Currently, the Celtics sit as the 2nd seed in the NBA Eastern Conference. For fans like myself, who at one point saw the Celtics rattle off 16 straight wins, this is kind of a disappointment. Because like most, I was caught up in the moment of being one of the hottest teams in basketball, so naturally I believed that the C’s were world beaters.
Unfortunately, it was all kind of a smoke screen. When it comes to early season success in the NBA, younger teams tend to get a leg up on their opponents because of their collective speed, energy, and length. They can at times surprise teams who are looking to get their rhythm as chemistry is a requirement for success later in the season (See the struggles of the Thunder). Orlando is the team that comes quickly to mind because they were surprisingly good at the beginning of the season, but once playoffs teams started to find their footing, the Magic quickly descended to the bottom of the standings. The Celtics, who clearly aren’t as bad, are a team who’s youth and energy surprised teams early. Gordon Hayward goes down in a heap in the first game of the season, Boston is playing 7 (!) rookies, and there were only four returning players from last year’s squad. This was a recipe for disaster and while the win streak was elating, this was quickly met with skepticism by myself because during said streak, the Celtics were down big for a lot of those wins. They were gutty comeback wins, but it took a lot of luck and excellent coaching by Brad Stevens to get them those hard earned wins. The Celtics were sitting atop of the standings.
Then came the fall back down to earth.
A brutal schedule in January and some general sloppy play in February, brought about questions about whether the Celtics were overhyped. The answer was yes, they were, but only because sports media is all about living in the moment and at one point and time, they were hottest team in basketball. But this is why the Celtics are playing with house money. All the reasons above regarding the loss of a second star, new players, and relative youth, should have sank the Celtics. Brad Stevens would’ve kept them afloat and there’s enough talent on the squad to make the playoffs in the East. But in no way should they be the second seed or even competing for the one seed. What Coach Stevens has done in relation to this roster is nothing short of remarkable. Rookies and second year players are clearly learning how to play in the NBA and adapt to their new surroundings. It shouldn’t be expected that they play stout defense or make clutch shots. All of this should have been a moot point.
But the Celtics have shown heart.
In regards to the playoffs I can see the Celtics being beaten in any round. Eventually inexperience catches up to you, especially because laser-like focus is required for deep playoff runs. Keeping that in mind, if you take a step back and see that this team is operating with one of the best records in the NBA with a new and youthful roster, anything they do in the playoffs can be considered bonus. Because think about it, when next season rolls around, this squad will be battle tested and ready to attack those championship aspirations. Gordon Hayward is coming back and every player has another year in Brad Stevens’s free flowing system. He is notorious for getting the most out of his players, see Evan Turner and Jae Crowder with the C’s and life after them if you want the pertinent details.
At the end of the day, its all about banner 18. Anything less is a disappointment.