The Celtics had a bitter end to the season by blowing a 3-2 lead in the Conference Finals. However, it was a fun and crazy season. Let’s take a look back at it.
The Celtics had a very eventful offseason, as Jaylen Brown, Terry Rozier, Al Horford, and Marcus Smart were the only returning players. Boston exchanged draft picks with Philly and selected Rookie of the Year candidate Jayson Tatum. The Celtics traded Avery Bradley to Detroit for backup forward Marcus Morris. They signed star forward Gordon Hayward to a max deal, who was theoretically going to be their second best player. Boston also brought in backup players Shane Larkin, Aron Baynes, and Daniel Theis. The big splash of the offseason came when Danny Ainge sent Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic, and the Nets first round pick to Cleveland in exchange for Kyrie Irving. With all these moves, some Celtics fans and analysts, including me, predicted this team to go to the Finals.
Five minutes into the season, Boston’s star forward broke his ankle, and the Celtics dropped the first two games of the season. The Celtics rebounded from the injury perfectly, pulling off sixteen straight wins. Kyrie Irving, Al Horford, Jayson Tatum, and Jaylen Brown were the only four players who led the team in scoring during the winning streak. Horford and Irving (when healthy) were All-Stars. Jaylen Brown developed tremendously from his rookie season, and Tatum flourished a Rookie of the Year candidate.
Celtics Cooling down Before the All-Star Break
After the 16-2 start, the Celtics went 24-17 up until the All-Star break, which included a 1-4 stretch in the last five games. Kyrie Irving found himself having to carry the team to victory on some nights as Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum cooled off. Al Horford was playing well, but nowhere near the way he played at the beginning of the season. On the bright side, Terry Rozier and Marcus Morris started to take off and became key pieces for the team.
On March 11th, when Kyrie Irving exited the Pacers game with a knee injury, it felt like the Celtics hit rock bottom. They lost three of the next four, including a double-overtime game against Washington. After this, Tatum regressed, Morris continued to be a key player, and Rozier took over. It even got to the point where some Celtics fans actually want Kyrie to be traded. The Celtics ripped off six straight wins, which included impressive wins over the Thunder, Trail Blazers, Jazz, and Raptors. Their next loss came against Milwaukee, when deep bench player Kadeem Allen started at point guard. The Celtics finished the season losing four of six. With all the injuries, expectations were low going into the playoffs.
Squeaking past Milwaukee
The Celtics finished the season as the two seed in the East, so they took on seventh-seeded Milwaukee in the first round. Al Horford scored 24 points and racked up 12 rebounds as the Celtics survived Game 1 in overtime. In Game 2, they dominated from start to finish with a 120-106 win to take a 2-0 lead. The games in Milwaukee were much different, as the young Celtics team had trouble on the road all postseason. They were crushed in Game 3 by the score of 116-92, and almost came back but lost Game 4 104-102.
Marcus Smart came back from a thumb injury in Game 5, and his impact was huge defensively. Boston won 92-87 and took a three games to two series lead. They lost again in Milwaukee by the score of 97-86, which forced a Game 7. Al Horford was tremendous in the seventh game, and the Celtics cruised to a 112-96. Next up was Joel Embid and the 76ers in the Eastern Conference Semifinals.
The guard play of Terry Rozier and Marcus Smart led the Celtics to a dominating 117-101 win in Game 1. In Game 2, the Boston squeaked by Ben Simmons’ masterful performance and won 108-103 to take a 2-0 lead. The Celtics finally won a game on the road, with a 101-98 win thanks to 21 points by Tatum. The 76ers were able to fight off elimination, and they escaped Game 4 with a 103-92 win. The Celtics shut up Joel Embiid in Game 5 to win the game 114-112 and the series 3-1. Awaiting them next was LeBron James and the Cavs in the Eastern Conference Final.
Game 1 was not competitive at all as Brown and the Celtics dominated the Cavs by the score of 108-83. It was the only game in the series when LeBron James did not lead the Cavaliers in scoring. Boston struggled in the first half of Game 2, but pulled away and won 107-94. They went to Cleveland with a 2-0 series lead but lost Game 3 by thirty and Game 4 by nine. This series was reminiscent of the Bucks series, with the Celtics dominating at home and looking scared on the road. The Celtics were dominant defensively in Game 5, holding the Cavs to 83 points for the second time. Game 6 was back in Cleveland, and the Cavs forced a game seven with a 109-99 victory. Unfortunately, the season came to a bitter end as the offense went cold in Game 7. The final score was 87-79.
The Celtics did not fail to wow fans this season through all the adversity they faced. Though it’s hard to see them lose so close to having a chance to win it all, this is a great snippet of things to come when this team is healthy.