Returning from a four-game West Coast road trip that produced three victories, the Boston Celtics appeared to fritter away whatever momentum they had gained.
With the Sacramento Kings – a team the Celtics defeated on the first game of the road swing – visiting, Boston trailed most of the first half, at one point falling behind by 17.
But, with the regular-season dwindling away and the playoffs approaching, the Celtics climbed out of the hole and avoided a home court loss. With Kyrie Irving posting the second triple-double of his career (31 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds), Boston defeated Sacramento, 126-120. Irving’s box score-stuffing effort offset a game-high 34 points by Buddy Hield, the Kings’ rising young start.
There was a lot more to this game than just the box score. Several times last season, the Celtics overcame double-digit deficits, proving that a lot can happen/change in a 48-minute NBA game. Those comebacks were based on heart and teamwork.
That formula carried into the playoffs as Boston beat the Bucks in seven games, 76ers in five and pushed LeBron James and the Cavaliers to a Game Seven in the Eastern Conference Finals.
Last season’s playoff run came with Irving sidelined by injury. While this season has been an up-and-down struggle, the rally against the Kings bodes well.
If this team can keep playing this way and playing up to their potential, can a serious run at the NBA Finals be achieved? In addition to being without Irving, the Celtics played the entire season with forward Gordon Hayward, who is back this season.
With Irving playing at his current high level, there is not a doubt in my mind that the Celtics will make it to the Finals and give the Warriors a run for their money. Irving can be a dangerous person late in clutch time, which he proved when he made arguably the biggest shot in Cavs history against the Warriors in Game Seven of the 2016 NBA Finals.
Hayward has been streaky, but on any given night he could drop 30-plus. This could be said about any one of the Celtics’ starting five plus reserve Jaylen Brown. This depth and variety of point producers make the Celtics more dangerous than any other team in the Eastern Conference.
With all that being said, I am taking the Celtics over any other team in the East in a seven-game series, and I think that they will make it to the finals. If Boston gets that far, it has a legitimate shot at taking down the monster known as the Golden State Warriors, the defending champions.