Boston Celtics Playoff Preview; First Round vs. Atlanta Hawks

With the NBA playoffs set to begin on Saturday, let’s take a look at our Boston Celtics Playoff Preview.

The Boston Celtics finished 5th in the East with 48 wins. Before the season started, there were doubts if they would even be a playoff team. Now, it looks like they could be serious contenders. On paper, the roster doesn’t exactly strike fear into anyone, but as a unit they have found a way to compete at a high level.

Keys to Success:

Defense

One of the main reasons for the Celtics’ success this season has been their stingy defense. They have a 101.0 defensive rating, which is 5th in the NBA. Avery Bradley, Marcus Smart and Jae Crowder all play key roles in the team’s defensive scheme. Their quickness and active hands have the team ranked 2nd in steals per game at 9.2.

The Celtics also do a good job at contesting shots, as they hold opposing teams to just 44% shooting, including 33.7% from deep. Their hard-nosed defense is what drives the team and gives them a chance to beat anyone.

Scoring Efficiency

Even though you might not think of the Celtics as an offensive juggernaut, surprisingly they are 5th in the NBA averaging 105.8 points per game. With that being said, there are a lot of improvements to be made on the offensive end.

Boston Celtics Playoff Preview

Boston Celtics Playoff Preview

To start, they rank 24th in FG% and 27th in 3PT%. How have they gotten away with such poor shooting percentages? The Celtics are 3rd in the league averaging 11.6 offensive rebounds a game, which has led to 14.4 2nd chance points per game. They also force the most turnovers with 15.9, which has created plenty of fast break baskets (16.3 per game).

While those numbers are encouraging, they still need to shoot the ball more efficiently. Otherwise, they will be putting a lot of pressure on their defense to keep them in games.

Coaching

It may be hard to believe, but the Celtics’ most important asset is their head coach. Brad Stevens has proven to be one of the brightest minds in the game and should be strongly considered for Coach of The Year.

When he took over the job three years ago, the team was thought to be in a rebuilding phase for years to come. Instead, he has guided this group to their second consecutive playoff appearance. Stevens has preached defense, hustle, and trust. All the players have bought into this philosophy, and it shows when you watch them play. Whether it’s diving for loose balls, crashing the boards, or making the extra pass, this group continues to do the little things to help them win.

Despite their impressive play, no one tends to think of the Celtics as real contenders, including their own President Danny Ainge. He recently stated the Celtics aren’t contenders in his eyes, but that he “hopes the players believe differently”. Thankfully, their coach has instilled an unwavering confidence in them. It’s not often that you refer to a head coach as the team’s MVP, but in this case, it is warranted.