It’s tough not to feel good about the Boston Celtics these days. The team is 8-5 since the acquisitions of Isaiah Thomas, Jonas Jerebko, Luigi Datome just before the NBA Trade Deadline on February 19th. Also, the Celtics have won their last two games without Thomas (bruised back), including a thrilling 95-92 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies, who are currently in second place in the loaded Western Conference.
The Celtics are a Cinderella story as they reside just one game out of the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. They don’t have a star player, but the Celtics play together and Brad Stevens has been fabulous calling plays out of timeouts at the end of games. For example in the 85-84 win over the Utah Jazz on March 4th, Stevens noticed that the Jazz had their 7-footer Rudy Gobert defending the inbounds pass and they were switching so he called a play for Tyler Zeller. Marcus Smart lobbed a long pass to Zeller who hit a buzzer-beating bank shot to send the Celtics to an exhilarating victory. In the win over the Grizzlies, Stevens drew a play for Kelly Olynyk, but he told Evan Turner to see if an alley-oop pass to Smart was available. Smart gained a step on former Celtic guard Courtney Lee and Smart banked in a shot before hitting the ensuing free throw to give the Celtics a 91-90 advantage.
Many fans have been rooting for the Celtics to lose over the past couple of seasons so they can get a potential superstar in the Draft. Isn’t it more fun to cheer for your team when they are underdogs? The most memorable victories in recent Boston sports history has been the New England Patriots’ Super Bowl XXXVI victory over the St. Louis Rams, and when the Boston Red Sox came from 3-0 down to beat the hated New York Yankees in seven games in the 2004 ALCS and then they swept the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series. Both of these teams’ championship runs were so improbable. I’m not saying the Celtics will go on a championship run, but it would be fun to cheer for the superstar-less Celtics and see how far they go.
The Celtics can follow the Atlanta Hawks’ model of success. Of course, the Hawks have made every postseason since 2008. Last season, the Hawks finished in eighth place and they fell in seven games to the top-seeded Indiana Pacers. This year, the Hawks used that run and some good health to claim the first spot in the Eastern Conference. Also, the Celtics will have about $30 million in cap space with a talented free agent class. They also have numerous draft pics over the next several years to remain in contention.
After all, everyone loves an underdog story and isn’t this the reason we watch sports? This is the season of Cinderella teams breaking people’s hearts around the country.
Excuse me for hoping the Celtics make a deep run in favor of taking a chance on a talented, yet not fully developed, teenager coming out of a year of college.The kid in me still enjoys fairy tale endings.