Celtics fans can begin to fantasize about a championship now.

The Boston Celtics have built a team that is ready to win a championship. While the Celtics are not quite ready to win a championship, the Celtics fans should now begin to fantasize about a championship. Here is what the Celtics fans can do now.

NEW YORK (AP) —
The Celtics have advanced to the second round of the playoffs.

Celtics
Celtics fans can begin to fantasize about a championship now.

Who would have guessed?

Of course, it’s simple now. For the past four months, Boston has run roughshod over the NBA. They defeated Brooklyn twice in February. In March, they outscored Golden State and Denver by double digits. Since Jan. 1, the Celtics have led the league in (deep breath) defensive rating, net rating scoring margin, opponent points, and opponent field goal percentage while posting a 34–12 record. They put one of the NBA’s best scorers, Kevin Durant, in a basketball straitjacket in a four-game sweep of Brooklyn.


Brooklyn deserves credit: The Nets played as if they wanted another trip to Boston, trailing 3–0. Durant, who was tired of being a facilitator, scored 39 points on 31 attempts. Kyrie Irving scored seven points in the fourth quarter after a scoreless first half. Seth Curry got started. Goran Dragic fired a few shots.
With 90 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter, it was a one-point game.
But, with 22 seconds left, Durant missed a free throw that would have kept the deficit at one, Al Horford tipped in a Marcus Smart miss, and the Nets were headed into the offseason.

“There’s a lot of things that could play a role in why we lose,” Durant said.
“However, they were simply a better team.”


Indeed. I’ve been there for a while.
However, the season did not begin in January.
It started in October, when Boston lost its first two games and was booed in its home opener.
They played games in November, when the Celtics were thrashed by Atlanta, Brooklyn, and San Antonio, prompting a players-only meeting before the team’s eighth game of the season.
In December, Boston played 15 games. Six of them were won by them. Last week, Celtics owner Wyc Grousbeck told SI that “it felt like a building year” at the time.

This isn’t just a great turnaround. It’s incredible. A better script could not be written in Hollywood.

Consider Ime Udoka: Around the holidays, Udoka appeared to be outmatched. This was the ex-Gregg Popovich assistant who pretended to be Pop, a taskmaster without the credentials to back it up. But Udoka stuck to his principles, and his switching defensive scheme broke the Celtics’ bad offensive habits, transforming Boston into a modern-day version of the Pistons from the early 1990s. Udoka will not be considered for Coach of the Year, but try to find one who has had a greater impact.

“I’m glad we got him,” Jayson Tatum said.

Marcus Smart, for example. When Brad Stevens took over as president of basketball operations last spring, Smart appeared to be on thin ice. Last season, Stevens grew dissatisfied with Smart. I wasn’t a fan of his shot selection. Or his infrequent immaturity. Smart, who was entering the final year of his contract, appeared to be a trade candidate.
Instead, Stevens signed him to a four-year contract extension, Udoka gave him the point guard position, and Smart has flourished. In Game 4, he had 11 assists through three quarters. He only had one turnover. In this series, Irving shot 43%. He can thank Smart for that.

He still makes the odd bizarre play, such as chasing an improbable steal on Durant late in the fourth quarter, leaving Irving open for a late three-pointer, but his productive, game-changing plays far outnumber the reckless ones. Udoka compared Smart’s experience to Popovich’s with Manu Ginobili, a free-wheeling guard who helped the Spurs win four championships.

“Pop would simply say, ‘That’s Manu being Manu,'” Udoka explained. “You live with it because you know he’ll make the correct decision more often than not.”

Tatum, who was already one of the best scorers in the NBA, improved as a passer.
This season, he had a career-high 4.4 assists. He averaged 7.3 points per game against Brooklyn. The Nets were frustrated by Tatum’s willingness to make the extra pass when he wasn’t slashing to the basket or burying threes. With the clock winding down in the second quarter, Tatum whipped a pass to Grant Williams in the corner, reading a double team. Williams hit a three-pointer, extending Boston’s halftime lead to eight points.

“I knew I needed to be at my best in this series,” Tatum said. “However, I wasn’t surprised by how I performed. “I consider myself to be one of the best players.”

Jaylen Brown, who had been dealing with injuries and COVID issues earlier in the season, played like an All-Star in the second half. Robert Williams advanced to the level of a high-level two-way center. Grant Williams established himself as a versatile defender as well as an elite corner-three shooter. Al Horford, who was re-signed last summer in exchange for Kemba Walker, has been a steadying presence on both ends of the floor. The trade deadline deal that brought back Daniel Theis also opened up playing time for Payton Pritchard, who shot 47.3 percent from three after the All-Star break.

Boston appeared to be a lottery team four months ago. They are now a legitimate championship contender. These Celtics have a haughty demeanor.
“It’s us versus everyone,” Smart explained. “That’s the mentality we have, and that’s the mentality we’re going to maintain.” They are capable of defending anyone. Tatum has the potential to be the best player in any series, including a potential second-round matchup with Milwaukee. Surprisingly, what appeared to be a dysfunctional team may now be the NBA’s best.

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