It wasn’t that long ago that the trade deadline had come and gone. The Celtics stood pat, and their roster remained unchanged. There were some who were critical of Danny Ainge’s decision to not pull the trigger and make some type of move. But as this team heads into the playoffs, it is clear that a deadline move may not have been necessary towards postseason success.
Last night the C’s took on arguably the hottest team in the league, the Portland Trail Blazers, and to say that the Celtics beat them would be an understatement. They molly whopped them. The score was close going into the half, but coming out of the locker room the C’s put on a clinic enroute to a 116-93 win.
While this score in itself is alarming enough, what truly stood out was how the Celtics were able to virtually blanket both McCollum and Lillard in the second half. For the majority of the game Avery Bradley drew the task of covering the post-All Star break MVP, Damian Lillard. Lillard, who had been averaging over 30 points since the break, was limited to just 20, most of which came in the first half.
For what seemed to be the entirety of the second half, Bradley was like velcro on Lillard, not allowing him to get any separation and giving him fits all half long. On the offensive side, it was yet again Isiah Thomas leading the way with another 30-point performance. The rest of the team was not far behind as they combined to put in a balanced effort that saw five other players score in double digits.
Now as I watched this game I couldn’t help but feel as though I was looking at a microcosm of the Celtic’s entire season. They played balanced offensive headed by the sensational play of Isiah Thomas, and their D was suffocating, as they did not allow Portland to get in sync from the get go.
Some will chalk this up to a one game phenomena, but that is simply not the case. This is the same team that beat the Cavs in Cleveland a few weeks ago, and the same team that took Golden State into double overtime during the Warrior’s undefeated run to open up the season. This team can no longer be labeled as ‘overachievers’. This team is legit, and they can win deep into the playoffs.
In a league where the key to winning is a small ball style and 3 pointers, the Celtics have the kryptonite to be a standout team. Their offensive, in terms of points per game, is one of the better squads in the league, which allows their defensive to win them games, such as the one last night against Portland.
The Celtics defense, although not the most “on paper” talented in the league, is by far the most efficient. Their pressure is relentless, and they do something that most of the teams in the league cannot. They can take away the other team’s best player. Whether this is Brad Stevens taking a page out of Belichick’s book or not, it works.
The Celtics went into last night’s game with the mindset that Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum were not going to beat them, and with only a combined 37 points, the C’s did just that. It may not be the flashiest of styles, but if it results in wins, who cares. After all, this is the exact style of play that is need to excel in playoffs, and if the regular season is any kind of precursor to the postseason, the Celtics will be just fine. And if I am being 100% honest, in a seven game series, with the Celtics playing the swarming, blanketing, superstar killing defense that we have grown accustomed to, they can beat a team such as the Golden State Warriors.
So as we watch and wait for the end of the regular season, Celtic fans can rest assured that, thanks to the C’s style of play, they will make a valiant run, deep into the playoffs.
By Jake Cianci