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How Big of a Threat Does Boston Pose in the Playoffs?

The Boston Celtics just swept the Philadelphia 76ers in a completely lopsided series where Philadelphia’s weaknesses were put on display and the offensive talent that the Celtics have thrived against them. The Celtics are now set to face the Toronto Raptors who also swept their first round opponent, the Brooklyn Nets.

A lot of fans have hyped up this team since the beginning of the season. Kemba Walker has certainly left his mark on this team, Gordon Hayward returned to All-Star form, and Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown have both gotten significantly better. This team is not without their weaknesses but overall, they are a very talented team. 

However, the question has to be raised: how big of a threat are the Boston Celtics? They’ve got a tough path to the Finals and they’ve got some problems to address but can they potentially make the Finals? Or are they destined to be a 2nd round exit?

Their Strengths

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One of the Celtics biggest strengths is their shot creation on the wing. Tatum has become a legitimate star in this league and has taken his game to the next level so far in these playoffs.

Jaylen Brown has also been just as improved. His consistency from behind the arc and his two-way presence has been huge for Boston. Hayward also enjoyed a revival and was an efficient scorer for this team when healthy. Although they’ll be without him, the duo of Tatum and Brown can wreak havoc on both ends of the court.

Another strength for them is their three-point shooting and defense; two huge things that you need in the NBA playoffs. In the regular season, they were top 12 in 3P% and 3PA and they ranked 4th in defensive rating. Tatum and Brown can both create their shot from three and they both shot over 38%, Walker shot 38% on nearly eight attempts a night, and Marcus Smart shot 35% as well.

Defensively, Tatum and Brown are elite defenders and Walker has had success due to his effort on that end. Of course, it pretty much goes without saying that Smart is also elite on that end. They can match up well with other dominant wings, and they hold their own amongst other guards.

Lastly, let’s look at their coaching. Brad Stevens has been one of the best coaches in the league year in and year out. He’s been able to have great playoff success before (like the time where he led the Celtics to the Eastern Conference Finals loss in seven against LeBron James without their two best players), and now he has an ultra talented team with no chemistry issues. I’m fully confident in Stevens’ ability as a coach to lead this team far into the playoffs.

The Celtics are an elite offensive and defensive team, they can shoot the ball extremely well, they have great star power, they have no chemistry problems like last year, and they have no health issues outside of Hayward. They’ve got a ton of things that make them such a good team.

Their Weaknesses

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The Celtics are not a perfect team. They have many weaknesses, and their biggest one is rim protection. Daniel Theis is a serviceable option at center and is a good defender for his size, but he’s 6’8″ with below-average athleticism. We saw Joel Embiid average 30 PPG and 13 RPG against him because he’s simply too small to go up against taller and more physical big men.

Against someone like Giannis, he’d also struggle as well because he’s not someone who can contest guys at the rim. There are some teams that have smaller lineups that Boston is fine against but then there are also teams who can go big and exploit this. I think this is their biggest true weakness.

Another weakness of theirs is the bench unit. With Smart being promoted to the starting lineup due to the Hayward injury, the bench is looking suspect. Guys like Brad Wanamaker, Grant Williams, and Enes Kanter don’t exactly inspire confidence. Now, depth isn’t too big of an issue in the playoffs, but when you’re facing deep teams like the Raptors and the Bucks, you need at least an average bench.

With Smart, they still had a below average bench and now they have no one to run that unit. I have serious concerns for this team when their starters are not in the game.

The good thing is that, while they do have two pretty major weaknesses, they aren’t a very flawed team. The bench and the interior defense is undoubtedly a concern but outside of that, this team doesn’t have anything that makes me majorly concerned. 

How Boston Can Continue Their Winning Ways

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The Boston Celtics are set to face the Toronto Raptors in the 2nd round and then the winner of the Bucks/Heat series after that. Those guys are all big time competition, and while I don’t think Boston is better than teams like the Raptors and the Bucks, they certainly have the tools to beat them.

First, let Tatum continue to do his thing. When the offense is flowing through him, the team is just generally better and more efficient. Tatum certainly did not carry them in round 1 but he was by far the best player and averaged 27 PPG on 45% from three-point land. If Boston wants to go far in the playoffs, Tatum needs to be the man for this team.

However, the other guys need to help out too. Brown and Walker were both great in the first round against Philadelphia, and they’ll need to continue that against Toronto. Although Toronto has better defensive personnel than Philly, Walker and Brown are still two of the best offensive players on the court at all times, and they need to continue to produce.

Lastly, Stevens needs to hold his own among the best coaches in the league. Nick Nurse, Mike Budenholzer, and Erik Spoelstra are all elite NBA coaches. Stevens is on their level, but he needs to outcoach all of those guys. He’s more than capable of it, but he’s a bigger factor in this series than everyone thinks.

Ashley Landis/AP

The Boston Celtics have all the tools to make it out of the Eastern Conference. They’ve got the scoring, the shooting, the defense, the chemistry, the shot creators, and the coaching to beat any team in the East. I personally have them losing to the Raptors in a tough seven game series, but I would not be shocked at all if they came out on top. This team has something to prove in the upcoming postseason, and they have to take advantage of their talent to truly reach new heights.

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