Most Celtics fans thought this year's team was going to be pretty good, but I doubt very many had them in in 1st place with 5 games to go in the regular season - well here we are. After a blowout win on Sunday over the Knicks the C's sit a half game ahead of Cleveland for the #1 overall seed and are the 1st team to 50 wins in the East this season. Brad Stevens noted after the game Sunday that 50 wins seemed a long ways away a couple of season ago:
Stevens on 1st 50-win season: "A couple of years ago I would have thought that would be something we would have to build for a while for."— Boston Celtics (@celtics) April 2, 2017
In his first season in Boston coach Stevens led a Celtics that may as well have had an 'under construction' sign on it to a 25-57 record, and I'm sure 50 wins seemed to be pipe dream. The C's finished tied for the 4th worst record in the league that year with their 25 wins, but it only took them another season to find themselves in the playoff hunt.
After trading arguably their two best players midseason in Rajon Rondo and Jeff Green the Celtics seemed to be trying to bottom out once again, but that wasn't actually the case. The two players they received in return not only excelled in green, but they became building blocks for future success. Both Isaiah Thomas and Jae Crowder have become pillars of this Celtics team and it's recent success. The former has turned into a legitimate MVP candidate and the latter is playing under perhaps the most cost effective contract for a really good player in the NBA for the next few seasons.
Those two additions, plus the treasure trove of high draft picks Danny Ainge held up the Brooklyn Nets for are what turned this franchise around at such a rapid rate. They've managed to make the playoffs both subsequent seasons and this year they have a good shot at entering the playoffs as the 1st seed in the Eastern Conference. IT and Jae, plus the pieces they've gotten in the draft the last few years, along with Avery Bradley (the only holdover from the big-three era), and the addition of Al Horford this year have all combined to put them in the spot they're in today.
If the Cavaliers win their game against Orlando tonight, which is likely unless coach Tyrone Lue decides to give the Cavs starters the night off as they've won 16 straight times against the Magic, then tomorrow nights game between the defending champions and the Celtics in Boston would be with first place on the line and only 4 games to go. Pretty high stakes. Isaiah says it's important, but the Celtics won't look at it as anything but the next game on the schedule:
Cleveland up next on Wednesday: "It's a big game, but we're going to treat it like any other game," says Isaiah Thomas. "We'll be ready."— Boston Celtics (@celtics) April 2, 2017
The Celtics are rolling of late, especially at home where they are 15-2 since January 25th. The Cavaliers are 30-8 this season playing in Cleveland, but a mere .500 (19-19) on the road. These next few games matter big time, as home court could be the difference in the postseason.
At the beginning of this year most Celtics fans would have been happy with moving past the 1st round in the playoffs for the first time in Stevens tenure, but now with the season they've had the goalpost has been moved back. Anything less than an Eastern conference finals appearance has to be a disappointment at this point.
Photo credit - Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images
Follow Mark on Twitter: @MarkAL401 Mark Allison 4/04/2017 11:50:00 AM Tweet Edit