Saturday night’s game against the Toronto Raptors was a nail-biter with a big payoff in the final minutes for the Celtics.
There were key plays in the game from Marcus Morris, Jayson Tatum, Terry Rozier and Aron Baynes – who had a huge first quarter. Baynes started quickly by swishing two 3-pointers – his first two made 3s of the year and only the second and third made 3s of his career.
This game displayed why Brad Stevens deserves strong Coach of the Year consideration. The continued winning, especially with so many players out, has shown how much Stevens has a grasp on his players and can make adjustments to get the most out of shorthanded lineups.
The confidence of Morris has been a huge part of Boston’s six-game win streak. Morris has been an offensive force coming off the bench with another 24 points to go with nine rebounds against Toronto.
Many believed Jaylen Brown, Rozier and Tatum would not be as far along in their development as they are today. Rozier, especially, has had to fight his way into the rotation. But he has excelled this season – especially with Kyrie Irving out with knee pain and now recovering from surgery. His growth is unbelievable with how he has assisted the Celtics in their many comeback wins of late.
Will there be another level Rozier can reach in the playoffs? Can he possibly bring even more to the table? Rozier could possibly be a starting point guard for another team, and will likely have to be for this one at least to start the postseason as Irving and Marcus Smart (thumb) get healthy.
As we inch our way to the playoffs, whichever team the Celtics challenge in the first round they need to continue to have Morris, Tatum, Brown, and Rozier on their game to advance. They have a determined, talented lineup that is proving it can work well under pressure and challenge for the top spot in the East.
Tatum has his confidence back from a small midseason lull, and the Celtics need him ready for the playoffs. He continues to play a great deal of minutes, and is shooting with renewed consistency. He already has so much going for him, but now he’s also becoming a playmaker as well, which is making him an overall great player.
Gordon Hayward will be back next season, so it’s tough to determine positions now, but it seems that Al Horford will be at center with Hayward, Brown and possibly Morris or Tatum filling out the starting five with Baynes and Smart uncertain as free agents.
Should Tatum be the sixth man? Although it would be small defensively, the faster the Celtics get a lead on offense the faster they can put in bench players, who deserve time and distribute well. Being able to rotate players in will help the starting lineup get rest when needed.
With only six games left in the season, rest is crucial especially for players who need it more than others – such as Horford, as he is critical to helping balance out the team on both ends of the floor.
The Celtics will continue to play games this week that will help determine their placement in the overall seedings. Having back-to-back games against Milwaukee and Toronto will really make them dig deep to get the win.
It’s going to be a tough road trying to advance to the No. 1 seed, but if they continue to be consistent and reach for the limit it’s true anything could be possible for these Celtics.
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