The Celtics have won three straight, following a 44-point victory over the San Antonio Spurs Sunday night and they look like the dominating team that had the league's best record prior to the All-Star break.
With some head-scratching losses to the Houston Rockets and Utah Jazz in early March, the C's find themselves chasing the Milwaukee Bucks -- who have overtaken them in the standings over the past month or so.
Despite the resurgences as of late, Boston still remains 1.5 games back of the Bucks with seven left to play in the regular season, which also includes a matchup between the Eastern Conference foes in Milwaukee this week to settle a tie-breaker (1-1) and determine who gets the higher seed if each were to finish with identical records.
According Malcolm Brogdon, however, the reignited Celtics are still fighting for the No. 1 seed and that's the main reason behind their recent play during this final stretch before the start of the playoffs.
"I think we're getting more and more locked in," Brogdon said in his postgame presser Sunday night. "You know, I think it's apparent, I think, when Milwaukee took the number one seed from us, you know, after the break, sort of a shock to us, that we had dropped. Because we had created some separation between us and them. And that's something we want; we want the one seed. I think this team understands the importance of having a home-court advantage in the playoffs. So that's, that's something we're going after."
Brogdon, who finished with 20 points and nine assists against the Spurs off the bench, was the team's second-leading scorer, as Jayson Tatum sat out nursing a hip injury. Brogdon has been a key addition to the Celtics this season -- averaging 14.6 points on 48.6% from the field and 45% from deep, 4.2 rebounds, and 3.7 assists per game -- in a sixth man role.
Another huge contributor on both ends of the floor has been veteran guard Derrick White, who Brogdon also spoke highly of in the same conference with the media after the Celtics' win over the Spurs.
"This game is all about confidence, man," Brogdon said. "And and I think you've seen Derrick's confidence grow throughout the season. And now he's playing at an all-time high; he's playing at a super high level, shooting the ball with confidence. Playing with so much fluidity, he's one of those guys out there that makes the game easier for everybody because he knows how to play. He has a great feel. So he's incredibly important to this team on both sides of the ball. You know, I think we're seeing as his offense right now. But you know, the first half of the season it was his defense people were talking about. He's incredibly versatile and can impact the game and a lot of ways."
White has been playing the best basketball of his career this season, as he chipped in 19 points on 4-of-6 from 3-point range and eight rebounds as a starter against San Antonio.
Of course without Tatum in the lineup, all eyes were on Jaylen Brown, especially since he's been in the headlines this past week about his future in Boston. The All-Star wing recorded a game-high 41 points and 13 rebounds and also got an All-NBA endorsement from Brogdon following his exceptional performance against the Spurs.
"He's the best shooting guard in the league," Brogdon said of Brown. "He'll be All-NBA. He'll make one of the teams this year. And his game really speaks for himself. When JT is out, he's a No. 1 option, and he's showing that he can be that. He's put in the work. He's evolved since we came to the league together. He's evolved and taken giant steps forward every year. He's playing at an extremely high level."
Brown is expected to become a unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2024, but could also be eligible to sign a supermax this off-season if he makes a 2022-23 All-NBA team.
Look for Brown to continue to make his case, as the Celtics also look to climb up the standings when they face the Washington Wizards on the road Tuesday night.
Photo used courtesy of USA Today
Photo used courtesy of USA Today