The Boston Celtics were on top of the world last night as they destroyed the defending champion, Golden State Warriors, 128-95. What made it even better for them was the performance of prized free agent pick up, Gordon Hayward. Two years ago, Hayward was Boston’s main acquisition via free agency. He was derailed by a horrific injury on opening night last season but that seemed long ago as the Butler product scored 30 points and grabbed 7 rebounds.
Last night’s win improved the Celtics record to 39-26. That’s good for fifth in the Eastern Conference. Yes, fifth place.
This is a far cry from where many pundits thought they would be. With LeBron gone out of the East for his grand failure in LA, Boston was supposed to win the East and win it easily. They were getting back Hayward. They were getting back Kyrie Irving. Adding two all-stars to a team that was within four minutes of the NBA Finals made it a foregone conclusion that they would be facing the Warriors for the Larry O’Brien Trophy.
Most are trying to paint the Celtics as underachievers. But, truthfully, this is who the Celtics are. Underestimating the other Eastern Conference teams doesn’t make the Celtics disappointments. Like last season, you can’t blame injuries this season. Danny Ainge has built enough depth on the roster that Boston made the Eastern Conference Finals last season and are 9-2 without Kryie this season. This is a far cry from Kyrie’s record in Cleveland when LeBron wasn’t in the lineup.
The top team in the East, Milwaukee, has the MVP (in my opinion). It isn’t like we didn’t know who Giannis Antetokounmpo was before this season. Antetokounmpo is joined by an underrated crew in Khris Middleton, Malcolm Brogdon, and Eric Bledsoe. It can also be argued that Mike Budenholzer is just as good of a coach as Boston coach, Brad Stevens.
So much time was spent on whether Kawhi Leonard would be a rental in Toronto instead of how good the Raptors would be with him this season. Sure, there’s still a question about Kyle Lowry in the playoffs but the addition of Marc Gasol could help ease the fears of the Raptor faithful.
I have no clue how Indiana is hanging in third without their best player (Victor Oladipo). This season, the Pacers are 17-12 in games without Oladipo. McMillan and the Pacers are starting bonafide castoffs like Bojan Bogdanovic, Thaddeus Young, Darren Collison and Wesley Matthews. If this continues, should we talk about Nate McMillan for NBA Coach of the Year? At the very least, he’s NBA Miracle Worker of the Year.
The 76ers could easily be put in the same category as Boston. The same self proclaimed experts who had Boston winning the East easily had Philadelphia second. The 76ers are a half game behind the Pacers so they could end up being third which would have them open out against a team like Brooklyn instead of Boston.
So the idea that the Celtics are somehow, someway underachieving is ridiculous on many levels. The Pacers record is more ridiculous than the Celtics. In the words of Aaron Rodgers, ‘relax’. The playoffs are Kyrie’s time of year and if the Celtics are what many proclaim they are, they should find themselves right back in the Eastern Conference Finals. If they don’t make it, maybe… just maybe…. this is who they were all along.