Stephen A. Smith explains why he's not giving up on Celtics despite slump – NBC Sports Boston

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The Boston Celtics were the clear-cut best team in the NBA just a few weeks ago with a 21-5 record.
The C’s looked almost invincible after a 27-point demolition of the Phoenix Suns on Dec. 7. But the rest of that road trip was a disappointment, beginning with a loss to the defending champion Golden State Warriors. Boston has lost three consecutive games and five of its last six overall.
Poor 3-point and free throw shooting are two of the main reasons for the Celtics’ recent lackluster results. The bench also isn’t playing well and the number of turnovers has risen. 
On Friday’s episode of ESPN’s “First Take” show, Stephen A. Smith debated former Celtics center Kendrick Perkins over which team has a better chance to represent the Eastern Conference in the 2023 NBA Finals — the Celtics or Milwaukee Bucks?
Smith is not giving up on the Celtics despite their recent slump.
“To answer this question directly, I believe in Boston,” Smith said. “I picked Boston last year. Before you make your face, remember I picked Boston last year in the playoffs. You picked Milwaukee. You understand? We were going back and forth throughout that series and Boston took them out in that seventh game. I’m looking at Tatum having an MVP-caliber year. I’m looking at Jaylen Brown being that dude. I’m looking at the adjustments that they’ve got to make but Robert Williams is now back in the lineup. He’s been back for three games.
“I’m not paying attention to back-to-back losses to Orlando. That’s not really going to matter in the grand scheme of things. Boston is that team as far as I’m concerned. They’re the reigning conference champions. Their perimeter shooting is more reliable. Their free throw shooting is more reliable because, obviously, that isn’t Giannis’ strong point either.
“I’m going to go with Boston until I see otherwise. I’m not snipping at Milwaukee. I understand they’re very formidable. I see what they bring. But I still believe in the Boston Celtics because I believe their offense will be there, but I think their defense will be elevated as time goes on.”
The Celtics sit in second place in the East standings entering Friday night’s game against the Minnesota Timberwolves at TD Garden. They are a half-game behind the Bucks for first place.
Speaking of the Bucks, the Celtics will host Milwaukee in a Christmas Day showdown at the Garden. It’s the perfect opportunity for the Celtics to make a strong statement to the rest of the league that they are still the top team in the Eastern Conference.

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