The Boston Celtics are 18 games into their quest for Banner 18, and so far their 2023-24 season has lived up to the hype.
They own the top spot in the Eastern Conference with a 13-4 record as of Wednesday. With a 27-point win over the Chicago Bulls, they advanced to the knockout stage of the NBA In-Season Tournament.
Kristaps Porzingis has been everything the Celtics had hoped he'd be when they acquired him in a three-way trade in June. Fellow prized offseason addition Jrue Holiday has fit in seamlessly alongside Derrick White in the backcourt.
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🔊 Celtics Talk: What we've learned about the Celtics through the first 1/4 of the season | Listen & Subscribe | Watch on YouTube
There's plenty of season left, but all signs currently point toward the C's being the juggernaut they were expected to be heading into the campaign. On a new episode of the Celtics Talk Podcast, Chris Forsberg and Cerrone Battle assessed the first quarter of the season while sharing the most encouraging and most concerning takeaways from the C's performance thus far.
Battle: "The guards, man. It's Derrick White, it's (Jrue) Holiday. They're elite, man. It's a great defensive backcourt. Offensively, their pace, their rhythm, they're finding spots, moving the ball, playing off the superstars. They're playing with the bench guys. That, to me, is the most encouraging, most promising thing is the other guys.
"Al Horford, to me, has been fantastic as well. So, the others around the superstars playing their role instead of watching those guys get 100 every night combined. They're filling in and playing their roles and carrying this team during major stretches."
Forsberg: "Thirty-eight lineups have played 75 minutes together this season. The C's have a +27 net rating with that starting group. That is the best in the NBA. ... The chunks we have seen (from Boston's starting lineup) have been really, really encouraging.
"The bench has started to make some strides. ... We talk about depth and we obsess about the backup quarterbacks and all that, but end of the day, it's your starting five that decide whether you make the ultimate goal of winning an NBA title. It's your superstars that carry you. Sometimes I get lost and I obsess about Payton Pritchard and Sam Hauser, and they're super important. But man, it comes down to Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Derrick White, all those guys doing that thing, and that first group has been really, really good."
Battle: "The only concern is when they have these stretches where they just get too 3-point happy. Especially when (Kristaps) Porzingis is there. It's just stretches and moments when they've taken 50-plus 3s or 40-plus 3s. It's the moments where Porzingis has to mismatch. ... They get caught in moments where they get a missed-3 offensive rebound, kick it out again, and they miss three, four, five, six in a row, and you're like, 'Man, you've got this big 7-footer down there that's a bucket in the paint.'"
Forsberg: "Sometimes when you throw it in the post it doesn't work, but like you said, when Porzingis is out there especially, you've gotta take advantage of those opportunities. It's just nights where, and we know in the playoffs, it's not going to look as it good against the Chicago Bulls, who give up a million 3s and let you have wide-open looks. It's really encouraging when the team sort of knows it and makes an effort. ... I think you nailed my biggest concern."
Also in the episode:
- Which player has most exceeded expectations?
- How are we feeling about Joe Mazzulla?
- What’s one move you’d like to see Brad Stevens make?
- Why the In-Season Tournament is must-see TV