By Jack Hamrick
The Boston Celtics achieved done something this year that no one thought was possible: advancing to the Eastern Conference Finals without the help of Kyrie Irving or Gordon Hayward. Talent is still present without these stars, and considering many of their players have 3 years of experience at most, the Celtics could be the first real threat LeBron has faced in almost 10 years. But with Irving and Hayward both injured, how have the Celtics still be successful?
Everyone’s first concern when seeing that the two superstars were hurt was that who would score for this young and inexperienced team? All of their young talent, all drafted by the Celtics in past years, have stepped up to the plate and knocked it out of the park. Jayson Tatum is leading the Celtics in scoring in the playoffs at 18 per game, the third highest by a rookie in Celtics history. Jaylen Brown is averaging 14.5 PPG, almost 5 more than he did last season. Last but not least, “Scary Terry” Rozier has taken over in the playoffs, giving Boston 20 a game at home.
The offensive success has been a surprise to all, but maybe it’s because the Celtics haven’t been relying on their offense. The Celtics lead the NBA in defensive efficiency, are second in opposing shooting percentage, and third in scoring defense; and the young guys lead the way. Jaylen Brown has shut down his man in every game played this post season, and Jayson Tatum is a stingy defender who gave LeBron troubles at times.
But their real success is because of the coaching brilliance of Brad Stevens. Stevens turned Butler into a National Championship contender for the 6 years he was there, making him an NBA target. Going from a small school in Indiana to replacing Doc Rivers as the Head Coach of the Boston Celtics is quite the lead, but Stevens adapted quickly and efficiently, taking a rebuilding Celtics team to the playoffs in just his second year. Boston has gotten some steals in the draft in recent years, but their best find was Coach Stevens.
Up until this year, the Celtics have rarely been the favorite. Last season, we saw I.T. lead Boston to the one seed in the East, something no one saw coming. Although the Cavs ended up beating them comfortably in five games, Boston proved to fans they weren’t underdogs anymore. With the addition of Kyrie and Gordon Hayward in the off season, the Celtics were favorites to win the East for the first time since the “Boston Threeparty” era. Once both of these stars went down, the doubt returned. Experts said they would lose game 7 to the Bucks, said they’d lose the series against the 76ers, as well as get demolished by Cleveland, yet they took the Cavs to 7 games. The young, talented, and well-coached Celtics have been proving everyone wrong in recent years, which is why they will soon be crowned the new “Kings of the East”.