The Boston Celtics enter their final stretch of the season with a three-game road trip against three playoff teams. The first of these games was a potential preview of a first-round matchup with the Chicago Bulls, and Boston beat the Bulls in blowout fashion and led the entire game. Here are some takeaways from the win.
Chemistry is glaring
The Celtics team chemistry continues to show night after night. Boston finished the game with 29 assists on 43 made baskets after they started the game by assisting 18 of their first 21 makes in the first half and 10 different players recorded at least one assist.
The numbers alone don’t tell the full story — Boston was finding each other the easiest baskets on back door cuts, dump-odds in the lane, and open kick-outs. Ime Udoka preached about this when he took over the head coaching job and tonight’s win shows the difference he’s made.
Filling in for Robert Williams
Al Horford and Daniel Theis are holding it down in Rob Williams’ absence. The starting frontcourt combined for 32 points but most of the focus should be on Horford. The 35-year-old finished with 17 points and 10 rebounds on perfect 7-for-7 shooting.
The impact that he’s had on this team can be easily missed but there’s no doubt that Horford plays a crucial role. He takes shots where he can but the ball never sticks to his hands and he constantly makes the correct play for the good of the team.
The Celtics put together a 50-win season. Winning 50 games in the NBA is always tough and is usually reserved for legit playoff contenders. What makes this feat extra special is that nobody would’ve predicted this in January. The Celtics had a 23-24 record on the season before absolutely exploding down the stretch. Since then, they have a 27-6 record as they make their final playoff push. This will be remembered as one of the best mid-season turnarounds in recent memory.
Change over time
The Celtics’ three matchups with the Bulls are representative of how their season changed over time. Their first game against the Bulls came in the beginning of November when the Celtics blew a 19-point lead and lost by 14 points. At that time they were a struggling team and were prone to blowing leads.
By their second matchup in January, Boston won a close game where they went on an 8-0 run to finish the game with a two-point win. This happened right around the time Boston started to turn things around and win some tough games. With Thursday’s matchup, they are a completely different team and dominated the Bulls from the get-go. The Bulls may be a struggling team but they are still a great benchmark to show the growth the Celtics have had through the beginning, middle, and end of the season.
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