Boston have all they need to hurt the Cavaliers
After Hayward’s season-ending injury against the Cavs in game one, many thought the Celtics had already squandered their chances of a great season, but low and behold, we dominated. A phenomenal unbeaten run followed, and Boston excelled in every way, especially in defence. It did take its toll, however, and after more injuries to players like Irving, Theis and Smart – as well as Jaylen Brown’s concussion – fatigue kicked in. One of the things that nobody can deny, and one of the things I’m proudest of, is the team’s heart. Every single time we take a knock, we get back on the horse and outdo everyone’s expectations.
When Marcus Morris and Joel Embiid had their little exchange in game 4, it felt like a perfect summary of the season. Teams have gotten in our heads, or given us hell, but we’ve fought back and responded with positivity and through our own actions. After a stunning performance against the Sixers to take game 5 at the TD Garden and advance to the Eastern Conference Finals against a familiar opponent, the Cleveland Cavaliers, we can go in with great optimism, rather than a fear of the king and his cohorts.
Now, I’m not blind or naïve. Like many of you, I’ve seen LeBron James turn into a monster this postseason, averaging 34.3 points per game, scoring 40 plus points in 4 of those games. He led the Cavs to take out both the Indiana Pacers and the number 1 seed Toronto Raptors with relative ease, but now it’s a different game. We aren’t the same team as we were last year. There’s no Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley or Jae Crowder, but there’s a team that, although very young, have the ability to hurt Cleveland. We were beaten last year because we weren’t solid enough – we weren’t good enough. Our offence was mostly limited to the perimeter, and the aggression just wasn’t there, and that final game was an embarrassment.
Thankfully, as we go into game 1 against the Cavaliers, we have hope backed up by a great defence, and whilst the overall stats may not feature us too highly through the playoffs, our season speaks volumes, and if anyone has the potential to stop LeBron, it’s the Celtics. Both Smart and Horford have been on fire with rebounds, steals and assists, and Aron Baynes has also shone for us, doing a good job of holding back Embiid in the second round.
We’ve shown great ability on the offence too; our ball movement has been excellent, and with Kyrie out, Terry Rozier has been on fire after stepping in, and stepping up. This season belongs to Scary Terry, and with a solid performance in three pointers made, as well as movement in and around the paint, he’s the guy who’s going to trouble the Cavs. Tatum has scored record numbers for the Celtics in the playoffs, with last night’s victory of the Sixers giving him his seventh consecutive game scoring over 20 points, outdoing any rookie in Celtics’ history, including Larry Bird.
But it’s not just about players, it’s about the team, and the fluidity of movement, vision on the attack, and support on making plays has been key. Brad Stevens has done wonders this year, and the plays he’s been making have kept us from sinking at times. Sometimes, we need to remember that dribbling too much can hinder our performance; we need to take time when playing the court, but this has improved a lot over the postseason, and we know just how well we can work together. Bringing in Kyrie Irving was one of the best moves Danny Ainge made, regardless of how it went down, and even though he’s sat at courtside, he’s there supporting his team, bringing his charisma and passion to the guys out there sweating.
Man, this season has been a rollercoaster. We’ve had incredible lows as well as monumental highs, and what better way to go than to write the wrongs of last year’s Conference Finals with a victory against the Cleveland Cavaliers. Whether it’s LeBron James, Kevin Love, or J.R. Smith bringing the heat, we’ll be there to put out the fire. Let’s go Celtics!