The Boston Celtics reached the halfway mark of the 2018-19 NBA season Thursday night in their loss to the Miami Heat.
After a disappointing start to the season that saw them sit at 10-10, the Celtics are now 25-16 thanks to a 15-6 record over the last 21 games. A change in the starting lineup has been the catalyst to the recent surge: Marcus Morris and Marcus Smart entered the starting five, replacing Jaylen Brown and Gordon Hayward.
Bringing two dynamic players in Brown and Hayward off the bench, in addition to C's backup point guard Terry Rozier, has allowed Boston to use its great depth more effectively than it had early in the season.
The C's sit fifth in the Eastern Conference standings, but they are just five games out of first place.
Here are some quick stats and schedule facts you should know about the Celtics' first half of the season.
PLAYER STATS TO KNOW
-- Kyrie Irving leads the Celtics in scoring with 22.6 points per game and in assists at 6.4 per game. His points, assists, rebounds and steals per game, as well as his field goal percentage and 3-point percentage, all are above his career marks.
-- Brown is starting to hit his stride. He has scored 20 or more points six times in his last 17 games. He had no such games in his first 19 contests of the season.
-- Jayson Tatum leads the Celtics with 6.3 rebounds per game and is second on the team in scoring at 16.2 points per game.
-- Morris has scored 20 or more points nine times, matching his total from the entire 2017-18 campaign. He's averaging a career-high 15.5 points per game, while shooting career-bests in field goal percentage (50.1), 3-point percentage (45.0) and free throw percentage (88.2). Morris has a very realistic chance of becoming the eighth player in league history to join the 50-40-90 club for elite shooting.
TEAM STATS TO KNOW
-- The Celtics rank No. 9 in the NBA with a 110.8 offensive rating, and they are fourth with a 104.5 defensive rating. Their 6.3 net rating is the second-best in the NBA, trailing only the Milwaukee Bucks.
-- Boston's offense during its 15-6 stretch over the last 21 games has been the best in the league with a 116.8 offensive rating. The C's also rank first in assist-to-turnover ratio, effective field goal percentage and net rating during this 21-game span. Boston was 27th in offensive rating during the first 20 games of the season.
-- The Celtics' 106.1 defensive rating over the last 21 games ranks seventh, and their 50.0 rebound percentage in that span ranks 18th. Aron Baynes' absence due to injury and Al Horford's minutes restriction likely are contributing to Boston's recent rebounding struggles.
-- The 3-point shot is a huge focus of today's game, and the Celtics are the sixth-best long-distance shooting team at 36.7 percent. They are the third-best team at defending 3-points shots with an opponents' percentage of 33.4.
-- The C's have the sixth-best free throw percentage at 80.3, but they get to the foul line far fewer than most teams. They rank 28th in free throws attempted with 19.7 per game.
-- Boston scored 135 points in a win over the Indiana Pacers on Wednesday. It was the team's highest-scoring total in regulation since 2004. The C's had scored 110-plus points in nine consecutive games prior to Thursday's loss to the Heat.
-- The Celtics are 5-5 against the top four teams in the East. Here's a breakdown.
Toronto Raptors: 1-1
Milwaukee Bucks: 1-1
Indiana Pacers: 1-1
Philadelphia 76ers: 2-0
-- The Celtics are 15-5 at TD Garden but only 10-11 on the road. Boston had the best road record in the league at 28-13 last season, so there's a lot of improvement to be made in that area. In fact, the C's only have four more road games against Western Conference teams, and all of them come on a March trip to play the Sacramento Kings, Golden State Warriors, Los Angeles Lakers, and Los Angeles Clippers.
So, the Celtics' remaining road games mostly are against the inferior Eastern Conference. They have yet to play in Orlando, Cleveland, Milwaukee, Philadelphia (more on that below) or Brooklyn.
-- The Celtics still have some tough road games within the conference, though. They play in Milwaukee on Feb. 21 and the last two games of their season series with the Philadelphia 76ers are in Philly on Feb. 12 and March 20. The C's play in Toronto on Feb. 26.
-- The four-game road trip above is the longest (and likely the toughest) one remaining for Boston. All four of those teams have a shot to make the playoffs, although the Kings have fallen just outside a postseason spot over the last two weeks.
--The Celtics have four more back-to-backs.
-- The Celtics still have yet to play LeBron James and the rival Lakers. They host the Lakers on Feb. 7 and play them in Los Angeles on March 9.
-- Boston's games against the two-time defending champion Warriors are Jan. 26 at TD Garden and March 5 in Golden State.
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