For the Celtics, everything has gone as expected—at least thus far.

With the best record in the NBA and a six-game lead over the Cavaliers in second place in the Eastern Conference, the Celtics are 43-12 at the All-Star break.


So this is what’s meant to be “going according to plan.”


Your 2023–24 Boston Celtics are leading the Eastern Conference by six games over the Cavaliers, who are in second place, and by 4½ games over the Minnesota Timberwolves for the best record in the league during the NBA All-Star break.

They’ve only lost twelve games and won forty-three. There have been three overtime losses. Only four have been inside double digits, and four have come within three points or less.


Not every game is won by them. However, they mostly succeed. Furthermore, even the ones they do lose don’t usually escape them.


The figures attest to their excellence. The Celtics rank first in the league in terms of offensive rating (121.7), third in terms of defensive rating (111.5), and first in terms of net rating (plus-10.2).


And for those who like to think analytically: The Celtics have won by an average of 50 points when Derrick White and Jayson Tatum wear headbands during games. That is rather good. Consider using the Slick Watts look more frequently.


Additional facts: The Celtics have been lucky to maintain their health and have been wise enough to rest players when necessary—and occasionally even when they don’t.


To the benefit of the team, their greatest players have genuinely attempted—and done so with a respectable success rate—to resist personal temptations.


Tatum, White, Jaylen Brown, Kristaps Porzingis, Jrue Holiday, Ageless Al Horford, and Jaylen Brown make up their top six, which is more talented than any other lineup in the NBA. To make matters worse, their skills compliment one other, largely due to the unselfish guards White and Holiday.


And the friendship? Perfect.


To miss out on the opportunity to have the 14th 60-win season in franchise history and the first since 2008–09, the Celtics would need to finish 16–11 or worse over the next 27 games.


It’s challenging to resist picking apart and overthinking every bad thing that occurs throughout an 82-game season. That is essentially what we do in this area. And a lot of us don’t want to refrain from criticizing at all, highlighting the shortcomings and downplaying the positive aspects.


Well, I do have a complaint. Is it possible for us to cease using the accomplishments of Bill Russell and Larry Bird to minimize the impact that 25-year-old Tatum is making?

It’s an unjust benchmark. We can debate the ranking of the greatest basketball players of all time, but Russell and Bird are two of the best eight. In American team sports history, Russell is the ultimate victor, and Bird is as adored as any player from Boston has ever been or ever will be. If Tatum were to somehow outperform him in any way, who in this place would ever admit it? (You probably weren’t aware that Tatum’s career 3-point percentage of 37.4 is 0.2 points worse than Bird’s 37.6.)


At times, we permit the legends and specters from the unmatched Celtics past to eclipse the present-day players. Never again will it be that great. No, it most likely won’t since nothing has ever been that good?



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