Forsberg: Four encouraging late-season trends for the C’s originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston
After spending most of the past three months at the top of the NBA, Boston The Celtics dropped to second in the Eastern Conference with Monday’s loss in New York.
The Celtics are not the offensive players they were for most of the first quarter of the season. Despite some bumps in the road, the team is still on a 56-game winning streak and there are still positives to take away as the team tries to find its groove in the final stretch of the 2022-23 regular season.
Celtics Talk POSTGAME UNDER: Jayson Tatum ejected on a frustrating night for the C’s in the loss The Knicks | Listen and subscribe
Here are four encouraging trends as the Celtics prepare for a 20-game sprint with Milwaukee Bucks which could determine the top seed in the Eastern Conference:
+37.2: Net rating of Boston without Jayson Tatum since the All-Star break
Even though Tatum has struggled with his shot since his MVP performance at All-Star weekend, this still seems like a tipfeller, right?
No, the Celtics have been outscored by 32 points in Tatum’s team-high 115 minutes on the floor in the three games since the break. Moreover, Boston outscored opponents by 24 in Tatum’s 34 minutes on the bench.
Encouraging spin here: The Celtics are showing their depth and thriving in non-Tatum minutes, something this team has struggled with in recent seasons. Boston has a minus-0.2 net rating in Tatum’s 855 total minutes on the bench this year. This is one of the reasons why Tatum had a lot of minutes with the coach Joe Mazzulla feeling the need to keep him on the floor in order to win.
If the Celtics can continue to keep their heads above water in non-Tatum minutes after he returns to play as an MVP candidate, then they will be extremely hard to beat.
51.9: Malcolm Brogdon3-point percentage in Boston’s last 11 games
Brogdon leads the NBA while shooting 46.4 percent from beyond the arc, and his numbers have only increased in recent weeks.
When the Celtics rolled to seven wins in eight games starting in early February, Brogdon connected on 20-of-34 (58.8 percent) 3-pointers.
In his last 11 games, Brogdon is averaging 17.1 points while shooting 54.8 percent overall, including 51.9 percent from beyond the 3-point arc.
Three of Brogdon’s top five performances in game scoring, a metric created by John Hollinger that distills a player’s nightly stats into a single number based on box score production and efficiency, came in that 11-game streak. Brogdon had a monster night (24 points on 9-of-12 shooting with five 3-pointers) while posting a season-best 25.8 against Pacers. His game score of 23.1 vs Detroit Pistons just before the All-Star break it ranked as his third-best mark of the year.
Brogdon certainly appears to be tightening his grip on the Sixth Man of the Year award, though he has repeatedly stated that his focus is on winning the title.
+117: Derrick Whiteteam-leading plus/minus for February
White, who earned well-deserved Player of the Week honors earlier this month, has been outstanding throughout February. At +117, he sat behind only the Denver duo Nikola Jokic and Michael Porter Jr. going into action on Tuesday.
It’s even more remarkable when you consider the performance of his teammates. The next closest Celtic for the month of February is Sam Hauser at +70. The next closest regular is Al Horford at almost half of White’s performance (+59).
White, despite his own bumps, bruises, cuts and a burst eardrum, is still the only Celtics player to appear in every game this season. In February, he is averaging 20.4 points on 50 percent shooting from the floor and 44.3 percent from beyond the 3-point arc, adding 5.8 assists, 4.4 rebounds, 0.7 blocks and 0.6 steals per game.
In a stretch where the Celtics were ravaged by injuries, White kept the team afloat and kept his foot off the gas pedal when the team was closer to full health after the break.
53: Minute Boston’s preferred starting 5 this season
Boston’s preferred starting five logged just 29 minutes combined before the All-Star break, including one start. The good news: That group already has two starts (and a combined 24 minutes) in the three games since the break.
The bad news: That lineup really struggled with a minus-11.8 net rating over 53 total minutes. Despite some encouraging moments, particularly when moving the ball on offense, the favored 5 struggled to rally. Especially on the defensive side, they look a little like the group that routinely caught opponents at the end of last season.
Forsberg: Are the Celtics suffering from midseason problems?
We’re feeling pretty confident and suggest they’ll return closer to the strong lineup that powered Boston to the playoffs last season. The key is simply staying healthy enough to rekindle that magic before the regular season mark.
Visit on Wednesday from Cleveland Cavaliers should provide another look at that group. Given the way the Cavaliers have used their size to prevail in two meetings early in the season Robert Williams III has been recovering from offseason knee surgery, Wednesday could be a good indicator of how the field has lined up with Boston’s preferred 5 available. Remember, the Cavaliers could be a second-round opponent for Boston, depending on how the seeds stack up.
The more important part here: The Celtics were rarely at full health during the first half of the season – going 25 games without one starter, 16 games without two starters and another 6 games without three or more starters. That’s nearly 80 percent of Boston’s first 59 games without at least one starter on the field.
Better health could provide the consistency this team has lacked as of late.