NBA 2018-2019: Boston Celtics finally make it to the end of the season, look ahead to Playoffs
Terry Rozier said it best earlier this week: "I couldn't wait for this year to be over, I ain't gonna lie to you". Rozier reflects the feeling of just about every other Boston Celtics player and fan.
Kyrie Irving was asked to give his thoughts on the season and said that it came with "a lot of bulls--t" mentioning himself personally, not just with the team. He also recognized there were a lot of things he could've handled differently, especially with the media.
Irving and Rozier's comments represent what everyone connected to the team has been thinking for the past 2 months of the season: just get to the playoffs. The Celtics will open up the first round against the Indiana Pacers, and if you're judging by the past few months of basketball, could very well beat this Celtics team.
Head Coach Brad Stevens had high praise for the Pacers after their meeting on Friday night, which the Celtics won 117-97. "I think they're very tough," Stevens said. "That wasn't their best game, and we know that. If you're not locked in at the moment against them, they'll go on a run or they'll beat you up."
This is the time this team has been waiting for after a tumultuous regular season based on inconsistency. After failing to live up to their extreme preseason expectations, many people have not thought of them as a team to make the Eastern Conference Finals, let alone the NBA Finals. There is still time left for the Celtics to get themselves sorted out, which is what they have been trying to do all season.
This time around, Gordon Hayward is playing with a more aggressive style, bumping up his scoring average and shooting percentage to season-highs in the last month. In Hayward's last 8 games, he's averaging 16 points while having a shooting percentage of 58.5 from the field and 87.9 percent from the free throw line. Add in 6 rebounds and 3 assists over those games, and Hayward has been playing his best ball as a Celtic.
Hayward will be a major key for the Celtics during the postseason, especially without Marcus Smart for possibly the first two rounds after Smart suffered a torn oblique muscle against the Orlando Magic. Guys like Terry Rozier and Jaylen Brown will be given the opportunity to play more postseason minutes, much like last year, without Smart being in the lineup. Hayward remains a huge part of the team's success, as the Celtics are 20-4 when Hayward scores 14 or more points.
After finishing the regular season with a record of 49-33, this Celtics team has a lot to prove in the postseason, and they've been looking forward to it for weeks now. "Full steam ahead," said Brad Stevens after the final regular season game against the Wizards. This is a team that is now locked in for the NBA Playoffs. Now that the regular season is over, so is all the drama and frustration that came with it. The Celtics get a fresh start. All that matters right now is the Indiana Pacers, who the Celtics have beaten twice in the past two weeks.
As we saw last year, this team definitely has the talent to have success in the postseason, and everyone will get to see the debut of "Playoff Kyrie" in a Celtics uniform. After that comes veteran Al Horford, who has never missed the Playoffs in his entire NBA career, Gordon Hayward, and the "young guys" in Rozier, Tatum, and Brown.
Everyone involved can sense this team's potential, as well as what they still have left to achieve. The Celtics season will be defined from now until whenever they are done playing. Depending on how the coming weeks of basketball play out, this team has a chance to either redeem themselves after the season they've had.
Lose in the first round, and it could become one of the most hated seasons by a Boston sports team in recent history. Win a championship and it goes down as one of the most amazing Celtics seasons in history. Anything in between would feel like a waste of potential. What happens from this point on, and how far the Celtics go in their playoff push is up to them.