What’s the Key to a Deep Playoff Run for the Celtics?

The Celtics are fighting for home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs, but how will the Celtics be successful come playoff time?

The Boston Celtics have taken the league by storm this season and quickly have turned people’s thoughts from just being happy to be in the playoffs to wondering how far this team can go. Brad Stevens has found a rotation that works, and has an all-star point guard leading the way as well. The Celtics are one of the highest-scoring teams in the NBA this season, as well as being able to be one of the fiercest defensive teams.

This is a team compiled of mostly players whose only playoff experience is getting swept by the Cleveland Cavaliers last season. They’re going to be one of the most inexperienced teams come April, however, they have proven time and time again that they’re not a team to be taken lightly.

While the Celtics are battling for home-court advantage, the real question is, how can the Celtics make a deep playoff run?

While the obvious answer is having a superstar like Steph Curry or LeBron James, the main key for Boston is getting healthy. Jae Crowder‘s statement about this team being one superstar seems to be getting more and more true. With that being said, that only reigns true when Boston is healthy.

There were obvious periods following injuries to Kelly Olynyk and Jae Crowder where the Celtics didn’t look like the same team. It’s warranted as whenever a team loses a key rotational player it’s hard to find a replacement right away.

The injury bug has been nice to Boston and thus far hasn’t hit them hard this season. Losing Kelly Olynyk, Marcus Smart, and Jae Crowder has been as bad as it has gotten for the Celtics this season. While losing a starter and two key bench players seem bad, it’s not nearly as bad as some teams have dealt with. Those three injuries also didn’t overlap for a lengthy period of time, which would have made it significantly harder on Boston.

Olynyk’s injury also came around the all-star break so he didn’t miss as many games as possible. Crowder is out for a couple of weeks, but prior to the high ankle sprain he hadn’t missed a game this season.

Feb 25, 2015; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Celtics forward Jonas Jerebko (8), guard Evan Turner (11), guard Isaiah Thomas (4), forward Jae Crowder (99) and guard Marcus Smart (36) celebrate against the New York Knicks during the second half at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports

Boston has had some nicks here and there but, in the grand scheme of things, they have been relatively healthy. Their all-star point guard, Isaiah Thomas, has played in all 72 games for the team. Sixth man Evan Turner has also played in 72 games, while Jared Sullinger has played in 71 games for them this season. In total, Boston has seven players on the roster appear in at least 65 games this season.

Out of their main rotation, only Kelly Olynyk (59 games) and Marcus Smart (51 games) have failed to play in 65 games. They are both expected to play in at least 60 games this season, barring an injury to either. That would mean that Boston will have eight of their nine rotational players play at least 65 games, and all nine have played at least 60. Not many teams have had the fortune the Celtics have had this season when it comes to the injury bug.

When looking at the Golden State Warriors last season, it was clear that health was a huge part in the team’s success. Golden State had nine players play in at least 65 games for them last season, including stars like Steph Curry (80 games), Draymond Green (79 games), and Klay Thompson (77 games) playing in at least 75 games.

In the playoffs, seven players played in all 21 games, while Festus Ezeli (20 games) and Andrew Bogut (19 games) barely missed that mark.

It helps that they have arguably the best player on the planet in Steph Curry, but being healthy was also a main factor.

The injury bug hit the Celtics, but not as bad as other teams. It also hit them at the right time, if there is a right time. Olynyk has clearly started to re-find his footing, and Marcus Smart has been healthy since the start of the season. The main concern now is getting Jae Crowder back soon.

Not because the Celtics need him in the regular season, but because Boston need him to re-find his shot, and get back into game shape, before the playoffs start. He has resumed shooting, and is even traveling with the team on their road trip, however, it seems like he is still a week away from returning, at least.

Very few teams have had the fortune of health like the Celtics have this season. Having your star player appear in every game is rare and has surely helped propel Boston this season. Getting everyone to 100 percent and game-ready prior come playoff time is arguably more important than home-court advantage at this point.