Celtics and Eastern Conference Thoughts Coming Out Of The All-Star Break

BOSTON, MA – FEBRUARY 9: Kyrie Irving #11 of the Boston Celtics high-fives Gordon Hayward #20 of the Boston Celtics against the LA Clippers on February 9, 2019 at the TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2019 NBAE (Photo by Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images)

The Boston Celtics are 37-21 (.638 winning%) coming out of the All Star Break which makes them 4th in the Eastern Conference, but tied with the Philadelphia 76ers who are in 5th place. Boston is 27-10 within the conference, 23-8 at home, and 14-13 away from TD Garden. With 24 games left to go in the regular season, the Celtics have a lot to prove especially with the roster they have. Here are the records of the Top 3 teams in the Eastern Conference and thoughts on them:

  1. Milwaukee Bucks– 43-14 (.754 winning %), 30-8 in the Eastern Conference, 23-5 at home (Fiserv Forum), 20-9 on the road. It’s clear to say (6’11, 240ish lbs, 24 year old) Giannis Antetokounmpo is the Bucks best player and will probably be the best player in the NBA once LeBron leaves the league. “The Greek Freak” has played 53 games out of the Bucks’ 57 games. In those games Giannis has averaged 33.2 minutes per game, 27.2 points, 12.7 rebounds, and 6 assists.

The other major parts of the Bucks lineup (Khris Middleton, Brook Lopez, and Eric Bledsoe) are pretty impressive as well. Khris Middleton (6’8, 220ish lbs, 27 year old) is the Bucks other forward who can shoot 3’s and usually shines on the floor when you get the chance to watch him live. He’s played 54 games this season and averaged 31.1 minutes per game, 17.1 points, 5.8 rebounds, and 4.2 assists. Middleton is tied for 52nd (not great) with two other players averaging 1.07 steals per game and shoots 84.6% at the free throw line this season along with 87.3% during his 7 year career. I love the guy and I’d take him on my team any day. This season he has really been fantastic as was his last one with the Bucks.

Center, Brook Lopez (7’0, 270 lbs, 30 year old) is a veteran playing in his 11th season having spent 9 years with the New Jersey/Brooklyn Nets, 1 with the Lakers, and now with the Bucks. Lopez has been a bright new addition to the Bucks this season providing high energy and above average big man playmaking abilities. Making 3.382 million for Milwaukee, Lopez can be considered a bargain for what he has provided his team thus far. In 57 games played, he has averaged 27.9 minutes per game, 12.1 points, and 6.6 rebounds. This is a player who can make space to grab a rebound or shoot a 3 pointer and shoots the long range ball at a 37.2% rate this season which is pretty good for a guy his size even in this NBA.

Point Guard, Eric Bledsoe (6’1, 205 lbs, 29 year old) is a savvy veteran like Lopez. Except most NBA fans know Bledsoe will finish with a better career than Brook’s career ever was/is. A hard nosed, strong player, he can create his own shot and defend them as well. With 56 games played in 2018-2019, Bledsoe averages 29.1 minutes, 15.8 points, 3.9 rebounds, and 4.7 assists. I expect him to continue to be a reliable and steady player throughout the rest of the season and playoff run for the Bucks.

2. Toronto Raptors–  43-16 (.729 winning %), 27-10 in the Eastern Conference, 24-5 at home (Scotiabank Arena), and 19-11 on the road. Kawhi Leonard, “Small” Forward (6’7, 230 lbs, 27 years young) is the Raptors star and latest toy whom they acquired in the off-season along with Danny Green from the Spurs for Demar Derozan, some guy named Jakob Poeltl, and protected 1st round draft pick. Leonard is a premier 2 way (great offensively and defensively) NBA player who was a MVP candidate for a good portion of this season. Kawhi has only played in 43 games for Toronto but they are 30-13 in games in those games. He is a major impact on the court and can usually shutdown the best scorer on the opposing team. Without a doubt, players will not want to stare into his eyes or guess his moves during the playoffs.

The other good starters for the Raptors include: Kyle Lowry, Serge Ibaka, and Pascal Siakam. Point guard, Kyle Lowry (6’1, 196 lbs, 32 years old) was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and like other basketball players known from that area- he is tough and can drive to the lane well. Originally drafted by the Memphis Grizzlies, Lowry has 12 years of NBA experience and spent time with the Rockets other than his past team (Grizzlies) and current team (Raptors.) A downside to Lowry is he has only averaged over 20 points a game in 2 seasons in his career. That does not include this season. Throughout 47 games and a lofty 34.4 minutes per game, Lowry only averages 14.3 points, 9.2 assists, and 4.5 rebounds. The assists number is fantastic but it’s not hard to average nine a night passing to Leonard, Green, Ibaka, and Siakam.

Ibaka and Siakam are great two way players as well. I’ll save you all the stats but those guys play big roles for the Raptors.

3. Indiana Pacers– This team lost their best player in Victor Oladipo several games ago and is somehow still the 3 seed. I’m amazed at what they’ve done but I’d be surprised if it continues. The Pacers picked up journeyman Wesley Matthews to repace Oladipo’s presence but it won’t be enough come playoff time. I expect this team to get bounced in the first round as a lower seed than they currently are.

The second half of the season for the Celtics will be interesting on multiple levels. Do Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown continue to flourish and prove to be players that will be relied upon? Will Kyrie Irving fall in love enough in Boston during their playoff run to stay here? is the team going to put egos aside and put themselves in the best situation to win?

I expect Tatum to have a better run towards the playoffs than some would think considering he’s had an underwhelming season. Jaylen Brown still has work to do to get me on his side. He is incredibly inconsistent offensively and I hope that improves.

Kyrie can make the most of out of his time here and beyond if he’d like to. In true current superstar NBA fashion he is a diva though. Basketball is not his only interest going forward.

I believe if the Celtics play hard and are healthy they can beat any team in the Eastern Conference. If they got out of the East, the daunting Golden State Warriors would most likely be their opponent and I do not see the Celtics beating that team. One thing every Celtics fan can expect is Gordon Hayward to look a lot better. I have faith in that.


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