Isaiah Thomas was excellent leading up to the All-Star break. The point guard averaged 29.9 PPG and 6.3 APG as he helped the Boston Celtics jump out to a 37-20 record and a second place ranking in the Eastern Conference behind the defending champion Cleveland Cavaliers.
But the most impressive thing about this Celtics team might be how the entire roster has pulled together. Thomas has seen his scoring average, field goal percentage, three point percentage and assist average have all decreased since the All-Star break but this team has still been able to rally their way into first place with just six games to go.
The epic fourth quarters are even gone too; Boston hasn’t won the final frame since March 15th and they’re a very solid 8-2 in those games since.
With both Thomas and second leading scorer Avery Bradley – who has battled both injuries and sickness throughout the season’s second half – seeing a drop in their scoring averages since the break, everyone else has stepped up and done their part to make this team better.
Nobody’s game has seemingly improved more than rookie Jaylen Brown. The reigning third overall pick showed flashes of what he could be during the first part of his rookie campaign, but he still went into the All-Star break shooting 42.7% from the field and 30.4% from beyond the arc. His second half spark in playing time does have a lot to do with Bradley being in-and-out of the lineup, but he’s proven that he deserves to keep those minutes even when everybody is healthy by shooting 50.8% from the floor in the second half.
Kelly Olynyk is also shooting over 50% from the floor since the All-Star break as he’s found ways to step up his game and become a major part of a full team effort. What’s even more impressive is that the floor stretching center is that he’s actually been a less effective floor stretcher in recent weeks, shooting below 30% from beyond the arc since the break while still raising his overall shooting percentage.
If somebody told you at the All-Star break that Thomas would be a less effective player in the second half while Bradley would continue to be in-and-out of the lineup, there’s no way you’d assume they jumped into first place but here they are. It’s not just Brown and Olynyk too. Although their contributions have been the easiest to notice, guys like Amir Johnson, Marcus Smart and Jae Crowder have also done big things as well. Big free agent haul Al Horford has shined in unexpected ways as well and he’s the team’s assist leader since the All-Star break by almost two full assists.
Boston might be in their hottest stretch of the season right now. They’ve won nine of 11 while beaten teams with a lot more to play for in terms of just making the postseason like the Miami Heat, Indiana Pacers and Chicago Bulls in the process. That 11 game span doesn’t even cover a very impressive road win in which the Celtics held the Golden State Warriors to under 90 points; that was 13 games ago.
A true team effort has helped the Celtics force their way into the top spot right now and it’s a great thing to see. Pure team basketball pushing Boston towards first!