Remember just a couple of months ago when the Celtics’ playoff chances in 2022 were close to nothing? Well… Oh how the tables have turned because the Cs have kicked it into another gear since the beginning of the new year and are finally looking like legitimate Finals contenders.
Celtics playoff chances 2022
During the first half of the season, the Boston Celtics playoff odds weren’t looking so good.
The biggest debate in Boston was whether Brad Stevens should trade one of Jayson Tatum or Jaylen Brown. The Celtics were struggling to stay above .500, and so-called NBA analysts and die-hard Boston fans seemed ready to just move on from the dynamic duo.
Fast forward to the present moment, and the story could not be any more different. The Cs are 39-27 and sitting 5th in a wide-open Eastern Conference. They are the hottest team in the NBA right now, winning 22 of their 30 games since the beginning of the year.
So what changed during this period? And are the shamrocks really legitimate Finals contenders?
New year, new defense?
The Celtics have had the best point differential and defensive rating in the Eastern Conference since January 8th. And as any respectable NBA coach would tell you, defense is what wins you games.
Just ask the February coach of the month Ime Udoka and he’ll tell you that his team’s success starts with their defensive identity. During the past month, the Cs destroyed the 76ers by 48 points, the Heat by 30, and the Nets by 35, 23, and 6.
Simply put, the Celtics don’t have many holes to fill on defense. They’re long, versatile, and their guards can switch multiple positions. It might have taken them half a season to figure out their defensive identity, but it seems like everyone’s bought into Udoka’s system, and that’s what makes them scary.
The alpha dog
If defense isn’t your cup of tea, then maybe Jayson Tatum can offer you some spicy McNuggets on the other end of the floor.
In their March 6th win against the Nets, Jayson Tatum’s stats were historical.
“Take the alpha approach”. That was Udoka’s advice to Tatum before the game. “Be the best guy on the court each night.”
Tatum seems to be taking his coach’s words to heart, and the rest of the roster is embracing Tatum in this role.
The key area the Celtics were struggling in early on in the season was their chemistry. Marcus Smart even called out Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown for not sharing the basketball and playing too much iso-ball.
He was right, and “The Jays” heard him loud and clear.
Since then, The Celtics’ offense has been more fluid, and the ball has been moving more generously. Players look for the open man and play for each other instead of for themselves.
Chemistry is a key element for any team looking to make a title run, and the Celtics seem to have found it just in time.
The Celtics’ playoff chances in 2022 are legitimate for sure. They have a stellar defense, a superstar in Jayson Tatum, and solid team chemistry. The East is also up for grabs, so the timing couldn’t be any better.
Can they stay this hot come playoff time and make a Finals push?
They certainly have the ingredients for it, and they seem to have found the identity they so desperately needed.
Keep an eye on them come June…
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