The Boston Celtics are finally coming into their own with some perfectly-timed consistency. They are starting to play like a team who knows what they are, which is far different from how it was earlier in the season. Although drastic changes have shaken the dynamics of their season, they are gradually improving and becoming a threat that is starting to turn some heads and get noticed. Aside from a bump on the recent west coast road trip that resulted in three losses, the Celtics are five games above .500 for the first time this season.
Some might argue that a shorter rotation was all that Doc Rivers needed to find the proper formula to get this team on its way. He certainly got what he needed. However, losing a potential MVP candidate in Rajon Rondo, an emerging rookie in Jared Sullinger and a former Sixth Man of the Year in Leandro Barbosa was probably not the way Rivers wanted to change his team for the “better.” But somehow it happened with a lot of different factors involved.
The return and continued emergence of Avery Bradley has lit a fire under this team. At 22 years old, Bradley is displaying the qualities of not only a Defensive Player of the Year candidate, but also in the Most Improved category as well. The effort is contagious around him and he leads by example only, never needing to open his mouth that much at all.
Last night he did his best Rondo impression in playing one of the best games of his career and showing that he’s becoming a much more versatile and balanced player while still playing his trademark full-court defense. In the Celtics’ 109-101 road win over the Philadelphia 76ers, he came out in attack mode on both ends of the floor. In 34 minute,s he managed to put up 22 points, dish out five assists along with seven rebounds and a steal to go along with all of the other things he brings to the floor that don’t show up on a box score. He is finally healthy and getting the minutes to show that he is an absolute nightmare to match up with and he’s only getting better.
Bradley has nearly single-handedly reinvigorated a franchise, but consistent play from Jeff Green has been a huge difference maker as well. Green is not the kind of player to take on a leadership role like Bradley, but he has finally hit his stride and all of the “bad” Green nights are disappearing from the Celtics’ collective heads. It’s evident now that there’s a greater level of trust in Green with a shorter rotation as Rivers is basically playing Paul Pierce and Green an even share of minutes, which can only benefit Pierce. The Celtics have also found success with Green and Pierce on the floor together, a line-up that gives them some more size and match-ups to work.
It’s been a process, but with a balanced and shorter rotation that has both seasoned veterans alongside emerging youngsters, the Celtics somehow look like a bad match-up for many Eastern Conference contenders. Today they hang just 1.5 games out of home court advantage in the playoffs. It’s beginning to look less and less like these Celtics are a fluke and more like they could truly be contenders.
Eric St. Cyr Covers the Boston Celtics for Rant Sports, Follow Him on Twitter @EricJsaint