Sunday Column: Boston’s Playoff Return Shows Progress Under Stevens
By Matt Noonan
The Boston Celtics have returned to the postseason.
Yep, the “glory days” of Boston Celtics basketball has returned. However, don’t get your hopes up because Brad Stevens – the head coach of the month! – will be guiding a roster of second and third depth chart players against perhaps the ultimate favorite to defeat San Antonio in June (or Golden State).
Boston will once again see LeBron James in the “second season,” but unlike previous matchups, this particular series favors King James, Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love and Framingham’s own David Blatt.
That’s right, the Cavaliers are going to win this series, probably in four or five games.
Perhaps six? Well, that would depend, especially if the Celtics could win one (and hopefully two) game(s) on their own parquet.
Yet, no matter the outcome of this series – again, expect Cleveland to win – this is a huge step forward for a team that became the biggest revolving door earlier this season.
Give credit to Stevens and most of the front office as the Green and White became “pit-stop” for a slew of players over the past few months. Players like Tayshaun Prince, Nate Robinson, Jameer Nelson and Austin Rivers stole the headlines when they all landed in the ‘City of Champions’ during Danny Ainge’s ‘Wheeling and Dealing’ escapade. Rajon Rondo was a Celtic – he was on the opening day roster – but was eventually shipped to Dallas.
Once Ainge stopped shuffling the deck, Stevens had a chance to get to know his team – for the most part! – and teach them a style of basketball that resulted in a 40-42 record.
Boston won more games this year, outlasting their 2013-14 squad that captured 25 games, including 16 contests on Causeway Street. This season, the Celtics won 21 games on their home court, 19 on the road, and 12 divisional matchups. Boston also finished 28-24 in the Eastern Conference, but again, don’t let those numbers fool you because the Celtics won’t be playing basketball in May or June (I am sorry, Boston!).
I am a Celtics fan – always have been! – however, I just don’t think this team has what it takes to defeat the second best team in the East. If they were matched up against the Atlanta Hawks, well … I would think they would have a chance. Chicago? Forget it, I like the Bulls because they’ll contend for an Eastern Conference crown.
Boston – on the other hand – should enjoy seeing their beloved Celtics in the playoffs. It is extremely nice to have a winter team extend their season into mid-to-late April, especially after the Bruins’ collapse last weekend. We love having our teams compete in the postseason, we do, but this team won’t be riding Duckboats around Government Center. Instead, most of the players will learn from this opportunity and apply it to next season.
Year number two of Stevens and the Celtics has been a success. They won more games, were competitive with the league’s top teams – remember when they almost beat the Warriors? – and showed they can compete, even if they look like a squad that resembles a college intramural unit.
I am extremely excited to see the Celtics taking a step forward. And now, it is all about playing your best – at least giving your best effort, Brad! – and learning from the experience. I believe in Brad just like I believe in Boston. Better days are ahead for the Green and White, so consider this the start of something special.
All good teams have to go through a “rebuilding” phase in order to contend. Atlanta was a decent team a few years ago and now they’re number one in the Eastern Conference. Toronto wasn’t that good, even when Vince Carter played for the Raptors, but now they’re a 49-win team. And the same could be said for Milwaukee, but the Bucks won 41 games, not 49.
Let’s all enjoy this series – please do the best you can to enjoy it, but remember that while Cleveland is indeed the favorite, Boston will one day be in their shoes and ready to contend for Banner 18.