The Boston Celtics deserve to be fun as hell. After the tragic Gordon Hayward injury on opening night, and two losses to open the season, the Celtics have rattled off 10 straight victories. It has propelled them to the league’s best record, 10-2, while receiving huge contributions from a rookie and a second-year player. It’s all great fun.
Kyrie Irving is the one who brings this roster together, though. It wasn’t his best game on Wednesday, but his 19 points included enough highlight plays to remain true to the player he is. How can you not enjoy a player doing this?!
Boston is historically unlikable for a long list of reasons, especially its long list of success. But SB Nation’s Charlotte Wilder, a Boston native, is just one of many people invested in the Celtics who has gone through this roller coaster over the past three weeks. Hayward’s injury means that Boston isn’t exactly the team that we all envisioned it would be, but the Celtics have quickly proved that they’re just as interesting to watch:
It was so enjoyable to watch these guys jam. They were turning basketball into the graceful dance it becomes when players are so in step with each other that it looks like they’re moving to music only they can hear.
What I’m trying to say is: There was hope.
Boston won Wednesday despite Al Horford’s absence with a concussion and despite Jayson Tatum missing the second half with a minor ankle injury. This team, at least for now, has transcended the usual Boston hate and become legitimately fun to root for and watch. I sure think so, anyway.
What’s a realistic outcome for Boston this season?
Boston is 10-2 but almost certainly won’t finish with the NBA’s best record. That will be the Golden State Warriors, who handled the temporary absence of Kevin Durant Wednesday night gracefully, blowing out Minnesota all the same. The Warriors are only one game back of Boston, and they won’t slip up.
There’s no reason to think the Celtics won’t be the best team in the Eastern Conference, though. There are concerns: health, a rookie wall for Tatum (and perhaps something similar for Jaylen Brown), and their lack of big man depth catching up to them. Those will eventually rear their heads. But Boston can feast against a weaker Eastern Conference.
Cleveland’s situation is complicated, but I simply cannot doubt LeBron James. Boston can take the top seed in the East, but especially without Hayward, it’s still clear that James’ team is the heavy favorite to make it to the finals. That’s OK — Boston is built for the future, and the rest of this is just icing.
The East’s two surprise teams won again
Detroit is now 8-3. Orlando, right behind the Pistons, is 7-4. While they weren’t playing premiere competition, they had impressive wins on Wednesday. Both teams clearly look like they’re here to stay.
Elfrid Payton is back and he had a steady 11-point, 11-assist, six-rebound evening. Aaron Gordon’s three-point stroke still looks great — he hit 4-of-6 Wednesday. There’s a lot to like with this Magic roster.
As for the Pistons, their 114-97 was filled with great games — and one unfortunate omen. You know how Andre Drummond suddenly became a good free-throw shooter this season? He was 0-of-7 Wednesday, even with a free-throw form that actually looks much better. Yikes.
Do the Warriors even need Durant?
Wednesday was another reminder that Durant on the Warriors is the ultimate cherry-on-top of any basketball team ever. They need him, kind of. If he went out for the season tomorrow, though, the Warriors still might be title favorites. The margins would just be slimmer.
Anyway, Durant missed Wednesday’s game against Minnesota with a minor injury and Golden State looked bad for all of one quarter, where it scored only 22 points. After that, the Warriors outscored the Timberwolves by 24 points the rest of the way. It makes sense — Minnesota may have been 7-3 coming into this game, but the Timberwolves had won too many close games for that pace to be sustainable barring real improvements in their play. I’m still slightly concerned about them. Their offensive spacing, for one, still isn’t all that great.
I always remind people that Kerr worked in the media for a few years as a broadcaster, when he manages to have great moments like this:
One play I loved from Wednesday
No mercy from Hassan Whiteside, including an all-time stare down. (Despite this misstep, though, I think Suns rookie Mike James is solid.)