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Will The Celtics Continue Their Success In The Playoffs?

Zachary Yuan 

The Boston Celtics are by far the best in the NBA currently, ending the season with a 64-18 record.

This season, the Boston Celtics are the best team in the East and potentially in the NBA. With an incredible starting five of Jason Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Derrick White, Kristaps Porzingis, and Jrue Holiday, along with impressive performers from the bench, including Al Horford, Payton Prichard, Sam Hauser, and Luke Kornet, the Celtics are looking undefeatable. Prior to the season, there have been concerns of injuries holding them back, yet with the way the bench players are stepping up and the talent this team has, injuries seem like not an issue at all. The Celtics have recently set the record for the most 50+ point wins in a season after demolishing the Indiana Pacers, Brooklyn Nets, and, surprisingly, the Golden State Warriors. Boston has outscored teams by 29.8 points per game in six games during the season, a span that included the latter two 50-point wins, something that only two other teams have done in an entire season. In this article, I talk about the Celtics’ previous troubles in playoffs and whether this time will be the charm. 

The Celtics have reached the playoffs 15 times in the last 16 years, reaching the finals three times and winning the Larry O’Brien trophy in the 2007-2008 season after defeating the Los Angeles Lakers in the finals. However, in the last 15 years, the Celtics have failed to win the trophy again and again. Last season, they crashed out of the playoffs in the Eastern Conference finals to an underdog Miami Heat team, and in 2022, lost to the Golden Warriors in the finals. This drought is the reason why many analysts and fans are skeptical of the Celtics’ ability to win the trophy this year. But before predicting if the Celtics will be able to continue their success in the playoffs, we first have to understand why the Celtics have been collapsing in the playoffs in previous years. 

One of the biggest criticisms of the Celtics in the postseason over the last two years has been their ability to close out games late in the fourth period. The Celtics haven’t been involved in many truly close contests this season, but when they have, the same old problems have returned. For example, they blew a 22-point fourth-quarter lead to lose 105-104 to the Cleveland Cavaliers. With the game on the line against the Cavaliers, Celtics Head Coach Joe Mazzulla decided not to call a timeout and draw up a designed play and instead pass the ball to their best player, Jayson Tatum, and let him work. This resulted in the All-NBA forward dribbling down the clock and launching a contested and unsuccessful fall-away jump shot. It's not the best shot choice when you’re trying to win the game against a smaller defender. Taking this season as a whole, the Celtics rank 18th in the league when it comes to pace — defined as the average number of plays per 48 minutes. In clutch scenarios — the final five minutes of the fourth quarter or overtime when the score is within five points — the Celtics’ pace ranks 30th. 

However, this season has still been special for Boston. The Celtics are still on pace to record one of the great regular-season campaigns of recent times. They have all but wrapped up the top spot in the Eastern Conference, eight games ahead of the Milwaukee Bucks in second place. They rank first in the league in offensive rating and third in defensive rating. Their league-best average winning margin is the sixth-best in NBA history — all but one of the five teams ahead of them went on to win a championship the same season. This time has looked mostly unstoppable, sweeping aside other teams, and with the new addition of Holiday and Porzingis to this year’s playoff roster, the Celtics will once again be the favorites to win it all. All the Celtics need is to consistently close out games, draw up game plans, and strategically use timeouts. Hopefully, after so many failures, both Mazzula, Tatum and all the players will have matured and learned from our mistakes. Once Boston has that down, their first Larry O’Brien trophy in 15 years is on the way home.


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