Basketball, Columnists, Sports

The 2-3 Zone, a Boston Celtics Special

We are currently in the middle of the holiday season. Thanksgiving is just behind us and Christmas is right around the corner. The holidays are a great time to cherish those around us and also the perfect time to take a closer look at our nearby neighbor, the Boston Celtics. 

The “3”

So far this season, the Marcus Smart hype train has reached full capacity. Smart’s efforts on the defensive side of the ball have Celtics fans dreaming about a Defensive Player of the Year award for the hard-nosed combo guard.

Smart has always been known as an elite defender, but this year, he seems to be playing on another level defensively. He’s hustling, pushing through injuries and taking on — quite literally — big assignments, like slowing down Giannis Antetokounmpo. 

Smart has even shown some positive signs on the other end of the floor. He’s hitting threes at a solid enough rate, especially compared to his sub-30 percent three-point percentage from just a few years ago. He even ranks near the top of the league in his assist-to-turnover ratio, according to NBA Advanced Stats.

Beyond an impressive season from Smart, Celtics fans have had a lot to be happy about with their young cornerstones: Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown.

Together, Tatum and Brown are averaging around 40 points, 14 rebounds and five assists per game, according to the National Basketball Association Player Stats. They are also both shooting just a notch above 36 percent from beyond the arc. 

If these two Celtics wings continue to play efficient offense and above-average defense for the rest of the season, then the team may end up outperforming expectations by the season’s end.

Even with the Celtics playing much better basketball through the first quarter of the season than expected, the days before and after Thanksgiving were a rather uncomfortable stretch for those who were enjoying the Celtics’ 2019 season.

This short stretch of basketball featured a back-to-back against the Brooklyn Nets for the Celtics. During this back-to-back, Celtics fans tried to let Kyrie Irving know how they really felt about his tenuous time in Boston. 

But the negative feelings about Irving expressed by Celtics fans during their home game against the Nets on Nov. 27 fell on empty ears, as Irving remained in New York during the Celtics double-digit beating of the Nets.

A couple days later, with Irving still out, the Nets got revenge and took down the Celtics thanks to a big game from Spencer Dinwiddie. 

Even with the back-and-forth performances, one thing was clear from the Celtics and Nets back-to-back: Celtics fans need to get over Irving. He is off the team. Kemba Walker is playing great basketball. For the most part, there doesn’t seem to be much love lost between a lot of the Celtics’ players and Irving.

All the dust has settled on the Irving saga in Boston and Celtics fans need to move on.

The “2”

Turning to the less-talked-about Celtics players, there is one man who deserves far more attention than he is currently receiving: Brad Wanamaker.

Wanamaker has been an absolute lighting rod off the bench for this year’s Celtics. He’s averaging 7.6 points per game and insane 50-41-91 shooting splits this season, according to NBA Player Stats. 

Look no further than the Celtics’ recent win over the New York Knicks for a perfect example of what Wanamaker does so well. In just 18 minutes of play, Wanamaker scored 11, shooting three of five from the field, one of two from beyond the arc and four of four from the free throw line. His first five points even came within the first 42 seconds of his entry into the game.

Wanamaker is an instant bucket for this Celtics team and hopefully fans will give him more love for his impressive work as a spark plug this season.

Another underrated aspect of the Celtics’ great season is their utter dominance at the TD Garden this season.

So far this season, the Celtics are 7-0 at home and they are averaging 116.0 points-per-game at home this year compared to just 107.2 points-per-game on the road.

Following a road victory over the Knicks Dec. 1, the Celtics will close out the month of December by playing eight of their 12 remaining 2019 games at home. If the Celtics can continue to play elite basketball at home, fans should expect them to enter the new year at the top of the Eastern Conference.

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