In the aftermath of the Boston Celtics’ 51-point win over the Indiana Pacers on Wednesday night, a game in which the Celtics scored 155 points and were handing out buckets like leftover Halloween candy, Jrue Holiday offered a chill-inducing suggestion for the rest of the NBA.
“I think that we can get to another level,” said Holiday.
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Boston’s new-look starting five with the offseason additions of Holiday and Kristaps Porzingis has a +37.3 net rating in 72 minutes together. Boston’s starters have outscored opponents by 58 points in that span while shooting 57.4 percent from the floor and 45.3 percent beyond the 3-point arc. The Celtics lead the NBA with a 124.8 offensive rating that would be 6.2 points per 100 possessions better than any team in NBA history.
The Celtics' starters have been so dominant in the first three quarters of the past two games that they’ve clocked out before the fourth frame. That seemed rare in past seasons. The top six got to enjoy their first -- but certainly not last -- Gino Time of the season on Wednesday night at TD Garden.
That group has another level to get to? Have mercy.
When Wednesday’s butt-kicking was complete, Pacers coach Rick Carlisle put the blame on himself. He apologized for not having his team ready for the challenge.
The only person with Indiana ties who ought to be apologizing is Brad Stevens. Boston had a whole bunch of reasons to be content to run back last year’s core with hopes that a drama-devoid season might propel them back to the title stage. Instead, Stevens reshaped the core by dealing Marcus Smart and Robert Williams III to acquire Porzingis and Holiday.
Those arrivals, combined with the continued development of All-NBA wings Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown and the further blossoming of Stevens’ 2022 trade acquisition, Derrick White, has seemingly already boosted Boston to another level.
But Holiday has the audacity to suggest there are even more gears to go.
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Tatum spends his days working on post moves with new assistant Sam Cassell and won’t stop bullying opponents at night. His new shot chart should hang in the Louvre. Jaylen Brown shrugged off some opening-night struggles and reminded everyone of his All-NBA ways on Monday night in D.C.
White can be a focal point -- like leading Boston on both ends against Miami -- or someone who simply elevates everyone else around him. Holiday and Porzingis seem content to give the game what it needs and have not forced anything with their new teams. Horford has accepted a backup role which could ease the process of keeping him in top health at age 37.
We worried about a letdown against an inferior opponent when the Celtics visited the Wizards. Outside of some bench woes in the fourth quarter, Boston dominated that game.
We worried about a downshift when the Pacers ruled Tyrese Haliburton out on Wednesday night. Boston scored 75 points in the first half — the first time they’ve reached that mark in consecutive games in team history — and the bench atoned for its transgressions with a big fourth frame.
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Even at their peak powers in recent seasons, there’s usually been something to nitpick with these Celtics. You’d really be reaching to find anything worrisome through the first four games.
That’s not to say we won’t look back at this article in a day, a week, a month, or even a year and scoff at how absurdly Pollyannaish this likely reads. A three-game losing streak will hit sooner than later and then we’ll really find out about these Celtics.
When the bright lights of the playoffs arrive, will the Celtics be able to take care of business? Or will the burden of expectations weigh on them again? Will this team eventually fall back into bad habits that routinely complicated their quest for Banner 18?
Until then, 98-0 remains in play. Especially if Holiday is right that this group can get to another level.