Welcome to our end of the year, beginning of the new year, Celtics Reset! Time to reset, recharge, and reload. Time to take on the new year, and any new challenges it might bring. For the Celtics, it’s a big of a break. Not only do they have a nice little layoff here, and a chance to recharge. But they also say goodbye to a December that flew them around the world and back, and hello to a January that features a fair share of games at home. As 2016 has come to pass, and 2017 is just beginning, let’s look at a general assessment of where the Celtics are. And look ahead to where they might be going.
Isaiah Thomas has clearly taken his game up a notch so far this season. Entire posts have, and can still be, dedicated to that topic.
Looking at the month of December specifically, Isaiah was on fire. Isaiah averaged 30. 3 points and 5. 9 assists per game in December. While playing only 33. 8 minutes per game. He shot over 48% from the field and over 38% from three.
Isaiah Thomas’s competition for December Player of the Month. Was his scoring enough to fend off LeBron?
– Chris Forsberg (@ESPNForsberg) January 1, 2017
Avery Bradley has also picked up his level of play this season. Just look at the fact that Avery Bradley is leading the team in rebounding with 7. 1 boards per game. Avery is also a much improved offensive player this season, scoring nearly 18 points per game. One might even argue that it is Avery Bradley, and not Al Horford, that is the Celtics’ most important player not named Isaiah Thomas.
Marcus Smart has improved tremendously as a passer. He’s also improved his shooting efficiency from the corners and from mid-range. While Smart still has a long way to go to be an efficient offensive player overall, the progress he’s making is a good sign for the Celtics’ future.
Amir Johnson has been somewhat of a disappointment this season to many. His contributions are mostly outside the box score. And on a team that struggles rebounding the basketball, it is fair to point at the team’s bigs and wonder if they should be performing better. However Amir has also shown signs of improvement recently.
Jonas Jerebko has shot the lights out, and even earned a few starts over the aforementioned Amir Johnson. There is probably some regression to the mean in store for Jonas, but he has shown he can be an important and capable role player for the celtics.His athleticism, length, and defensive versatility are as valuable to the team as his shooting.
As the new year progresses Brad Stevens will continue to tighten his rotation and look for the right combinations. Gerald Green and Terry Rozier are currently in a battle for minutes, and Amir Johnson and Jonas Jerebko are competing for the 5th spot in the starting lineup. The new year will also bring us to, and eventually passed, the trade deadline. Which could end up changing everything. (Or we could end up standing pat. Another topic for another day. )
December Road Games
Celtics December stats:10 road games
12,000 air miles
30 hours in the sky
8 nights sleeping in own bed
– Chris Forsberg (@ESPNForsberg) December 31, 2016
Looking back at the Celtics most recent month of play, the Celtics sure had to play a ton of road games. That’s one reason to be excited about the New Year too, as they’ll be back in the TD Garden a lot more this month. However, the Celtics proved themselves to be road warriors last month.
The Celtics are 12-8 on the road this season. That’s good for . 600 win percentage and the second-best road record in the East behind Toronto. The Celtics were 10-6 overall in the month of December, and 6-4 on the road.
The Celtics have some work to do to improve their home record, though. There’s a good New Year’s resolution for the Celtics: Defend Home-Court. Brad Stevens wants to see his team keep their foot on the gas. From ESPN’s Chris Forsberg:
Before the Celtics settled in for a rare three-day break, Stevens was asked if it’s nice to reach the finish line after a long December.It’s nice to see your family, said Stevens. And yet he has repeatedly implored his team not to downshift too much heading into January, when the Celtics will play only four road games and travel a mere 5,500 miles despite the fact that none of the road games is blocked together.
I don’t ever think that there’s a finish line, because if you take your foot off the gas in this league, you’ll get pounded. I just think you have to stay in that rhythm of preparation all the time. Certainly, you have to get your rest physically. But I think emotionally you have to stay in that kind of season rhythm.
Conference Standings and January Home Games
As we flip our calendars the Celtics stand at 3rd in the East behind Toronto and Cleveland. The guys in green will play 18 games in January, 14 of them at home. The Celtics are 6 games behind the Cleveland Cavaliers and 3 games behind the Toronto Raptors.
The Celtics are only 8-6 at home so far, however that includes home losses to San Antonio and Golden State. That includes games from the beginning of the season when the Celtics were without Kelly Olynyk, Al Horford, and Jae Crowder. If the Celtics can improve at home in January, there’s a chance they can gain some ground in the Conference standings.
The Celtics will start 2017 off with a home game against the Utah Jazz. They’ll stay at home for tilts with the Sixers and the Pelicans.
From there they play an important road game against Toronto.
The Celtics will also play the Hawks, Hornets, Knicks, the Wizards twice, The Blazers, Rockets, Magic, Bucks and Pistons.
The Bucks, Wizards, Hawks, and Raptors are the only road games on the schedule for the Celtics in January.
After opening the season better than most people expected the Nets have since fallen back down to Earth. From Hardwood Houdini:
The Nets are 3-11 [in December] as this is being written, with one more game on tap against the (somewhat) surging Wizards. That’s very bad, and it leaves them with an overall record of 8-23, just one game ahead of the last place Sixers. Brooklyn ran into a number of good opponents throughout the month, so their lack of success was not entirely unpredictable. It’s still not particularly palatable, though, and any reasons Nets fans might have had for hope are fleeting.Through the first two months of the season, Brooklyn was able to win one game for every two they lost. That’s bad, but it would have produced a twenty-seven win season, enough to keep the team from the sadness of a last place finish, and maybe enough to make a delusional homer feel slightly less depressed about the future. That level of “competency” disappeared in December, and the Nets are now on pace to finish the season with twenty-one victories, a mark that would likely challenge for the dubious honor of worst in the league.
Brooklyn was never supposed to be anything but a bottom three team, so maybe this is just an actualization of that reality. It’s ugly regardless. The Nets are rank 24th and 28th in offensive and defensive efficiency respectively, and they’ve got just three rotation players with above-average PERs. One of those three is Jeremy Lin, who has managed to play in only twelve of the team’s game, and has no time table set for his return from a second hamstring injury incurred on Monday.
We’ve reached a point in the NBA season where teams are beginning to find their grooves. Sadly, for Brooklyn, the Nets “groove” seems to be as bad as anticipated. They’ve been bad all year, but December was by far their worst month. Sadness is high, and Celtics fan’s confidence in their upcoming pick and pick swap should be too.
Next Opponent – Utah Jazz
The Celtics’ next opponent is the Utah Jazz. The Jazz have had a tough but successful season. Their record stands at 21-13. Despite having their own fair share of injury trouble they rank fourth in the Western Conference.
The currently boast the league’s best mark in Opponent Points Per Game. They play a slow paced, tough defensive style of basketball. They don’t score a ton of points, grab a lot of rebounds, or register many assists however. (Partially due to their slow pace.)