Celtics have their biggest lead in the East since 2008 title run
As many fans will focus their attention to the New Orleans Pelicans, and more specifically, Anthony Davis' arrival in Boston tonight, it's crazy to think how a potential eight-game winning streak will become a footnote for the game. Instead of focusing on our team taking another step this year to the East's number-one seed for the second year in a row, a lot of chatter will surround the former University of Kentucky big man's possible future in green. But such is life around here.
Having arguably the most successful professional sports run in the last two decades, sports teams in this region, with the Boston Celtics included, have built a standard of excellence and expectation from fans and that's just what we have here... expectations.
Nobody knows exactly what president Danny Ainge has up his sleeve down the road but there's an old saying, "where there's smoke, there's fire" -- and to say there's been a little smoke around Davis' potential future in Boston would be an understatement. However the Green still have work to do against a very tough team tonight and still do have an eight-game winning streak on the line.
Now maybe an eight-game streak pales in comparison the league-best 16-game streak the Celtics had tallied earlier this season, but I'd argue it pales in comparison to the list of milestones made by the Celtics this year in general.
Just a little past the halfway point of the season, coach Brad Stevens' squad has already set itself on par with a whole season's worth of accomplishments. Having already mentioned the multiple win streaks including the NBA's longest of 2017-18', the C's have also mounted two of the three largest comebacks in the NBA this season - the largest one of the year (26 points) to the Houston Rockets a few weeks ago and the third largest (21 points) to the Philadelphia 76ers this past Thursday in London.
However more than all the accolades and more than any team milestone set so far, the biggest goal of all still looms large for the young Celtics.
Having not won a championship in exactly a decade, owner Wyc Grousbeck's "fireworks" may have came a few summers late but are delivering the desired results for his franchise.
Currently sitting atop the Eastern Conference with a four-game lead over the Toronto Raptors after their loss to the 76ers yesterday, the Celtics now have their largest lead over the rest of their conference since 2007-08'. Yes, you heard that correctly -- the Green have not had this type of stranglehold on the East since they last won a championship a decade back.
The Raptors lose in Philadelphia this afternoon, 117-111.
The Celtics now lead the Eastern Conference by four games.
Their largest conference lead since the championship season of 2008.
BOSTON 34-10 --
Toronto 29-13 4
Cleveland 26-16 7
Miami 25-17 8
Comparing the two Celtic teams separated by 10 years may be an exercise in futility as there's not really much that is similar between the squads.
Different coaches, different leaders and star players, different team philosophies and styles of play, for the most part, a lot of the moving pieces are different. However there is one the glaring similarity between 2007-08' and 2017-18' outside of the leads both teams held, or hold, in the East ... and that is their defense.
Having had the league's best defense in 2008, outside of the hand-check years of the late-90's and early-2000's ... that team might have boasted one of the NBA's greatest defenses of all-time in general. With a defensive efficiency rating of .970 and holding opponents to 89.9 points per game, former coach Doc Rivers' defense was about as stout as they come at the time.
Don't sleep on the current machination of an NBA-best defense though as their numbers are still very impressive. Despite letting up an average of 7.8 more points per game than in 2008 (97.7), this total is still the league's best while the '08 mark was actually only second. The proof in the pudding can be found in Stevens' team's also league-high .989 defensive efficiency rating.
The only team in the NBA with a rating below 1.000 for that matter, it's obvious to point out that defense has been invaluable to building this much success. Maybe after all in today's high-scoring and run-and-gun league, manning up and playing a little hard-nosed defense is all it takes to set yourself apart.
As the Celtics near the upcoming trade deadline, there will be plenty of thoughts on how Trader Danny might try to upgrade this roster before it's final run. Expect suggestions on how to improve the team's overall defense to be very few and far between.
How do you guys feel about the Celtics current lead over the East? Are there any similarities you see between the 2007-08' squad and today's?