At 40-19, the Celtics have played really well this season. They have had a couple of rough patches and haven’t played to their record as of late. With Marcus Smart set to return, the Celtics will be at full strength (don’t know if Hayward is coming back). After a week of fun in LA and rest for some, the Celtics need to come back with urgency. They have 23 games to put themselves in prime playoff position and put others on notice.
Here are my ten predictions for the rest of the Celtics season.
1. Kyrie Irving hits the 40-point mark at least twice
Kyrie has been an unreal scorer this season. He is averaging over 24 points per contest and shoots with such efficiency. Irving has taken control of a team that needed a true number one option once Thomas was gone. They risked a lot to get Kyrie, and I do not think there is one (clinically sane) Celtics fan that isn’t all giddy about it.
While Kyrie has been adjusting to this leadership role, he hasn’t had many games where he takes over 25 shots. That leads to him consistently getting 20-35 points, but has held him from going off. Irving has reached the 40-point plateau twice this season, going for 40 against the Magic in a loss and 47 vs the Heat in a win.
I am looking for Kyrie to try and get his while the Celtics get back on track. Plus, who doesn’t love a game when Kyrie snaps? It’s only a matter of time before we see the Celtics superstar break out and drop 50.
2. Marcus Smart has a statement game
Marcus Smart made one of the dumbest decisions of his young career when he punched a picture frame after a loss to the Lakers. He suffered a nasty cut that required stitches. Apparently, it could have been a lot worse.
Marcus Smart said doctors pulled a shard of glass out the palm of his hand after his frame-punching incident in LA. It barely missed the tendons, which would have likely meant season-ending surgery. https://t.co/1pvSwxUqrj
— Chris Forsberg (@ChrisForsberg_) February 22, 2018
He knows he made a mistake, and we’re all grateful he’s okay (except James Harden). Smart is an important cog in the Brad Stevens factory. Notice how Boston has struggled to find their edge since Smart went out? He brings a fire and ferocity that leads to winning. He makes winning plays because behind his hustle and heart is a truly good player.
I fully expect Marcus Smart to burst back onto the scene with a new edge. He put his team in a tough place, now he needs to be ready to put them back on track. Smart is due for a couple big games, and I know he’ll pull through. Look for a string of 15-point games that include strong overall stat lines. Smart is a winner. I can’t wait to see him prove it.
3. Jayson Tatum finally hits the 30-point mark
I know, you’re probably assuming he has already done this. Tatum is ready to break out, this guy is DUE. Since his finger injury, Jayson Tatum has struggled to find his deep stroke. With a good performance in the Rising Stars game plus a week to heal, Tatum should be back. Before the injury, this man was hitting nearly 50 percent of his threes. He will continue to get open shots as Irving and Jaylen Brown crash the lane. The rook is due to get 30 sometime soon.
Jayson Tatum fakes ET out of his moon boots. pic.twitter.com/4PkmVkcY0Z
— Taylor Snow (@taylorcsnow) February 4, 2018
If Jayson can get going with shots like this early in the game, watch out. This dude is special.
There will be a game where he catches fire early. Tatum gets that look in his eye when he gets going, and puts in a new guy. It’s so freaking exciting to see such confidence come out of someone so young. He has every tool in the book and they will only get sharper. Once the mid-range gets going, forget about it. Tatum is going to drop 33 points March 5th vs the Chicago Bulls. Mark it down.
4. Jaylen Brown gets 40
Okay, this one is the one that will make people shake their heads. Brown has never gotten 30 points in a game, so why in the hell would he drop 40? Well, anyone see the Rising Stars game?
Sure, it’s a chance to show out and defense takes a back seat. However, Jaylen Brown made some damn good shots. He finished with a game-high 35 points including a couple tough shots.
— NBA (@NBA) February 17, 2018
Brown is set to break out after this performance. His confidence has to be higher than his vertical after this weekend. He got snubbed in a relatively weak dunk contest, which should only add to his fire. Jaylen is going to drop 40 points in a game where he starts hot, and stays hot. Stevens has been drawing up more plays for the sophomore as he acclimates towards his stardom. I am ready to see this kid get the run he wants. Brown proved he is learning to score in a variety of ways and one of these times he’s going to explode.
5. Daniel Theis plays more the Greg Monroe
I love Greg Monroe and I think he can bring some stuff to the Celtics. He’s a big body and proven scorer from eight feet and in. He rebounds well and can cause a ruckus down low. Monroe’s biggest problem though is that he’s slow; like really damn slow. The Celtics play best when they push the ball and find open shooters. Monroe does not fit that style very well.
— Boston Celtics (@celtics) January 6, 2018
Look how simple and quality this play is. Just s simple deflection but it is more than that. Jaylen Brown ends up finishing on the other side because that little play by Theis. What about this highlight?
— NBA (@NBA) January 17, 2018
This dude is an animal when he gets his shots.
Daniel Theis is the rookie on the Celtics people forget to talk about. He is a great box-out specialist and spark plug for the bench. Theis can hit threes, but has also made a new friend with the pick-and-roll. He is a vicious dunker and runs the floor well. His teammates trust him and he is a smart player. Theis is going to get more playing than Monroe because he is a better system fit. The shot will come with more playing time, but it’s his energy that the Celtics need. The Celtics bench plays well when both Horford and Theis are on the floor because they are good compliments to one another.
Theis was a sneaky good signing by Ainge, and I look for him to crack the playoff rotation. He may not play much, but the German rook will make a difference when he is in.
6. The Celtics score 135+ points in a game
Boston has really struggled to score as of late. Their weak entrance into the break was fueled by not being able to put the ball through the net. They have a lot of good players that can put points on the board, but it simply has not been working out. The All Star break could not have been at a better time, and the Celtics are ready to bust out.
It could start as early as Friday in Detroit. Brad Stevens is going to have his team ready to play, especially after a slow past month. Look for them to push the ball with authority and try to send a message early. If they can click and fire on all cylinders, this team is set to put up a lot of points. Their defense rightfully gets a lot of respect, but their offense can do a lot as well.
If Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum can prove to be solid two and three options and Kyrie can do what he does, there is no reason to think the Celtics cannot put this slump behind them. I expect the offense to catch fire soon and show what they can do. Creating early momentum will be necessary. We need to cut down on the turnovers and finish open shots. It only takes one player to start cooking before the whole team starts to click. Look for Irving to try and start games hot to get the Celtics on the right track.
7. Gordon Hayward returns
I still don’t care what anyone says, Gordon Hayward is going to play again this season. We are getting to the point where it almost seems too good not to be true. Hayward is recovering so well from his rehab and is working harder than ever. All those chair-shots have only made him a better shooter, and we simply can’t rule him out.
Hayward has been posting some updates on his recovery, but most of his time is dedicated to the hustle. He is doing everything he can to heal as quickly and correctly as possible. It has been over four months since his injury and there is still two months until the playoffs. There hasn’t been videos, but I think he is already running. As he builds strength and regains his body, his return inches closer. There is nothing Hayward wants more than to be on the floor with his teammates and Stevens. He is exactly what the Celtics need and are lacking. People forget that this is an All-Star player that can change games. We never got the dose of Hayward we expected, so we haven’t gotten to see him mesh in Stevens’ system.
Hayward is going to return. The Celtics will take the floor in April with Irving, Brown, Hayward, Tatum and Horford. That team is exciting and full of talent. Brown and Tatum have taken leaps because of the injury the Hayward. Now, we get the pack the star right in the bunch. Call me insane, call me a liar, but Gordon Hayward is going to make plays for Boston this season.
8. Kyrie Irving finishes in the top-four in MVP voting
When the Celtics finish the season 18-5, this will look even better. With a 58-24 record, the Celtics will barely edge out the Raptors for the one-seed in the East. A strong late-season run pushes the Celtics right back into true contention; led by that man Kyrie Irving. The former Cavalier makes his true mark and carries Boston for the season, showing that he has the crunch needed to make the jump.
— NBA (@NBA) February 19, 2018
Wow. Just wow. No one lese can do that>
With this push, Irving regains the MVP hype he received earlier in the season. The award comes down to LeBron James, James Harden, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and Irving. I expect the award to go to Harden, but Irving will be right there in that category. He said he could lead his own team, and his first year proves he is on the right track. All aboard the Irving express, we got games to win.
9. The Celtics play in a game seven vs the Cavs
Kyrie vs. LeBron. Stay tuned…