The 2020–21 Boston Celtics epitomize the dullness of this pandemic. Throughout the unorthodox NBA season, the Celtics have looked lethargic and uninspired while losing various star players to avoidable injuries. Coming in with expectations to make a run to the NBA Finals, the Celtics have been far from a playoff team through most of the season. Defensive breakdowns and poor shot selection headline their laundry list of weaknesses as well as their inconsistent star players.
Currently sitting eighth in the Eastern Conference, the Celtics are a “play-in” team rather than a playoff team. Although they are currently a game and a half above the 10th-seeded Indiana Pacers, the Celtics’ grip on a playoff spot seems to be slipping right before their very eyes; the No. 9 Chicago Bulls recently picked up Nikola Vucevic and are poised to make a playoff push, while the Pacers are actively redeeming their “lost” season. The Celtics have been fortunate enough to not be the eighth seed this late in the season for the last couple of seasons — that has changed. The Boston Celtics fanbase, myself included, has an uneasy feeling about the fate of this Celtics team.
I know that I am extremely pessimistic when it comes to any Boston sports team (just read any of my Red Sox articles). However, I truly believe that the Celtics should not be counted out this season — at least not yet. With 22 games remaining, the Cs have the potential to go on a massive winning streak and squeak into a top-four playoff seed; they play a banged-up Charlotte Hornets team twice and the scuffling Minnesota Timberwolves twice. With its relatively easy schedule to wrap up the season, Boston can build up some confidence with a handful of winnable games down the stretch.
Regardless of their light schedule, the Celtics roster is finally reaching some of the potential that NBA pundits raved about in the offseason. Robert Williams III has ascended into a starting center role and newcomer Evan Fournier has caught fire as of late; Payton Pritchard is ahead of schedule regarding his development and is a key cog on the second unit. Although Jayson Tatum is still feeling the residual effects of his bout with COVID-19, his play has gained some energy over the past few games. Kemba Walker and Marcus Smart are overall having disappointing seasons, but have picked up their play in the past week. All signs point to a positive trend line for this lineup in the last month of the season.
Although the lineup has looked more like a playoff contender as of late, it’s still speculative to say that this team can find themselves again and make a surprise run in the playoffs; the team lacks energy and spark during the fourth quarter, which is crucial to becoming a serious playoff team. I still believe they are capable of reaching their full potential and unlocking an extra gear in the postseason; maybe I’m just a hopeless fan creating dream scenarios, but it’s entirely possible the Celtics can be “good” again — it all depends on if they truly want to reach that nirvana.