Every morning, we compile the links of the day and dump them here… highlighting the big storyline. Because there’s nothing quite as satisfying as a good morning dump.
It’s been roughly 10 weeks since the Celtics rallied from a 19-point first-quarter deficit to beat the Milwaukee Bucks at home Oct. 30. The teams will meet again at Fiserv Forum on Thursday in much the same situation as last year, with the Bucks emerging as the primary obstacle between the Celtics and the NBA Finals…
Are the Celtics ready for such a challenge? Two weeks ago, the answer to that question would have been an emphatic yes. But with the Celtics losing three straight games — two to teams with losing records — before running off consecutive wins, the answer is no longer so clear.
The Celtics will play the top two teams in the NBA in a four-day span, with the Los Angeles Lakers coming into TD Garden on Jan. 20. It’s one thing to beat New Orleans, Chicago, and Detroit, but it’s quite another to win consecutive games against the Bucks and Lakers.
It seems like an eternity since Jayson Tatum put this dagger in the hearts of the Bucks back in October:
That night also marks the Celtics’ best win of the season in terms of strength of opponent. It was their best comeback of the year as they battled from as many as 19 in what was an electric night at the Garden. Since then, they’ve gone 24-10 and have had their share of triumphs and flubs. During this stretch they’ve been able to take home some quality wins but haven’t had that marquee National TV win. They lost their last chance to do so when they were taken down by Philly last Thursday in a game where Joel Embiid didn’t suit up. We know this team is good. The question now shifts to: how good?
Everyone likes to throw around the term “Measuring Stick Game” when discussing games like the Bucks (36-6) and Lakers (33-7) tilts coming up. In this case, that is exactly what these games are. Those two teams seems to blow the doors off of everyone in their path with an agenda. Giannis is striving to avenge his loss in the ECF last season and prove to world he’s all that while King James is looking to retake the throne. Basically, The Avengers are in town, and they’re out for blood.
These games are a chance to see up close and personal what this team has when the lights are shining the brightest. Both of these opponents should be fully healthy when they square off with the Celtics and barring any load management, what you see is what you get.
The best news of all is that the Celtics will also be healthy for both of these games as they’ve had to battle through a litany of injuries to top guys. Gordon Hayward’s missed time, Marcus Smart’s missed time, Jaylen Brown’s missed time, and even Kemba Walker has been on the shelf for a few games. If there was ever a time to get healthy, this stretch would be the one.
They’ve had to go through a bit of adversity as they struggled before their wins on Saturday/Monday dropping three straight games for the first time all season. Hopefully they’ve gotten that out of their system and are getting back to Celtic basketball. It’s tough reintegrating guys returning from injury but by now this team should be clicking how they were at the beginning of the season.
It’s also a chance for Danny Ainge to get a look at his team up against the best.
They will get a legitimate chance to see how they fare against the league’s elite, and that information could perhaps help Ainge decide if he needs to make a move before the Feb. 6 trade deadline.
Ainge told the Globe he doesn’t feel pressed to make a particular move. Celtics brass wants to see this team healthy for more than a handful of games.
There’s been a lot of talk about the Celtics bolstering their front court and what better opportunity to see their worth up front than matchups with Giannis Anteteokounmpo, LeBron James, and Anthony Davis (and even Dwight Howard!) in a 5 day span.
The Celtics are going to have to beat the best to be the best and we will see what they are made of in the coming days. Until then, they have a date with the Detroit Pistons at TD Garden tonight before flying out to Milwaukee for Act 2 against the surging Bucks.
Page 2: Where Jayson Tatum has been an Iron Man from the jump
The 21-year-old Tatum has missed just five games over his entire NBA career thus far spanning 2.5 seasons. For some perspective on how impressive that feat is, there are just 10 players in the league that have missed fewer games than that over the past three seasons in total…
It’s fair to note that while Tatum has technically missed five games, a couple of those were simply rest nights at the end of the past two seasons in meaningless contests from a seeding perspective. Outside of a minor foot issue at the end of last year, Tatum has been able to soak up 30-plus minutes every single game of the year.
In a league that’s marred by the new fad of load management and an obsession of keeping star player’s minutes down, Jayson Tatum has been an outlier. He doesn’t get injured (knock on wood) and he couldn’t have less interest in sitting out for rest. It’s pretty amazing what he’s been able to do in his first 2.5 seasons in terms of games played. He hasn’t any tweaks, sprains, sicknesses, nothing.
For a team that goes by an alias of the “Hospital Celtics”, it’s been a blessing that Tatum’s been able to stay this healthy. Here’s to hoping it continues and to hoping Jayson keeps straying further and further from mid-range jumpers (and Kobe).
THE REST OF THE LINKS
Boston Globe: Brad Stevens takes his All-Star vote seriously
Boston Herald: Celtics must learn what they have in Vincent Poirier soon