The Boston Celtics look like a legitimate NBA Finals contender again, and the main reason for that is the improved play of the bench.
The team’s second unit turned in its best performance of the season in Saturday night’s loss to the Houston Rockets. Boston’s bench scored a season-high 67 points on 56.8 percent shooting, including an impressive 8-for-12 mark on 3-point shots.
The Celtics never received 60 or more points from their bench in the 59 games before the All-Star break, but the second unit has hit that mark three times in the five contests since the break. It’s also scored 50-plus points in four of those five games. Overall, the bench is averaging 54 points per game since the All-Star break. While a five-game sample isn’t large, it’s still an encouraging trend for the C’s.
Since the break, the Celtics bench ranks first in the league in minutes played, first in scoring, second in field goal percentage, fourth in 3-point percentage, first in rebounding and second in net rating (plus-5.6).
The three main contributors off the bench have been Marcus Morris, Marcus Smart and Terry Rozier. All three are averaging 10-plus points in the five games since the break. Rozier, in particular, has been fantastic, averaging 14.2 points and shooting 52.2 percent from 3-point range since the break. Newly acquired center Greg Monroe really has improved of late, too, and scored 18 points on 6-for-9 shooting versus the Rockets.
The Celtics’ offensive rating of 104.4 through the All-Star break ranked 21st in the league. In the five games after the break, Boston has the best offensive rating at 118.8.
Again, the sample size here is small, but all the little things that go into consistent success, including hustle, execution and attention too detail all have been on display while the bench has been in the game.
The Celtics have one of the best starting lineups in basketball. Their starting five should be able to keep pace with or outscore any other starting unit in the league. Where games will be won or lost for the C’s is when their bench is on the court. If the second unit continues to play at a level close to where it’s been since the break, then the Celtics will be a really tough out come playoff time.