All season long we have read that there was a playoff atmosphere in many of the Celtics games this season. The Celtics seemed to be playing all out all season long. We only had a couple of let ups during the season. One was those 3 games right after the All Star game when KG was just coming back from his injury. Another was the back to back losses to the Wizards. And a third was the loss to the Bobcats. Now the playoffs are here and the action is going to ratchet up a notch. Do the Celtics have yet another gear that they can take their game to for the playoffs? Or do they really need one?
Just to put the season into a little persepective, here are a few statistics. The Celtics lost to only 1 sub 500 team this season, and that was the Bobcats game. They lost only 3 games by double figures and the average margin that they lost by was only 6. They won their games by an average margin of 14.3 and won by double digits a whopping 45 times. They won by 20 or more 22 times. They also beat every team in the league at least once. They went 6-0 against the powerful Texas teams and they went 25-5 against Western Conference teams.
In the playoffs, defense becomes even more important than in the regular season. The Celtics have been absolutely dominant on the defensive end this whole season. They were first in opponents points per game, First in lowest opponents field goal percentage, lowest in opponents field goal percentage, First in opponents fewest fast break points, and allowed fewest points in the paints. The Celtics led the league in virtually every defensive category. Tracy McGrady said that the Celtics defense was the best he had ever seen. As good as the Celtics defense has been, I expect it to be even better in the playoffs.
The Celtics stars are coming into the playoffs well rested. The bench has also gotten some valuable experience and have built their confidence over the second half of the season. Over the last two weeks, the Celtics have been playing the bench more and more, including down the stretch of big games, and they are 9-1 in that stretch.
It seems as though the Celtics have been playing in playoff gear for the entire season. They have been stressing defense whereas most teams don't ramp up their defense until the playoffs. They have been playing with a purpose and intensity that have rarely been seen in the regular season. They faced the best of every team as teams got up for the Celtics and gave those games their all. When the games really mattered, we saw the Celtics ramp up their games and pull out the wins. We saw it in the Detroit games, in the Texas games and in several others. They stepped it up when they had to.
The playoffs are completely different from the regular season. The Celtics will face defenses that they haven't seen in the regular season. Games weigh much more heavily on scouting, individual matchups and exploiting the opponents weaknesses. It becomes a chess game between coaching staffs. I believe that the team will be able to turn their games up a notch. We rarely saw all three have great games at the same time. I think we will see this in the playoffs, however. The three stars are so hungry for a ring that their play will be off the charts, even more so than the regular season. The Celtics role players have grown in leaps and bounds this season and the Celtics now have one of the deepest benches in the playoffs. Hopefully, Doc is up to the task of scouting and adjusting from game to game to make use of the team's play. I also feel that with Tom Thibodeau plus the veteran players who will give their input, the coaching will be fine. The Celtics do have another gear and I have a feeling that it is going to be very exciting when we get to see it.