The Boston Celtics are making it look easy. Led by three-time NBA All-Star Jayson Tatum, the Celtics have taken things to a new level since January and haven’t looked back. After completing a first-round sweep of Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant, and the Brooklyn Nets, things are getting serious in Boston.
Tatum has grown during his five years in the NBA. He’s thrived in the national spotlight and is showing he can be the leader the team wants him to be. While he’s been an impressive two-way player, former Celtics center-turned NBA analyst Kendrick Perkins might be getting a bit carried away in his praise of the Celtics star.
Kendrick Perkins says the Boston Celtics are the best team in the NBA
There’s no question the Celtics have been the hottest team in the Eastern Conference since late January. After starting the season 25-25, the Celtics ended the season with a 26-6 mark and won their first four games in the postseason. If you’re counting, that’s 30-6 in their last 36 games.
During an episode of First Take, Perkins raised a few eyebrows when he said the Celtics are the best team in the NBA.
“The Boston Celtics are the best team in the NBA, let’s make that very clear,” Perkins said as he was questioned by Stephen A. Smith. “You heard what I said.”
Host Molly Qerim jumped in and asked when he decided that was the case.
“Remember, I was on the show and said I would pick Boston to be my favorite, but the only reason I didn’t was because of the injury to Robert Williams.
“What the Celtics have shown me is no other team in the NBA would have swept or done what they did to the Brooklyn Nets. That’s how great they are defensively.
“We keep talking about how great or how much of a juggernaut the Golden State Warriors are. Offense wins you games. Defense wins you championships. There’s no other team that has the perimeter defenders like the Boston Celtics.”
Kendrick Perkins gets a bit carried away in his praise of Jayson Tatum
Perkins made a lot of sense when talking about the Celtics defense. Led by Defensive Player of the Year Marcus Smart, the Celtics shut down two of the game’s biggest offensive stars last series.
The Celtics contained Irving and Durant with that stifling defense. While Irving and Durant struggled to find their rhythm, Tatum was the best player on the court. Tatum led the Celtics in scoring in three of the games against the Nets. In Game 3, he finished with 39 points.
Nobody expected a sweep. Tatum and the Celtics kept on rolling. Tatum is getting the recognition as some of the best players in the game. In fact, Perkins may have gone overboard in his assessment of the Celtics star.
“Jayson Tatum, right now, if the best two-way player in the game,” Perkins said. “Jayson Tatum is a top-three player in the NBA. This mean version of Jayson Tatum, nobody wants to see.”
Tatum is great, but top three? Giannis Antetokounmpo, Nikola Jokic, Steph Curry, LeBron James, and Joe Embiid might have something to say about that.
The Boston Celtics learned a lot from their rough start
It’s been a tale of two seasons for the Celtics. Early on, there was tension and frustration. Marcus Smart publicly called out Tatum and Jaylen Brown for not passing the ball. Head coach Ime Udoka questioned the team’s effort on multiple occasions after blowing big leads.
Since the end of January, none of that has been an issue. If fact, those early-season problems may have come in handy during Game 1 of their playoff series with the Nets.
After three quarters, the Celtics held an 11-point lead. During the fourth quarter, they trailed by five at one point. The Celtics pulled out the victory when Tatum his a layup at the buzzer.
“(The win) was fulfilling for us,” Smart said during his postgame press conference after Game 1. “Especially because of the way we started this year off. Those types of games we would have lost. We probably would’ve crumbled. For a moment there, it kind of looked like that was the direction it was going.
“The resilience that we have, the approach that we have, and the work that we put in to make sure that doesn’t happen, and just learning. Unfortunately, we had a lot of games to learn from with those types of incidents. Everybody did their jobs.”
All statistics courtesy of Basketball Reference.