Over the first half of the NBA season, the Boston Celtics easily took on just about all opponents, getting out to a 35-17 record as of Saturday, which is the best in the league.
They’re second in points per game, third in offensive rating, fifth in defensive rating and have the league’s best road record at 17-7.
Meanwhile, Jayson Tatum is putting together his best season yet, averaging 31.2 points per game, and their bench isn’t quite as weak offensively as it was last season when it reached the NBA Finals.
However, a couple of thunderbolts struck the team on Saturday as it defeated the Toronto Raptors, 106-104.
Tatum missed the contest because of a sore left wrist, and center Robert Williams III suffered an apparent hyperextended left knee in the first quarter and missed the second half.
It was the same knee that caused Williams to sit out last March after having surgery on it.
Although he is now coming off the bench after starting last season, his defense, shot-blocking and rebounding are vital to Boston’s championship hopes.
To make matters worse, guard Marcus Smart, who in some ways is the heart and soul of the team, injured his right ankle late in the first half and also didn’t return.
Marcus Smart had to get helped off the court after an apparent injury vs. the Raptors. pic.twitter.com/A8wi1LZOEO
— NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) January 21, 2023
The Celtics were able to survive Williams’ absence early this season, but losing Smart for a period of time would really sting.
He is a big defensive pressure point for them, as he’s the reigning Defensive Player of the Year, as well as a key ball-handler and playmaker who is leading them with 7.2 assists per game.
Boston has dealt with adversity before, and this will be another test for it in what it hopes is its journey toward its 18th world title.