’

8:00 — What has been the most surprising thing about the Celtics hot start?

10:00 — What is the biggest difference between this season and last season?

13:30 — Draper explains why blaming Kyrie for all the struggles last year isn’t fair

16:30 — Why is the play of Marcus Smart flying under the radar?

19:00 — What record would make this a ‘good’ West Coast trip for the Celtics?

20:30 — Breaking down A. Sherrod Blakely’s NBA Power Rankings

23:00 — Impressions of Isaiah Thomas’ return to Boston, will he ever be close to the same player again?

25:30 — Do the Celtics still NEED a big man?

29:00 — Our crew gives out their ‘My guy!’ of the week awards.

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