Healthy Roster Shows Promise for Celtics’ New Season
By Scott Jarosz ’21
Over the course of the offseason prior to the 2017-18 NBA season, the Boston Celtics made some enormous additions to their roster that created a lot of buzz throughout their home city. In the 2017 NBA Draft, the Celtics selected former Duke University small forward Jayson Tatum as the third overall pick.
Next, Head Coach Brad Stevens and the Celtics signed Gordon Hayward, who had previously played with the Utah Jazz for seven straight seasons coming out of college. This signing was especially well-recieved as Hayward had previously played under Stevens at Butler University, where Stevens served as the head coach from 2007 to 2013 prior to joining the Celtics.
The next roster change, and arguably the biggest change the Celtics made, was a trade with the Cleveland Cavaliers that sent Isaiah Thomas and Jae Crowder to Cleveland in exchange for star point guard Kyrie Irving. The drastic changes that the Celtics front office made during the offseason proved to be well worth it, as the Celtics finished with a 55-27 record and advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals.
This season, the Celtics are looking to work off last year’s project and do even more damage. There is good reason to believe that the team will have even more success this year as the group continues to evolve, and as small forward Gordon Hayward makes his highly anticipated return after missing practically the entire 2017-18 season with a gruesome ankle injury.
At full strength, the 2018-19 Celtics are one of the most dangerous teams in the NBA. The team features some of the best young talent in the league with players like Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart, and Terry Rozier, who are all recent college graduates. The Celtics also boast experienced players such as center Aron Baynes, power forwards Marcus Morris and Al Horford, and point guard Kyrie Irving, who is just 26-year-old but is regarded as one of the best point guards in the NBA.
Last season, Jayson Tatum was one of the most surprising rookies in the league. Tatum averaged 13.9 points per game (PPG) in the 2017-18 regular season. He impressed everyone throughout the league with his confidence and composure, which shined in the postseason. In the playoffs, Tatum averaged 18.5 PPG and recorded a season-high 28 points in game one of the Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Philadelphia 76ers. Tatum was not the only Celtics player that surprised people last year. Guard Terry Rozier stepped up and was a crucial player for the Celtics, especially after Kyrie Irving suffered an injury in March that sidelined him for the remainder of the regular season and postseason. In the playoffs, Rozier averaged 16.5 PPG and 5.7 assists per game. One of his most notable postseason performances also came in game one of the Eastern Conference Semifinals against the 76ers when he netted 29 points. Rozier’s ability to step in and make big-game plays in Irving’s absence earned him a lot of respect from fans as well as the nickname “Scary Terry”.
The Celtics showed just a glimpse of what they are capable of last season. When taking into consideration that the Celtics were without Gordon Hayward for the entire season and Kyrie Irving for the postseason, what the team accomplished was quite impressive. Now at full force, the Celtics look to be one of the NBA’s best teams in the 2018-19 season.
No Stars? No Problem for Celtics
Jaylen Brown Breaks Out to Give Boston Series Lead
By Jack Belanger ’21
It has not been an easy season for the Boston Celtics this year in terms of injuries, but the team nevertheless has found ways to win. Once starting forward Gordon Hayward went down with a season-ending injury on opening night, all-stars Kyrie Irving and Al Horford were able to lead a young team to the second-best record in the Eastern Conference. The team took another big hit when it was announced that Irving would undergo a season-ending knee surgery on March 11.
Without Irving, Head Coach Brad Stevens was able to get the most out of young players, as Jaylen Brown and Jason Tatum stepped up and led the team to a 9-6 record to end the season and set up a first round match-up against the Milwaukee Bucks led by Giannis Antetokounmpo. Without the Celtics’ top two players, plenty of experts picked the Bucks to win as they saw Antetokounmpo as the best player on either team.
Five games into the series, Antetokounmpo has played exceptionally well, averaging 25.4 points per game. Luckily, Boston has been able to match his performance with Brown breaking out and leading the Celtics in scoring, averaging 21.8 points per game. Brown’s stellar play has given the Celtics the push they needed and helped them take a 3-2 game lead over the Bucks after five in the best-of-seven series.
While the team still has an all-star in Horford on the court, it is the improved play of Brown, Tatum, and point guard Terry Rozier that has been the difference for the team in the series. In Game 1 the trio combined for 62 points, including 23 from Rozier who hit a three-pointer with half a second left. That shot would have won the game for Boston had Milwaukee’s Khris Middleton not hit a buzzer-beater shot to force overtime, where Boston would win 113-107.
In Game 2, Brown was in complete control as he scored 30 points, leading Boston in scoring. He made 12 shots from the field, including five three-pointers. Overall, the team had six players score over 10 points as the Celtics dominated the Bucks 120-104, taking a 2-0 series lead before games 3 and 4 took place in Milwaukee.
Game 3 was a disaster for the Celtics. Boston was slow from the start and the Bucks took advantage, leading 27-12 after one quarter. Boston would only shoot 40 percent from the field for the game and ultimately lost 116-92.
While Boston took a tough 104-102 loss in Game 4, allowing Milwaukee to tie the series to two games apiece, the ending of the game gave Celtics fans comfort that the team would not have another poor performance. Boston was down by as much as 20 points early in the third quarter, but the team was able to go on a run to tie the game and even take the lead with less than a minute left in the game. Ultimately the Bucks were able to win the game on a tip-in by Antetokounmpo. Boston’s resurgence in the second half was largely thanks to Tatum’s 18 points in the second half and Brown’s 34 points for the game, including 10 points in the final quarter.
In Game 5 back in Boston, the Celtics held control throughout the entire game. Brown played tough defense on Antetokounmpo, holding him to only 16 points. The Celtics were also energized by the return of point guard Marcus Smart who missed the first four games with a thumb injury.
Smart was able to seal the game for Boston, as the Bucks had closed the game to 84-79 with less than a minute to play. As Milwaukee ramped up the pressure, Boston lost control of the ball, but Smart was able to dive on the loose ball and make a great pass with two defenders on him to a wide open Horford under to hoop to put Boston up seven and seal the Game 5 win.
The two teams head to Milwaukee for Game 6, where Boston will have a chance to win the series where they will play tonight at 8 p.m. The Philadelphia 76ers will be the next opponent for the winner of this series. The 76ers beat the Miami Heat in five games to advance to the Eastern Conference Semifinals.
Why the Celtics Will Make it to the Finals
By Jack Belanger ’21
Despite having multiple players suffer injuries and a tough stretch where they lost five out of six games, the Boston Celtics are where many expected them to be: first place in the Eastern Conference.
Even without star forward Gordon Hayward, Boston has dominated throughout this season which included a 16-game winning streak earlier in the year. This could be the year the Celtics finally climb over the wall that is the Cleveland Cavaliers, and make their first NBA finals appearance since 2010.
The Celtics’ defense has vastly improved from last year, which puts less pressure on them to score at a higher rate. Last year, Boston gave up 105.4 points per game, which was 15th best in the league, while this year they are giving up 98.8 point per game, the second best.
Last year, the gap between the Celtics and the top teams was much wider than this year. Last year Boston went 3-7 against teams with the top four records in the league, while this year they are currently 4-2.
And while the Celtics finished ahead of Cleveland last year in the Eastern conference, the Cavaliers dominated Boston, winning three out of four games during the season and outscoring them by an average of 7.8 points. This year, Boston has gone 1-1 against Cleveland, scoring an average of 100.5 points, while Cleveland has averaged 95 points.
While the Celtics themselves have improved this season, a big part of why they have a good chance to make it to the finals is that Cleveland has gotten worse. The Cavs have been surrounded with turmoil this year and have regressed from last season as they sit in third place; five and a half games behind Boston.
In a discussion with Sam Coella ’19, he said that last year when Boston played Cleveland in the playoffs, the Cavaliers had the best player on the court in Lebron James and the second best in Kyrie Irving. This year, Boston has the second best in Irving and potentially the third best in all-star Al Horford, as former Celtic Isaiah Thomas has not been the same as last year.
While Cleveland may end up being the favorite to reach the finals at the end of the year, the gap between them and Boston is no longer as wide as it has been. With the way Boston has been playing, they are more than capable of winning a seven-game series against Cleveland and making their first NBA Finals appearance since the Big Three era.
Basketball Legend Jo Jo White Remembered
by Jack Belanger ’21
The basketball community mourned last week as former Boston Celtic and basketball hall-of-famer Jo Jo White passed away after a battle with brain cancer. White, 71, had been battling the cancer for a while as he had a brain tumor removed back in 2010. The announcement came just before the Celtics tipped off against the New Orleans Pelicans.
White starred as the point guard for the Celtics during the 1970s, playing in Boston for 10 seasons before finishing his career with the Golden State Warriors and the Kansas City Kings. He, along with forwards Dave Cowens and John Havlicek, led Boston to NBA titles in 1974 and 1976. White was a seven-time all-star for the Celtics averaging 17.2 points per game and 4.9 assists per game in his career.
Drafted ninth overall in the 1969 draft out of Kansas, White quickly became a fan favorite in Boston. He set a franchise record by playing in 488 consecutive games over the span of seven seasons. He made the game look easy, and bought into the idea of Celtic pride, giving all he had every game.
One of White’s biggest games of his career probably came on the biggest stage. In Game 5 of the 1976 NBA Finals against the Phoenix Suns, White led the Celtics to a 128-126 triple-overtime victory, where he led the team with 33 points and nine assists while playing 60 out of 63 minutes, and was eventually named the Finals MVP.
After he retired in 1981, the Celtics retired White’s #10 jersey in 1982 during a ceremony where they raised it to the rafters. Eventually, White was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2015 along with his former coach Tommy Heinsohn.
Outside of his career on the court, White was one of the most respected players around the league. Unlike many players today, White was a quiet leader for the Celtics and was known for his kind-hearted nature.
Even after his playing days, White stayed involved with the Celtics, as he mentored many players over the years and was hired as Director of Special Projects. Former Celtic, Brian Scalabrine, took time out of the Celtics broadcast to talk about White. “In 2010, before every game,” Scalabrine said, “he would stand at half court, give me a hug and tell me–every game–‘you’re doing great; just continue to be who you are, and do what you do.’ That meant a lot to me.”
During last Thursday’s game against the Philadelphia 76ers, Boston honored White by putting his jersey over the seat he usually sat in over the years to cheer on the Celtics. The team also played a tribute video for him during a timeout.
While he will surely be missed, White left an impact in Boston that spread across multiple generations that will remember his contributions on and off the court for years to come.
PCI: Best Sports Moment of 2017
Kyrie Irving to Celtics
By Max Anderson ’18
I am going to take a different route than most would and say that the best sports moment of 2017 was when Danny Ainge crafted a trade that shipped star point guard Kyrie Irving up to Boston.
The trade was originally agreed upon on Aug. 22 of last year.The original details of the trade stated that the Celtics would send Boston icon Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic and the unprotected 2018 first round pick of the Brooklyn Nets in exchange for Irving.
However, after Thomas failed a physical upon arrival in Cleveland, the Cavaliers demanded more compensation, even though the Celtics stated they had been upfront with the Cavs about the severity of Thomas’s injury. Eight days later, on Aug. 30, the Celtics agreed to add a second-round pack in the 2020 draft, and the trade was finalized.
This was the best sports moment of 2017, not only because it sent shockwaves throughout the entire sports world-nobody thought the Cavs would have traded Irving, especially not to a rival like the Celtics- but also because it improved the competition of the NBA.
Before this trade, fans and executives alike were already penciling in a fourth straight Warriors-Cavs Finals matchup. However, shortly after this trade, people soon began to wonder if maybe, just maybe, the new-look Celtics could potentially upend the reigning Eastern Conference Champion Cavaliers.
Flash forward to the beginning of 2018 and not only are the Celtics atop in the Eastern Conference with a 34-11 record, but they are 7.5 games ahead of the Cavaliers, who currently sit in fourth place.
This trade has not only benefitted the Boston Celtics but the entire Eastern Conference alike and will give all teams a fair shot at the Eastern Conference crown, potentially sparing sports fans from watching the same finals matchup witnessed the past three years.