Don’t look now, but the Boston Celtics, heading into Monday’s matchup against the Oklahoma City Thunder, are only three games behind the Miami Heat for first place in the Eastern Conference and have put the NBA on notice.
The Celtics are not only 19-3 in their last 22 games, but they also lead the league in team defensive efficiency (1.029), opponent shooting percentage (43%) and fewest points allowed (103.6), per Team Rankings.
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Boston has one of the best – if not the best – defenses the NBA has to offer.
Celtics’ Jaylen Brown: ‘We Still Have a Lot to Do’
However, veteran star Jaylen Brown said plenty of work lies ahead and now is not the time to be satisfied with his team’s overall performance.
“No satisfaction whatsoever, and I mean that,” Brown said on March 20 after the Celtics beat the Denver Nuggets 124-104. “I think I could still play a lot better in spots. I just want to get to the playoffs and be healthy. And, I think we still have a lot of good basketball to go. So, I’m excited about our future. But, no satisfaction whatsoever, and I’m not just saying that to say that. We just got to take it one game at a time. Just because we won some games doesn’t mean anything. We still have a lot to do. We still haven’t proven ourselves. We’re ready to get to the playoff stage and turn things up.
“So, no satisfaction from us. Shouldn’t be any satisfaction from our fanbase.”
‘Feels Good to Win Games,’ But Brown Wants More
Finding winning consistency was a struggle for Boston throughout the early part of the regular season, going 27-25 through January. But the Celtics have crawled from the bottom of the Eastern Conference’s playoff picture and have locked down a top-four spot.
Perhaps Brown was alluding to his recent play, which is trending upward in the wake of his back-to-back 30-point performances against the Nuggets and Sacramento Kings but overall has been disappointing in March. Averaging 20 points while connecting on 46.9% of his shots, including 31.3% from deep throughout March is uncharacteristic of Brown, who is averaging 23.2 points per game on the season.
As for the Celtics, climbing above a .500 record was a challenge, making the recent success much more rewarding for Brown and his teammates.
“It feels great to win games,” Brown said during his press conference. “Absolutely. So, I don’t want to discredit that, especially with all of the things that were going on earlier in the season. But (we) still got a lot of legroom to go. So, I’m looking forward to the future.”
Brown Keeping Celtics’ Big Picture in Focus
Brown, who was unavailable for last year’s postseason best-of-7 series against the Brooklyn Nets, could just be extra cautious this time around. However, to his point, what the Celtics do between now and the playoffs should be interesting, but ultimately, it won’t be how we judge the 2021-22 Celtics.
“Nothing different, to be honest,” Brown said, addressing the Celtics’ rapid turnaround this season. “Obviously, you grow and learn as you lose. But, I think Jayson (Tatum) is continuing to be aggressive by being himself. I’m being myself. At the same time, two back-to-back games where the ball was moving. I didn’t have one assist. People may have gotten on me earlier in the season, but we’re playing the game the right way, drawing doubles, making the right plays, and the ball is falling in the net.
“So, continuing to be ourselves and play the right way and getting good team wins, and just taking what the game gives you.”