The Celtics have played to the limits of their potential this season

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The Celtics have played to the limits of their potential this season

Post by bobheckler on Thu May 25, 2017 11:54 am

http://www.metrowestdailynews.com/sports/20170524/souza-celtics-have-played-to-limits-of-their-potential-this-season?rssfeed=true



Souza: The Celtics have played to the limits of their potential this season




Posted May 24, 2017 at 6:00 PM

 

The mark of a good show is that it leaves you wanting more even after it has met most every expectation.



By Scott Souza/Daily News Staff




The mark of a good show is that it leaves you wanting more even after it has met most every expectation.

The Celtics have been that show this season — and especially this postseason — as they have occasionally frustrated, underwhelmed, and drawn rightful criticism for failing at moments when there was a clear path to success. Yet, as they enter Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals Thursday night against the Cleveland Cavaliers at TD Garden, they arrive at the point where most would have reasonably pegged their ceiling for this year.


The No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference in name only when it came to matching up against the defending champions, the Celtics did do enough coming into the year — signing a maximum-salary free agent in Al Horford — and over the course of the regular campaign — winning 53 games behind a Second Team All-NBA star in Isaiah Thomas — to warrant a high bar for playoff success.

It would have been a massive underachievement to lose in the first round to the Chicago Bulls despite the 2-0 deficit, Rajon Rondo’s resurgence, and the personal tragedy Thomas endured with his sister’s sudden death on the eve of the series. But the Celtics responded to that charge and won four straight games for their first playoff series victory in four years with Brad Stevens as coach.

It would have been a disappointment to lose in the semifinals to the Washington Wizards despite the formidable backcourt of Bradley Beal and John Wall, blowout losses in Games 3 and 4 in Washington, and a missed opportunity to close out the series in Game 6. But the Celtics answered the call in Game 7 when Thomas scored 29 points with 12 assists, Kelly Olynyk had 26 points, and the Celtics reached the conference finals for the first time since 2012.

And it would have left a sour taste had the Celtics bowed out the way it appeared they might after going down 50 points in the second half of a 44-point Game 2 loss to the Cavaliers at TD Garden on Friday, despite the clear talent advantage of the reigning champions, the loss of Thomas to a torn hip muscle, and the fact that the Celtics were trying to beat the greatest player of his generation in LeBron James.

But, once again, the Celtics showed up, put their resolve on display, won a game in Cleveland and were up 16 points in the other. As they return home for a Game 5 thought improbable at best when they left town Saturday afternoon, they do so with anticipation of a possible upset, but also secure in that any result short of a Game 2 repeat will secure validation for the season.


This is a team clearly on the upswing after going from 40 victories two years ago, to 48 last year, to 53. It is a team that showed it could win in the playoffs after back-to-back first-round exits. The run verified both the worth of signing Horford to a max contract, and also resisting the temptation to trade last year’s draft pick that has become a potential budding star in Jaylen Brown.

These playoffs legitimized Thomas as someone who can carry his team to postseason victory with his Game 4 performance in Chicago, his 53-point takeover of Game 2 against the Wizards, and his playmaking in the Game 7 closeout of Washington. That the Celtics sorely missed his shot-making in the second half Tuesday night at Cleveland also rebuffed those who took their miraculous Game 3 comeback — which was more about grit and resilience than the play or absence of any one individual — as some sort of evidence this team was better without its best player.


It’s not to say the Celtics haven’t had their faults in this postseason. It’s not to overlook the fact that some of their greatest rallies have come on the heels of holes they largely dug for themselves. It’s not to say that anyone is ultimately fine with settling for second best in a building where 17 Celtics banners hang from the rafters.

But it’s an allowance that early in the year most would not have had the Celtics playing a Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals at home with the chance to extend their season at least one more game as a best-case scenario.

That all lays the groundwork for expectations to be raised even higher next season. But for this one — win or lose Thursday night — the players and coaches will walk out of TD Garden bumping their heads on the ceiling of their potential.




bob
MY NOTE: I agree 100%. I'm very proud of this team. They achieved every goal I set for them at the beginning of the season and then some. Win or lose tonight, they did us Proud.


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Re: The Celtics have played to the limits of their potential this season

Post by wideclyde on Thu May 25, 2017 12:56 pm

I also agree that this year's Cs team has done even better than I thought. Good article.

I would like to add that this team extending themselves to the Eastern Conf Championship has done a great job of helping the front office to even better see the team's weak areas moving forward where losing in the first round in previous years kind of helped to hide some weak areas.

Having good,solid play from your perimeter players is very important, but we are again seeing the importance of being able to better control the game in the lane and also that we are not very good at doing so.

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