Brad Stevens and the Celtics (48-23) are now one game away from closing out the regular season. Topping the Grizzlies, 122-107 Tuesday night, Boston improved to 5-2 in Orlando and is on a four-game winning streak.
The Celtics offense has been firing on all cylinders of late; for the third consecutive night, it netted 122 points and is averaging 128.7 throughout the previous four outings. With the playoffs just around the corner, the timing for this couldn’t have been better. Since dropping two of their first three games in the NBA ‘bubble,’ the Celtics have dramatically improved the flow of their offense.
Great passing has led to open looks and high-percentage shots for Boston while players like Jayson Tatum (29 points), Kemba Walker (19 points), and Gordon Hayward (19 points) have adapted nicely to their new surroundings in Orlando.
“We’re a little closer to where we want to be or we’re certainly heading in a good direction,” Stevens said following Tuesday’s win. “We just have to keep doing it. Different teams play in different ways. Different teams give up one thing but not another. These guys (Grizzlies) were blitzing a lot; they were on top of screens a lot. We had to pop the ball and move the ball, make sure we kept it that way.
“I’ve seen a great willingness and great enthusiasm from our team that’s really moving. We just got to keep it up.”
Stevens Looks Ahead
Currently locked into the third seed, the Celtics have no control over which team will be waiting for them in the opening round of the NBA Playoffs. Still, that hasn’t stopped Stevens and his coaching staff from examining all potential opponents.
“We have assistance at our site for all different opponents that we may or may not play and they all do that work regardless if we end up playing them or not,” Stevens said. “I keep my eyes on one or two that I think are most likely throughout the time. Keep doing that then once we figure out exactly who we’ll play, we’ll get our team’s work started.”
The Pacers (43-28) are currently fifth and the Sixers are one game behind (42-29), currently in line to face the Celtics in a potential opening-round series.
When Tatum had his dud of a performance against the Bucks in late July – the Celtics’ first seeding game – everyone expected the young All-Star to bounce back. However, did anyone anticipate it would last this long?
Tatum, who averaged 30 points weeks before and after the All-Star break, has been as efficient throughout the Celtics’ seeding games as we’ve seen him all year long. He followed up his woeful 2-for-18 showing with a 34-point performance against the Trail Blazers and most recently turned in back-to-back 29-point games.
“We’re very capable. It’s just a matter of reading the defense; it’s something we’ve focused on these last couple of games,” Tatum said. “It was just ball movement, especially on the offensive end. I think that’s when we’re at our best when we’re moving it with pace. We got so many talented guys that I think it’s tough to guard us.”
In his six games throughout August, Tatum is averaging 25.3 points while shooting 56.1% from the floor, including 51.4 % from behind the arc to go with 5.8 rebounds, 3.8 assists, 1.3 steals.
Celtics will close out their regular season against the Wizards Thursday night.