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The Celtics are officially for real, so will the Warriors see them in June?

Wooooohooohooo boy.

The Celtics beat the Warriors last night 92-88 for Boston’s 14th straight win. I don’t want to jump to conclusions or anything but this Celtics team may be the best basketball team every assembled?

Golden State looked in control for most of the game, jumping out to a big lead early on and held a comfortable 66-49 lead with less than 5 minutes left in the 3rd quarter.

Then Boston went wild. They ratcheted up their defense, swarming Golden State with a collection of long, multi-positional athletes that were switching every pick and roll and stifling the Warriors flowing offense. By the end of the 3rd, the score was tied at 68.

The defensive lineup of Marcus Smart, Terry Rozier, Jaylen Brown, Al Horford, and Aaron Baynes gave the Warriors headaches.

The defensive effort was exemplified by the relentless Marcus Smart. While Smart may be erratic (at best) on the offensive end of the court, he leads the Celtics in plus-minus during most of their win streak.

Kyrie Irving didn’t even have an especially good game. He scored 5 points in the first three quarters before exploding for 11 in the 4th. Jaylen Brown was the star last night, playing with a heavy heart a day after his best friend past away in Atlanta.

Brown dropped 22 and 7 and was emotional after the game.

Brown told reporters after the game about playing so soon after his friend’s passing,

“I knew coming into today that he would have wanted me to play. It was hard getting my thoughts together, but after talking to his mom and his family, they inspired me to come out and play.”

While C’s coach Brad Stevens is known for his offensive gameplan and drawing up a flowing, multifaceted offense focused on ball movement, the Celtics are currently 1st in the NBA in defensive rating at a ludicrous 97.2 (the Spurs led the league last season at 100.9).

During their 14-game winning streak, the Celtics have held some of the best offensive players in the league way under their season averages.

Boston’s defense means that their offense doesn’t really even need to be that good.

In the absence of Gordon Hayward, the Celtics have become a stifling, tough defensive team that swarms the opponent, running teams of the 3-point line and into the teeth of the paint where Al Horford, Aaron Baynes wait to swat you away and Marcus Smart or Jaylen Brown will snatch the ball away.

Every player on this Celtics team does their thing. Kyrie is the star who can struggle all game to come up with big baskets when needed. Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum are young stars in the making with wild athleticism, waiting to go off on any given night and defend 4 positions.

Everyone’s favorite uncle Al Horford does all the dirty work, constantly screening and quietly orchestrating on the offensive end while being the defensive anchor on the other side of the floor.

Aaron Baynes is a brick wall on defense. Terry Rozier and Marcus Smart annoy the shit out of opponents. Marcus Morris is a fucking treasure that can provide instant offense  whose role will continue to expand as he gets further integrated to the team.

Even rookie Semi Ojeleye, a mound of muscle, is bringing important minutes to this Celtics team. German rookie Daniel Theis can bang down low and shoot pretty well from 3.

After the game, the Warriors were slightly miffed at the free throw disparity and a couple of late calls (the last call on Kyrie was not a foul) but Steph Curry also offered a pretty interesting comment about seeing the Celtics down the road. When asked about possibly meeting the C’s in the finals in June, Steph offered a coy assessment of the situation,

“Very, very likely, right? They’re playing the best right now in the East. Obviously, until they beat Cleveland, who has done it three years in a row, we’ll see. I hear the weather’s great [in Boston] in June, so we’ll see.”

That’s some high praise for the Celtics, and also probably a thinly-veiled shot at the Cavs.

There’s a long way to go until June. It doesn’t seem possible that the Celtics could keep this defensive output up, but they’ve now beaten the champs despite not even playing well. They’ve beaten Oklahoma City, the surprisingly good Magic, Washington, Toronto, San Antonio, and the Bucks during their 14-game winning streak.

The 8-7 Cavs will most likely find their rhythm, they aren’t this bad. When Isaiah Thomas comes back he should bring them some much-needed playmaking and lighten the burden on LeBron’s shoulders (Iman Shumpert is the nominal Cavs point guard right now).

You can never count LeBron out and the Cavs have some ammunition to pull off another blockbuster trade if need be but there are some worrying trends with the Cavs right now, exemplified by their league-worst defensive rating.

The NBA season is a long and winding marathon and odds are the Cavs and Warriors are headed towards a 4th straight finals matchup. But the Celtics are real. Last night offered a glimpse into the potential of this team.

As Steph said, the weather in Boston is very nice in June.