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    Celtics Beat | #244 | Greg Cassoli

    Where do the Celtics stand after the first half of the season? Can it get better? Join Evan Valenti and Greg Cassoli on this week's Celtics Beat

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    We’re a little beyond the halfway mark this season and let’s be honest: Life as a Celtics fan is pretty great so far. Sure, they’ve had a couple of insufferable stretches this year (looking at you December 8th-December 25th; they were *gulp* 5-6), but things could be significantly worse. You could be the 11-27 Lakers, who are trying desperately to win but can’t, don’t have a pick to get excited about, LaVar Ball, AND have some locker room issues (boom, roasted).

    I mean, Boston has a point guard that does this on a regular basis:

    A  6’10” big-man that drops dimes like this:

    A 21 year-old raw, freak-a-zoid athlete:

    A 19 year-old rookie that can do THIS:

    THIS sparkplug off the bench:

    Oh yeah, and this guy:

     

    Sprinkle in the following:

    • More than half of the NBA has a negative point differential
    • Boston’s main competition in the East (Cleveland) is mediocre defensively (28th in the NBA in points per 100 possessions, although trending up slightly)
    • The Celtics beat Toronto without the team’s best player (Circle the calendar: February 4th in Toronto)
    • The Wizards bench outside of Kelly Oubre is pretty non-existent (shout-out to Mike Scott, who’s really finding his way this year)
    • Milwaukee continues to puzzle everyone (7-10 on the road, -0.4 point differential) despite having one of the leading MVP candidates on the team
    • Boston has wins over the best six teams in the NBA inside the TD Garden (and is holding them to 19.3 points below their season average; shout-out to Sean Grande for that stat).

    And you can get a pretty clear picture as to why the Celtics, who own the best record in the Eastern Conference, feel pretty good about the team’s positioning as they gear up for the second half.

    They’ve had some troubles too. They slipped defensively in the month of December (99.6 per 100 to 104). The rebounding went from a strength (51.7 rebounding percentage for November) to a serious problem (48 percent in December, 28th in the league). Boston had key players miss time (Al, Kyrie, Jaylen, are we still counting Hayward because that’s, like, a lot of games).

    But despite those obstacles Boston has still found a way to win (they are approximately 3787534-0 when trailing by double digits). And now that the team has mixed in some much-needed rest with some even-more-necessary practice time the Celtics are taking some of those December deficiencies and turning them into New Year’s Resolutions (SMALL SAMPLE SIZE ALERT!).

    Defensive Rating by month:

    99.6; 104.0; 88.6

    Rebounding percentage by month:

    51.7%; 48.0%; 54.3%

    Obviously there are more games to go this month (12 games in January, as opposed to 17 in December), but I would expect these numbers to stay relatively put (no, they are not going to hover around 88.6 points per 100 possessions for the entire month).

    Look at the schedule: Philly twice, Orlando, both LA teams, the Knicks outside of MSG (3-14 on the road). That’s half of the games coming against teams that are AT BEST .500. Like I said before: Life is good.

    Joining me on this week’s episode of Celtics Beat is the newest addition to the USA Today Media Group and Celtics’ Wire Greg Cassoli. Greg and I dive into some of the biggest storylines of Boston’s first half. Check it out above.

    Time Stamps:

    5:00 Jaylen Brown’s growth is getting overlooked

    11:15 Jayson Tatum is the biggest storyline of the year

    20:25 Has Kyrie been everything you expected?

    28:05 Celtics can take transition game to another level

    Available for download on iTunes and Stitcher on Sunday, January 7. Celtics Beat is powered by Casper and eHarmony.