YOUNG: Who do you attribute the Celtics turnaround to? Maybe it was someone they were reading | Celtics

At the beginning of January, I wrote a particularly vicious column condemning the lackluster season submitted by your Boston Celtics.

It was written two days after watching my first game of the season and watching the C’s lose to a San Antonio team that entered the game at 14-22 and lost four straight. Worse for Spurs that night, they played the second night in a row, while the Celtics rested comfortably at home for two straight nights.

As if that weren’t enough, a night later Boston lost a 25-point lead to the hapless Knicks, and when I took up the pen 11 weeks ago, so to speak, those lifeless, under- performers were 18-21 and sat in 11th place in the NBA Eastern Conference, without even qualifying for the postseason playoffs at that time.

I wrote: “The 2021-22 Boston Celtics have become one of the most hated teams in these regions since perhaps the Boston Red Sox in 2001. A close second? Probably the 2020-21 Boston Celtics. »

Now, I don’t know if any of the C players or coaches read that little diary from Attleboro, Massachusetts, but something clicked for the organization the following night with a resounding 24-point win over those same Knicks . And while it would take Boston another three weeks to top .500 once and for all for the season, what Green fans have witnessed over the past two months has been nothing short of staggering and remarkable.

Since Jan. 21, the Celtics have gone 23-4 and are widely considered the hottest and most dangerous team in the NBA right now. Oh, they’ve had a few hiccups along the way, none more embarrassing and unusual than their one-point home loss to a terrible Pistons team heading into All-Star Weekend in mid-February. But lately, they regularly destroy teams, and even very good teams, as they did in the 45-27 Jazz at TD Garden on Wednesday. Boston has also, during this hot spell, eliminated Atlantic Division leader Miami (by 30!), the talented Nets (three times, by a total of 64 points) and the second, third, fourth and sixth places. Western teams: the Grizzlies, Warriors, Jazz and Nuggets, respectively,

And I even got to see this Celtics juggernaut in person in late January when they were still hovering around .500, playing a pretty bad Sacramento team. Yes, Boston should have won under most circumstances against this Kings team, but fans were stunned as Boston took a 33-7 lead in the first quarter and at one point led by 60 points (128-68) late. in the match en route to a 128-75 victory.

Oh, they went back to their wildly inconsistent ways two nights later in a 16-point road loss to Atlanta, but since then the Cs have been by far the best team in the league.

What is responsible for the reversal? Well, the simple answer is that big-name players have been playing at a more selfless level over the past few months, and their defensive tenacity as a team has skyrocketed. Wednesday’s performance against the Jazz is a case in point: Boston made its first 10 shots, drilled 12 three-pointers in the first half alone and finished with 37 assists, the most the Cs have. distributed in a single match in over three years. After starting the season playing a scrappy style of basketball, the Celtics have become a tight-knit group, and since the Feb. 10 trade deadline, they lead the NBA in offensive efficiency at 120.9 points per 100 possessions; they ranked 20th in the same stat at the end of January, but climbed to 11th following their recent hot streak.

Before the All-Stars break, Boston was averaging 14.1 turnovers per game, the 16th-worst in the league, but since the break they’ve only averaged 11.2 per game, the second-best in all. the NBA. Other relevant stats: Before the break, the Celtics’ most-under was 5.4; since then they are more than 12 years old; before the break they were shooting just 45.3% from the field, 21st best; they’ve since shot 49.6, good for fourth-best; from three-point field, Boston improved from 34.4 percent (21st) to 38.4 (sixth); unsurprisingly, thanks to improved shooting, they went from averaging 108 points per game to 117. Even better, their assists went from 23.6 per game (19th in the NBA) to 27.3 ( fifth).

But the defense has also improved by leaps and bounds. Boston allowed 111.2 points per game (12th best) last season, but this season the Celts lead the league with just 103.8. You can still count on solid defensive efforts from Marcus Smart and Robert Williams, but the Celtics are also getting better results from their star players, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. The latter pair’s change of attitude on sharing the ball has also led to the resurgence of the team.

Heading into the weekend, the Celtics at 46-28 are just a game and a half behind conference-leading Miami. With just eight games remaining in the regular season, no one would be surprised if Boston challenges for the top seed, or even takes second place, which would likely earn them a first-round series with the surprising Chicago Bulls, who as recently as Feb. 4 led the Eastern Conference with a 33-19 record, but has been pretty pedestrian since, going 9-12.

Boston should rightly be worried about playing the defending champion Bucks, or even the unpredictable but talented Nets. However, if things turn out in Boston’s favor, these two teams could end up facing each other in the first round, with one knocked out and the other tired and stoned after a seven-game physical streak, then face off. a Boston team playing the best of any team right now.

So a lot has changed since Jan. 7, when I concluded my rant with, “A little less selfishness, a little more heart, and maybe the Boston Celtics will be big again. Right now, they’re worth hating, and certainly worth ignoring.

Well, they won’t and can’t be ignored any longer if they keep playing that way – a style of play that could lead them to the NBA Eastern Conference Finals, and maybe beyond. of the.