Boston Celtics: It’s time to admit this team is good at basketball

NBA Trade Rumors Boston Celtics Terry Rozier (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
NBA Trade Rumors Boston Celtics Terry Rozier (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images) /

The Boston Celtics are not simply exceeding expectations anymore. They’re hitting 3’s in the expectations face and then stepping over them after. (Sorry, Tyronn Lue)

Can we stop with this narrative that the Boston Celtics are “undermanned”? That they aren’t talented enough without their superstars Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward? Can we give up on the idea that somehow without Daniel Theis this team was lacking serviceable big men?

Can we bid adieu to the “LeBron historically beats the Celtics”? That might be true, but these Celtics have exactly one starter from last year starting this year. Throw your history out the window.

It’s time to also throw out the thought that Al Horford is incapable of performing at a high level in the playoffs. Admittedly, Horford has been taken to school in the playoffs in his past appearances, but this postseason has seen the evolution of Horford from student to teacher.

All Horford has done this postseason is post a career high BPM of 7.5 and efficiency rating of 22.5 on 65 percent true shooting. All three statistics lead the Celtics these playoffs. Oh, and he’s hammer dunking now.

And it’s not like Horford has been acting alone. These Celtics are not a one man show à la the Cleveland Cavaliers. In fact, the Celtics offensive attack is (statistically) arguably the most multifaceted of all the teams remaining in the playoffs.

The emergence of Terry Rozier has given the Celtics a point guard who is as capable of hitting a step-back three as he is of finishing at the rim. Sound familiar? It should, as Rozier has clearly learned a thing or two from Irving. Oh, and hes hammer dunking now.

I have yet to address this teams toughness. Rozier is not afraid of anyone, as evidenced by his fearlessness in the face of Joel Embiid during the Eastern Conference Semifinals. I honestly am drawing a complete blank at finding other 6-foot-2 point guards who are unmoved by a 7-foot behemoth.

All of this comes without even a mention yet of the Celtics two young stars in Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum. Tatum and Brown have averaged 18.1 and 17.8 points per game respectively in these playoffs, joining Rozier and Horford as the four Celtics averaging more than 17 points in the playoffs. Not even the Warriors have so many players averaging 17-plus.

The Celtics aren’t restricted to just a “Big Four” either, as Marcus Morris and Marcus Smart have also contributed double digit scoring averages during this playoff run. Not to mention their share of gritty moments, like when Morris son’d Tristan Thompson so badly after hitting an and-1 layup he may now be legally married to Khloe Kardashian.

Smart not only leads the league in combat muscles, but he may also lead the league in hustle plays. Smart stood out in Game 2 in particular for consistently making the extra effort, particularly on one dagger play in the 4th quarter where Smart dove and seemingly teleported to intercept a pass on a play that would lead to a quick Horford layup. He also made sure to let J.R. Smith know he is not to be eff’d with after Smith pulled a particularly dirty play on Horford.

In case you still haven’t caught on, let’s just spell it out. These Boston Celtics are not afraid of you. They don’t care how tall you are, they don’t care how strong you are, and they sure as hell don’t care if you’re arguably the greatest basketball player in the history of the game.

Imagine if you were told that Lebron James stat line in a playoff game was 42/12/10, and you received no other context. How many points would you venture to guess his Cavs won that game by? Now imagine that he put up that stupid line in a 13 point loss. That’s exactly what happened Tuesday night.

Stop pretending the Celtics are so much less talented that they should open the Conference Finals as a +2000 to win the NBA Title. James went fully atomic, like Game 6 of the NBA Finals atomic, and still lost by double digits. If you want to call it a testament to how porous his supporting cast is, that’s on you; but it misses the point that these Celtics play a clamp-like style of defense.

Sure, the Cavs did themselves no favors by shooting 1-12 on uncontested three point attempts in Game 1, but even had they shot 7-12 they’d still have lost by seven, and they also shot 3-14 on contested three point attempts. To not acknowledge the Celtics defense is as ignorant as it is to say they’re only here because they’ve played against lackluster talent.

Remember when the Celtics were given no shot against the Milwaukee Bucks? The Sixers would surely show us what these Celtics are made of. Until they didn’t, and then it was up to the Lebron’s. But now James is in an 0-2 non-Finals series hole for only the first time in 10 years. Do we really have to wait for the Celtics to do something against the Warriors or the Rockets to admit this team is good?

The level of disrespect these Celtics have been handed is, quite frankly, absurd. Brad Stevens received zero votes for Coach of the Year from his peers, and now is laughing at every last one of them as he sits two wins away from the NBA Finals, while award winner Dwane Casey is unemployed.

The Celtics might not have what it takes to beat whichever team comes out of the West this year, but they’re playing with house money without their two stars, and there is no doubt in my mind they will give it a better run than these Cavs.

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The bottom line is simple, whether you like the Boston Celtics or not, it’s time to respect them. Don’t get confused though, the Celtics don’t care if you respect them or not, the same way they don’t care if you call yourself the King. This team has made one thing crystal clear this postseason: they are no longer just watching the throne, they’re taking it for themselves.