The Boston Celtics Are Athlete’s Foot
As his Golden State Warriors built a first-half lead over the Boston Celtics, Steve Kerr told TNT sideline reporter Rosalyn Gold-Onwude that the Celtics were “the best team in the league.” It seemed like dubious praise at the time, the words of a coach of an unbeatable team puffing up the opposition. By the time the Celtics had overcome a 17-point deficit to beat Golden State 92-88—Boston’s 14th win in a row, giving them a league-leading record of 14-2—that praise was starting to sound a lot more genuine.
Kerr had been lavishing the Celtics with praise even before Thursday’s game. “It sure looks like Boston is the team of the future in the East,” he told ESPN’s Chris Haynes on Wednesday. “That looks like a team that is going to be at the top of the East for a long time to come.” But despite what Kerr says, the Celtics are not an exciting and spritely “team of the future.” They are a squad of Benjamin Buttons: fun young players who are all secretly seasoned vets.
Take rookie Jayson Tatum. He may be 19, but the No. 3 pick in the 2017 draft already performs with the maturity and intelligence of a ring-chasing 34-year-old role player. He even looks the part, and his dated mustache-goatee combo screams “paying the bills at the dining room table after the kids go to bed.” (The Boston media are of course handling him with the measured restraint for which they are known.)
Seven of the 10 players who took the floor for Boston on Thursday night—starters Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Kyrie Irving, plus reserves Marcus Smart, Semi Ojeleye, Terry Rozier, and Daniel Theis—are 25 years old or younger. They should be too callow to be winning like this. Yet here we are, mourning lost youth.
In Thursday’s win, the Celtics held Steph Curry to 9 points on 3-14 shooting, which is essentially like throwing handcuffs on a forest fire. And while Kevin Durant scored 24, he had to work through a squadron of Boston defenders to get every look, including on his baseline attempt in the closing seconds that would have sent the game to overtime. On the perimeter, the Celtics combine toughness (Smart is a pest, in a good way) with length and athleticism (second-year forward Jaylen Brown, who had a terrific night under adverse circumstances) to funnel teams where they want them. It’s why the Warriors, who average 117.5 points per game, only managed to score 88 in 48 minutes.
Boston’s wrist-slapping, jersey-grabbing victory looked like of all the Celtics’ other wins. In…