Boston takes on Charlotte tonight in Boston, where the Celtics will be looking to turn up the heat. Boston has lost 4 of their last 5 games, but all four losses were against top ten teams. The combined record of San Antonio, Houston, Oklahoma City, and Toronto, who are responsible for those four losses, is 33-7 in their last ten games. Three of those games were without the Celtics top offensive player and fourth quarter specialist, Isaiah Thomas. The one loss that he did play in was the one where his was injured in, and likely played through the pain in a tough loss.
Boston welcomes back Isaiah
The Celtics get their leading scorer back tonight, but it’s unclear whether he is 100%. Thomas is the type of player that is easy to root for because he wants to be on the floor every second of every game. He’s tough and determined, which is great, but being so early in the season there is no need to rush anything. Hopefully, he has completely recovered from his strain, and hits the floor running. Either way, it will be a boost to the Celtics to have Thomas suited up and ready to play.
With Isaiah back, Smart goes back to the bench
Marcus Smart will go back to the sixth man role with the return of Thomas. Smart did a solid job manning the point guard duties in IT’s absence. He scored about 12 points a game, dished out just over 5 assists a game, and pulled in about 4 rebounds per contest. Smart’s best game was against Orlando where he worked hard at getting to the free throw line, and took high percentage shots.
He really needs to take a break from shooting more than a few threes a game. Smart has a nice mid-range shot, and is a decent scorer down low. Plus the defense doesn’t need to press to defend Marcus outside of the three point line, but they do down low. Do I think Smart will become a decent outside shooter? Yes, but only because the NBA has a history of players improving their three point shot. I look for Smart to be ultra aggressive tonight, and use the pump fake from three point territory to open up some lanes. He has done a great job getting guys open looks lately, and that all starts with going in the paint.
The offense needs to keep moving the ball
Boston has climbed up to the 3rd best team league-wide in assists per game. They’re only behind Houston and Golden State. Charlotte isn’t too far behind, as they are currently ranked 7th. Great passing is a beautiful thing to watch in the NBA, so tonight’s game should be a real fun one if both teams live up to their rankings.
For the Celtics, they need to stick with running plays, and moving the ball side to side. They have had a habit of forgetting to move the ball for 5-7 minutes stretches, and the offense tends to stagnate. Their inconsistent ball movement is one of the main reasons teams have managed to erase leads, or sustain leads this season.
I’m ready for Mickey to see some playing time
Outside of Al Horford, the Celtics have had a lot of inconsistent play from their bigs. Zeller’s minutes have been very minimal. Amir’s minutes have fluctuated a lot, and might have the lowest minutes per game for any player starting over 20 games. Olynyk has been a bit of a disappointment, as he hasn’t score double digits this month. Jerebko has been one of the more consistent players lately, but his outside shot hasn’t been falling the last few games. All four of those guys are big question marks when it comes to playing for the Celtics beyond this season. So, why not give Mickey some more chances to break out of shell. He is an energy guy who has a decent mid-range shot, and can protect the paint at times.