Going into tonight’s matchup against the Orlando Magic, the Boston Celtics are sitting at a 7-6 record and as things currently stand are tied for the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference with the Philadelphia 76ers. Teams like the new look Brooklyn Nets, New York Knicks, Atlanta Hawks and Charlotte Bobcats are all performing above expectations going into the season and the Miami Heat still appear to be the class of the East until further notice.
The Milwaukee Bucks, Chicago Bulls, Indiana Pacers and even the Orlando Magic are hovering around .500 at the moment as well so there aren’t many easy wins to go around thus far in this young NBA season.
Though the Celtics are above .500 they have been far from impressive to open the year. They actually have a losing point differential of -1.3 points and the defense which is supposed to be the C’s calling card has been anything but. Without key defensive stopper Avery Bradley who is still a couple weeks away from returning, Boston is allowing opposing teams to shoot at a 46.3 percent clip which is fourth worst in the NBA and have allowed 99.3 points a contest (20th in the NBA). The only thing consistent with the defense has been their pitiful rebounding, the Celtics are last in the NBA in rebounds pulling down only 35.8 boards a night. This has been a weakness for years for Boston, costing them in the 2010 finals and in the Eastern Conference finals last season.
On a positive note however, Celtics Nation should not be worried by any means because we’ve been here before. After starting off last season with a lackluster 15-17 record, Boston regained their form and played much better in the second half going 24-10 after the All-Star break behind a suffocating defense. Paul Pierce hasn’t lost a step even at the age of 35, scoring 19.8 points a game while hitting 41.7 percent from three point land. Kevin Garnett is still playing at a high level, averaging 15.6 points and 7.2 rebounds and Rajon Rondo is leading the league in assists by a wide margin dishing out 13.5 dimes a contest. Jeff Green, Leandro Barbosa, Jared Sullinger, Chris Wilcox and Jason Terry have helped fortify the bench unit and each have had their moments.
Offensively, the Celtics have executed much better scoring 98.0 points a night which is good for 15th in the NBA. Only the Miami Heat are shooting at a higher percentage than the C’s, who are shooting 48.1 percent from the field and hitting better than 37 percent from deep. With the offense looking fluid and coming off an impressive win against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Friday night there is some good momentum coming the Celtics way.
With Avery Bradley set to return soon and Doc Rivers on the sideline preaching defense, I fully expect the C’s to turn up their defensive intensity a notch as the season progresses. With such a small sample size to go by, panicking would not be rational at this point of the season as I firmly believe that Boston has yet to play their best basketball. A prideful Celtics team will be in contention and is still the biggest threat to the Miami Heat’s dominance of the Eastern Conference regardless of a mediocre start.