After their win against the 120-105 victory over the Orlando Magic, the Celtics have improved to 4-4 on the season. The Boston Celtics, who were supposed to be the worst team in the NBA, would be the 4th seed in the playoffs if the postseason started today. That's crazy. How are they doing it? I'll give you a clue; it's not because they have more talent than other teams.
Reason #1: They're running.
With 13.2 fast-break points per game, the Celtics are 15th in the NBA in that category after 8 games. Easy baskets have sparked runs for Boston this year and it has given confidence to some of their young players that may be offensively challenged like Avery Bradley and Phil Pressey. Although they're only 15th in the NBA in fast-break points, their overall offensive pace is very fast compared to previous years under coach Dic Rivers. In their win against the Heat, the C's outscored the Heat 15-5 on the break.
Reason #2: They're buying in to Stevens.
Brad Stevens has basically instilled a college-style offense to a NBA team but modified it a little. The very simple offense consists of dribble handoffs, pick and rolls, and back door cuts. Somehow, he found a way to include all three of those basic basketball concepts into one continuous motion offense. The Boston Celtics are 16th in overall offensive efficiency.
Reason #3: They're hustling.
Every player on the Celtics have been hustling and giving it their all on both sides of the floor with the exception of Gerald Wallace and I'm convinced that no coach could possibly change his ways. Avery Bradley is his usual maniac self and Jordan Crawford has found new life under Stevens. Crawford has been running the point very effectively and he has been facilitating the ball very well. The young guards AND big men are crashing the boards; both offensive and defensive. With 10.6 offensive rebounds per game, the Celtics are 19th in the league in that respect. With Olynyk, Brandon Bass, Sullinger, Gerald Wallace, Jeff Green, and Faverani basically making up the front-court, their is not one especially good rebounder besides maybe Bass. But they all play their butts off, they use their bodies, they box out, and they commit to rebounding. Also, they get help from their guards. Avery Bradley, Jordan Crawford, and Courtney Lee all average at least 2 rebounds. The team leader in rebounds is Kelly Olynyk with 5.4, but Sully and Faverani also get over 5 per game. Green, Wallace, Bass, and Bradley average over 4 rebounds too.
Reason #4: They play defense.
The Boston Celtics are playing great team defense because of the full-court pressure by Avery Bradley and front-court presence in the paint. The Celtics are 10th in the league in blocks per game with 5.5. They're 12th in steals per game with 8.8. I'm not sure how much of the credit should go to Brad Stevens and his philosophies, but I'm sure a good amount should be rewarded to him. Besides Bradley, the team isn't historically great defensively. In fact, Jeff Green and Jordan Crawford are actually bad on the defensive side of the ball. But they have put it all together so far and they have active hands and the rotations are usually very good.
Reason #5: They're somehow finding a way to score points.
They're right in the middle of the pack in offensive efficiency, so how are they scoring over 96 points per game? This reason ties into numbers 1 and 3; running and hustling. The Celts have been executing very effectively off of turnovers and in transition.
Reason #6: They're getting offense from everyone.
In the game against the Orlando Magic on Veteran's Day, the Boston Celtics scored a season-high 120 points. They shot 60 percent from the field; also a season-high. 7 players scored at least 10 points and all five starters were in double digits. In all, 10 Boston Celtics made at least one basket.
A lot of numbers were thrown at the reader in this post, but in my mind, the most important number is 4. Right now, the Boston Celtics have 4 wins and 4 losses, they're on a four game winning streak, and are in fourth place in the Eastern Conference. They have achieved all those 'fours' by hustling, playing defense, buying into Brad Stevens, finding ways to score, getting offensive production from practically everyone, and running on the fast break.