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The Milton Measure

The Celtics Playoffs: The Road to the 18th Banner

by on Friday, May 19th, 2017

According to Dieter Kurtenbach of Fox Sports, “[the Boston Celtics] are the worst No. 1 seed in the history of the NBA.” When a team is supposed to be the “best in the Eastern Conference”, but has to struggle through two series to make the Conference Finals, something isn’t right. No. 1 seeds are supposed to easily slide to through the playoffs, blowing teams out in easy defeats.

The Celtics have done no such thing.

They have, however, persevered despite the many deficits and challenges and now have a Conference Finals playoff berth to show for it.

Now, they face the Cleveland Cavaliers, the 2016-2017 NBA Champions. Not only are the Cavs 8-0 in the playoffs, but they have also won many of their games very decisively. Barring a serious injury to Lebron James, Kyrie Irving, or Kevin Love, (the Cavalier’s three superstars), the physicality and execution of Cleveland and the excellent play of their starters should be able to overcome the Celtics.

On Wednesday, May 17th, the Celtics faced the Cavaliers for the first game of the series, and suffered a 104 to 117 point loss, where famed Lebron James contributed 38 points, 9 rebounds, and 7 assists. If they hope to beat the Cavs by the end of the series, Boston must play perfectly: make lots of WWW3-pointers, not allow many offensive rebounds, pass well, and commit very few turnovers. While at times the Celtics have appeared capable of such a task, they haven’t shown any sign of the consistency necessary to beat a superpower like Cleveland.

But let’s see how Boston got to this point. Late Tuesday night on April 18, the situation looked bleak at best for the Celtics. Down two games to none against the eighth seeded Chicago Bulls, fans in Boston were sure that their team would be swept out of the Playoffs.

However, even with long odds facing them, the Celtics worked hard to improve every part of their game after those first two losses. They held Robin Lopez, (a huge factor in the Bulls’ first two wins) who had grabbed 13 offensive rebounds in the first two games of the series, to just 15 in the last four contests according to the NBA’s website. Additionally, Rajon Rondo, the Bulls’ star point guard (who won a championship with the Celtics in 2008) fractured his thumb in Game 2 of the series, putting him out of commission and assisting the Celtics in their victory.

Credit for these improvements is due to Boston coach Brad Stevens, who wasn’t afraid to rotate his players until he found the right combination of guys. In Game 3, he was able to find this group and lead the Celtics to four straight wins and to the Conference Semi-finals.

For Boston, the second round brought on a daunting task: the Washington Wizards. After defeating the Atlanta Hawks, the John Wall led squad looked like a daunting challenge for a Celtics team that had been lucky to escape their first series. The series started off well for the Celtics with two wins at home. However, the Wizards didn’t give up, pushing back and tying the series at two games apiece with two blowout wins at home. The downfall for the Celtics in these two games was the Wizards’ long runs of 22-0 and 26-0, during which they created big leads for themselves. The Celtics would never fully recover in these games and would lose by more than 18 in both.

In Game 5, the Celtics we able to reverse the tide again, going on a long run in the 1st quarter to give them an 18 point lead, and never looking back. Avery Bradley, who had previously struggled offensively in the series, played like a superstar, with 25 points in the first half alone. Boston hit many difficult shots, executed on defense, and shared the ball well, even in a pressure situation, which Isiah Thomas called “the most important game of his career,” according to ESPN.

In Game 6, the Celtics struggled on offense but kept the game close through excellent defense and transition scoring. Isiah Thomas didn’t have a good scoring night, but he still had a large impact on offense by drawing double-teams and passing out of them to the open man. As a result, the Celtics had a two point lead with seven seconds left in the game. And then the unthinkable happened. John Wall received the inbounds pass and squared up to his defender Avery Bradley. He paused for a second, faked a dribble move, and then popped a three pointer for the win. Leaping up on the scorer’s table in excitement, he single-handedly won the game for the Wizards and forced the series to go to 7 Games.

In Game 7, however, the Celtics quited this excitement, as a result of their bench stepping up. Kelly Olynyk, the hero for the C’s, went off, hitting multiple threes in the fourth quarter and providing the majority of Boston’s offense near the end of the game. The lead went back and forth between the teams until the late third quarter, when the Celtics went on a 13-3 run. The Wizards would lessen the lead, but would never come back from this run.

And now, the fun and games are over, and the weak teams are gone. We’ll see if our team really deserves the title of Best in the Eastern Conference as the series with the Cavaliers continues.

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Posted by on May 19 2017. Filed under Sports. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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