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Celtics Check-In 2019 - Halftime

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We’re just past the halfway point of this NBA season and the Boston Celtics have not been living up to expectations.

After 43 games played, the Celtics sit at 25-18, a mere seven games over .500 and a record good for just fifth place in the Eastern Conference. Worse, all four of the teams above them look poised to continue their relative success going forward.

It’s not all bad – the team has actually played significantly better since hitting the quarter-pole at a mediocre 11-10. It’s just that this team looked ready to take a big leap forward after last season’s successes. Instead, the C’s have stumbled backwards, though they might still find a way to turn it all around.

Let’s check in.

Leading the way as usual is Kyrie Irving, who is putting up his usual sheet-filling numbers. He’s scoring nearly 23 points per game and 6.4 assists – both numbers put him in the NBA’s top-20. He’s scoring those points by making nearly half his shots and almost 40 percent of this threes. All this while also hauling down almost five rebounds a game and pulling two stocks (steals plus blocks). He’s even taking care of the ball pretty well in terms of turnovers. While his defense runs hot and cold, he’s been a bit better.

Jayson Tatum is the only player to start every game thus far for the Celtics. He hasn’t stepped up quite like we thought he would, but he’s having a solid season. He’s scoring 16.6 points a game and is good for over six boards and close to two assists on top of that. He hasn’t shot quite as well as he did last year, but his percentages still hold up. We’ll see if he can elevate his game to something closer to what we expected in the season’s second half.

What can I say? I love Al Horford. The dude is putting up a per-game line of 11.5 points/6.2 rebounds/3.9 assists and playing strong defense. He’s averaging over one block and just shy of one steal per game. Oh, and he makes half his shots. What’s not to love?

Jaylen Brown might be one of the bigger disappointments of the season thus far. Superficially, his stats don’t look terrible (12.3/4.1/1.5), but those numbers hide a performance that lags significantly behind what he brought to the table last year. He’s a talented player, but he’s having real trouble shooting the basketball, which is a problem when you’re the shooting guard. Here’s hoping he can find his place in the rotation before his entire season is lost.

Marcus Morris has been a revelation for the Celtics, providing much-needed production from the power forward slot. Not only is he averaging over 15 points per game (third on the team and a career high) and six rebounds, but he’s become a significant defensive presence. Dude is shooting nearly 45 percent on threes … and he’s taking more than five per game!

Seems weird that it has taken us this long to get to Gordon Hayward, but, well … there you go. Hayward’s numbers aren’t anything particularly impressive (10.9/4.8/3.5) and he looks like someone who hasn’t fully recovered from injury. He’s showing flashes, but he needs to be closer to the guy Boston thought they were signing to justify the 26 minutes a game he’s playing.

Other bench guys are playing well. Marcus Smart is hovering around an 8/3/4 line with solid defense and nearly two steals per. Terry Rozier has been fine as well, though his shooting hasn’t been great.

And of course, Brad Stevens, whose coaching acumen doesn’t appear to be as pronounced this season. It seems as though he may have struggled a bit in finding player rotations that work; there are a lot of guys who deserve some run and only a limited number of minutes to distribute. If he prioritizes team chemistry and figures out a couple of workable alternate crunch-time lineups, he and the team will be in good shape.

This team seems to still be figuring out its identity. There’s a lot to parse – a superstar leading the way, an injured star battling his way back, a couple of youngsters dealing with growing pains – but there’s no reason to think the Celtics won’t work their way through. Don’t be surprised if this team makes its way into the Eastern Conference top-three by season’s end.

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