3 reasons the Celtics became legitimate contenders

(Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

With their huge comeback win on Tuesday, the Boston Celtics continue to show their hardwood dominance:

The Celtics have emerged as legitimate contenders, so let’s get to the top three reasons why.

3. Scoring from new sources

Of course, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown are in the top 15 in usage percentage this season.

They are also in the top 16 in points per game this season, with Tatum having the third most points scored in 2021-22.

However, they need help.

Earlier in the season there was an inconsistent starting lineup, but there has been a new 3-point phenom in the team: Grant Williams.

Williams has the third-best 3-point percentage in the league.

Additionally, even with Dennis Schröder’s 14.4 points per game traded, the Celtics have the following players to help them out:

Robert Williams has the best offensive rating in the league.

Let me tell you again – Celtics center Robert Williams is the best offensive player in the league according to Basketball-Reference.

Also, don’t forget Payton Pritchard, who is now the team’s backup point guard.

The trade deadline was Feb. 10, and Pritchard has played double-digit minutes in every game since Feb. 8.

In only his second season, he is also becoming someone who will help with the 3 points.

In his last four games, he has taken 2.5 shots from downtown per game and attempted 5.8 per game.

Going forward, the Celtics will need “other people”, as Shaquille O’Neal puts it, to contribute.

However, contrary to what O’Neal thinks, the Celtics have a shot at being a dark horse in the playoffs this year.

At this rate, their defense can keep them in any series.

However, will Tatum and Brown be enough to give the Celtics a chance in the Eastern Conference Finals in a competitive and confused conference?

It will depend on their state of health.

2. Health

The Celtics play like the old Boston teams in a very specific way: team basketball.

This basketball team was mirrored by their dominant starting lineup of Tatum, Brown, Williams, Smart, and Horford.

They’re 20-6 with this starting lineup and their net rating isn’t too bad either:

Unfortunately, Brown hurt his ankle early in Tuesday’s win.

He’s not expected to be out for long, but his status looks uncertain for Thursday’s nationally televised clash against Ja Morant and the Memphis Grizzlies.

Can the Celtics defend the new NBA sensation?

1. Defense, defense and more defense

Well, if there’s one Eastern Conference team that has a chance to defend Morant, it’s the Celtics, who are back to 10 games above .500 this season.

They held opponents to a .430 field goal percentage and .497 effective field goal percentage, and both ratings are the best in the NBA.

Here’s a perfect example of the Celtics’ 2021-22 defense: Smart, the team’s defensive leader, is making a terrific play to hold the Celtics’ lead at eight:

Smart is the heart of the Celtics and leads the team’s defensive effort.

Williams, Horford, Tatum and Smart are all in the top 20 in defensive rankings this season, with Williams ranking No. 2 overall.

The Celtics have the second best defensive rating in the league – just behind the Warriors – and they maintain it.

If they can continue in the playoffs, they will continue to be legitimate contenders.

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