CelticsWeek is back from a mini-hiatus! With the NBA’s inaugural In-Season Tournament causing some disruptions in the schedule as it drew towards its conclusion, we felt it would be best to combine the past two weeks of Celtics basketball into one article, summarizing the final stages of the tournament in the process. In all, we have four games to discuss. Let’s get into it.
Boston Celtics, Week 6: 2-0 record, +33 differential
W vs Chicago, 124-97 (IST Group Stage)
W vs Philadelphia, 125-119
Boston Celtics, Week 7: 1-1 record, 0 differential
L @ Indiana, 122-112 (IST Quarterfinals)
W vs New York, 133-123
What’s Trending: Tournament madness
Going in, nobody quite knew what to expect from the first In-Season Tournament in NBA history. Now that the tournament lies in our rear-view mirror — a begrudging congratulations to the Los Angeles Lakers on their win — we have an answer: pure chaos.
The IST ramped up the drama these past two weeks. The effect on the level of competition of regular season basketball was undeniable, for reasons both understandable and unusual. The $500,000 payout was a motivator across the board, especially for younger players and bench veterans who stood to enjoy substantial pay increases if their team claimed the title. Overall, IST games have generally been the most competitive games of the young regular season by far.
The structure of the tournament created stranger incentives, too. The Celtics entered their group stage finale against the Chicago Bulls needing to win by 23 points or more, and needing the Brooklyn Nets to beat the Toronto Raptors — but not by too much. Had the Nets fallen, the wild card spot would have required an even higher margin of victory than that 23-point mark. All of this incentivized the Celtics to beat Chicago by as many points as possible.
They did indeed beat the Bulls, but while the result of the contest was more or less decided in the third quarter, the point differential incentives led to some bizarre sights for a December regular season game. Despite being up nearly 30 points, the starters remained on the court until deep in the fourth quarter, and Joe Mazzulla even opted to intentionally foul Chicago center Andre Drummond to give the Celtics a better chance of improving their differential. Ultimately, the Celtics won by 27, and a…