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The Hawks' Herald

The Student News Site of Roger Williams University

The Hawks' Herald

The Student News Site of Roger Williams University

The Hawks' Herald

Celtics Playoff Preview: Can Their Dominating Season End With a Championship?

The NBA Playoffs are finally underway. The Boston Celtics finished the season with a 64-18 record, which was the best record in the NBA and earned them the first seed in the Eastern Conference. They will start their hopeful path to the NBA Finals against the eighth-seed Miami Heat. This will be the fourth time in the past five years these teams are matched up against one another in the playoffs. The Celtics hope to avoid a consecutive knockout from the Heat, after forcing last year’s series to seven games after being down 3-0.

Since last year, the Celtics have made aggressive changes to their team to return to the NBA Finals. They traded their heart and soul Marcus Smart, rim-protector Robert Williams, sixth man of the year award winner Malcolm Brogdon, and lost role player Grant Williams in free agency this past summer. In return, they acquired Kristaps Porzingis and Jrue Holiday, who both made an immediate impact, and they re-signed Jaylen Brown, giving him the biggest contract in NBA history at five years, $304 million. With Holiday the Celtics finally have a true point guard in some time, while the addition of Porzingis adds much-needed spacing.

Looking back at previous Celtics teams in recent years, one thing this core has struggled with is their seriousness. There were times in the last few years when they would play down to an opponent’s level, especially if the opponent’s best player was not playing, blew leads, and didn’t play with high-level consistency. This year’s team has played with much better consistency and has played some dominating basketball. Still, there were some moments when they lost to some horrible teams and blew a few leads, but they’ve had a dominating season.

First, they clinched the playoffs with over a month left of regular season play. They finished 14 games ahead of second-seed New York Knicks and with 64 wins, this put them fourth all-time in most Celtics wins in a season. They finished second in the league in points per game and rebounds per game, along with finishing first in most threes made in a season and blocks per game. Most importantly, all the Celtics players finished this season healthy and avoided serious injuries.

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For this team to come together and have the season they’ve had, they needed sacrifice from their best players. Jayson Tatum had another stellar season even though his scoring average dipped from 30.1 to 26.9. Tatum averaged 4.9 assists per game, which is a career-high for him. Brown saw his scoring average decrease as well from 26.6 to 23, but his defense against some of the best guards in the league stood out the most this season.

Both Tatum and Brown have faced criticism these past few years for having been together six years and not winning a championship. Even with the duo going to the NBA Finals in 2022 and making four trips to the Eastern Conference Finals, many in the sports media world have called them not fit to play together. Some view Tatum as not being capable of leading a team to a title and not taking over when his team needs him most. Brown had memes of him not having a good left hand after his playoff performance in last year’s game seven loss and people saying he’s not worth the contract he signed.

For Tatum and Brown to silence the doubters, the time is now for the Celtics to get their first championship since 2008, and the odds seem to be weighing in their favor. The Eastern Conference hasn’t looked as good this season and star players have had injuries affecting their teams. Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo is playing through an injury along with the Philadelphia 76ers Joel Embiid. The New York Knicks will be without forward Julius Randle after his season is ending with shoulder surgery. The Celtic’s first-round matchup with the Heat will most likely not include the team’s leader in Jimmy Butler, who suffered an MCL sprain in their play-in matchup versus the 76ers.

With the Celtics team looking the best it has since the team last won the championship in 2008, banner 18 is in reach. They will need consistency from Tatum and Brown while having Porzingis, Holiday, and Derrick White come up big when it’s not Tatum and Brown’s night. Since the Celtics are known to take a lot of three-pointers, the bench consisting of Al Horford, Payton Pritchard, and Sam Hauser will need every minute to count, by hitting threes and playing high-level defense.

The Celtics have been a great shooting team, defensive team, and rebounding team. All three are key recipes for a championship team. The only thing standing in the way of them being crowned champions is themselves. If they can win games without shooting great from three, Tatum and Brown playing a great, consistent level of basketball, and for Porzingis and Holiday to be there when needed, expect a parade in Boston in June.

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