Is There Still Cause For Hope For The Injury-Riddled Boston Celtics?
Before tip-off against the Sacramento Kings, the injury list for the Celtics glared across the screen. The list was five players long, five players that would easily constitute a 50-win starting line-up in either conference.
The Celtics would’ve been forgiven for getting off to a slow start after the Hayward injury seemingly derailed their season before it really got going, they would’ve been forgiven for struggling through the peaks and valleys that naturally come with playing so many young players meaningful minutes.
Yet this Celtics team simply refuses to quit, they refuse to let adversity get the better of them, they refuse to use the excuses fate keeps handing them as to why they shouldn’t succeed.
With 7:13 to go in the opening quarter of their game against the Sacramento Kings, Terry Rozier drives hard through the defense and finishes in traffic for 2 of his game high 33 points. Rozier is one of a cohort of burgeoning young Celtics who have had to step up in the absence of this team’s veteran leaders. Scary Terry, T-Ro, Tito 3 sticks, whatever you choose to call him, the guy has been flat out sensational in his stint as the Celts floor general. In the 6-injury mandated starts with the green team since Irving went down, the Celtics are 4-2 and Rozier has averaged 19.0 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 5 ast, and has shot 42.9% from 3-point range. In so many ways, Rozier is representative of a Celtics team that simply refuses to quit, even when pundits say that their season is over and they should be looking to next year (shout-out to Kevin McHale) and a unit that seems to develop on a game-to-game basis. Rozier shoots the ball with confidence, and his stroke has looked awesome this season, he drives to the cup with a fierce will and finesse that simply wasn’t there in years past. His development as a finisher and all-around scorer has allowed the Celts to tread water while their MVP candidate is on the shelf.
One of the most cliché narratives in the NBA is that you can’t rely on young guys in the playoffs. When the lights are brightest, history tells us that you can’t trust young players, but this team feels different; even though the C’s rely so heavily on guys like Rozier, Brown and Tatum, they consistently pull out big wins against quality opponents. Projecting forward to the playoffs, it is not inconceivable that this Celtics squad could be pulling out equally impressive victories against the Bucks, Heat or Pacers en-route to a first round victory. The playoffs however, are a different animal entirely, only time will tell if the fledgling Celts have the horses to run with other Eastern conference hopefuls after their swathe of injuries; and whether the young stars the Celts have relied upon so heavily will blossom under the bright lights.
Whatever the outcome this season, be it a first round exit or a trip to the finals. The fact that they have exceeded every expectation, broken through every barrier and impressed the whole way fills this Celtics fan with a whole lot of hope for the future.