Celtics Can Overcome Just About Anything


When the Boston Celtics lost to the Golden State Warriors in the 2021-22 NBA Finals, it was heartbreaking for many.

This team did not back down in the now-completed 2022-23 regular season, however. They attacked adversity and controversy, battled through injuries, and secured home-court advantage for at least the first two rounds of the playoffs.

Although the Celtics did not end the year as the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference, their season has been one to remember for years to come.

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Interim Turned Permanent

The Celtics’ front office was dealt with a tough task following the controversies of former head coach Ime Udoka.

Many people thought this ordeal was going to worsen the team that had just made their first Finals appearance since 2010.

That was not the case. Joe Mazzulla was named the interim head coach and managed the team under that label, leading his team to first place in the Eastern Conference with a record of 42-17.

It was at this moment where the Celtics knew they had a head coach they could believe in. On Feb. 16, the organization announced Mazzulla as the permanent head coach.

His impact — not only in key situations, but off the court as well — has been an instrumental part of the team’s success.

“He challenged us here to be better as a group, be more focused and really get back to who we are,” said Al Horford when talking about Mazzulla. “The group has – we’ve responded.”

In his first year as a head coach, Mazzulla led his team to the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference with a record of 57-25. He was also named as one of the two head coaches to participate in the NBA All-Star Game.

Jays Just Keep Getting Better

Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown put themselves into the conversation as the best duo in the entire NBA this year, posting career-high averages in points, rebounds and two-point percentage.

During the first half of the season, Tatum was playing like the best player in the NBA with some analysts putting him at No. 1 for the NBA’s Most Valuable Player award. Not only was JT dominating the first half, he overshadowed other All-Stars when he dropped 55 points at the NBA’s All-Star Game in Utah, setting a new all-time scoring record in an All-Star Game.

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Tatum ended his season averaging 30.1 points per game— the first time a Celtic has averaged north of 30 PPG in a season, cementing himself among one of the greats.

Jaylen Brown, meanwhile, started in 67 games this season, posting 20+ points in 56 of those games which is a single-season career high. The Celtics organization also awarded Brown with the 2022-23 Red Auerbach Award, which recognizes a player on the Celtics who “best exemplifies the spirit and meaning of what it means to be a Boston Celtic.”

“I’ve put my everything into this team, I’ve put my everything into this city, into this organization since I’ve been here,” said Brown. “To get that award, I thought meant a lot.”

Many people doubt the duo of Tatum and Brown can bring an NBA Championship trophy to Boston, but if they keep up the level of play they had throughout the regular season, they are going to be very hard to keep up with.

Big Al

This team would not be where it is without its veteran leadership.

There is no question that the intelligence and leadership of Al Horford has been a driving force in such a successful season. His presence is felt all around the locker room and it translates to a high level of play for all of his teammates.

You can see Horford means a lot to this team with how his teammates talk about him so openly.

“I think me and Al are a lot similar in a lot of ways,” Tatum said. “We always kind of stay level. That’s something I’ve kind of probably learned from him, being his teammate four out of my first six years… I’m very appreciative of being a teammate of Al.”

After the Celtics beat the Heat in last year’s Eastern Conference Finals, Brown spoke about Horford and what he has meant to the team.

Not only has he been a leader, Horford has managed to stay relevant in an NBA that would have left him in the dust if it wasn’t for him adapting to the new style of play. Big Al finished the season shooting an efficient 44.6% from deep, ranking him second among all NBA players in three-point percentage.

In a victory over the Trail Blazers on March 8th, Horford passed Isaiah Thomas for made three-point shots which put him No. 9 all-time in Celtics franchise history.

Without Al Horford, it would be very hard to tell where this team would be.

Sixth-Man-of-the-Year Candidate

When the Celtics acquired Malcolm Brogdon from the Indiana Pacers in exchange for Daniel Theis, Aaron Nesmith, Malik Fitts, Juwan Morgan, Nik Stauskas and a first-round draft pick, it set the Internet on fire.

Many people knew what Brogdon was capable of, but the expectations that were set for him heading into the year were certainly exceeded.

Appearing in 67 games this season — all of which he came off the bench — Brogdon averaged 14.9 points, 4.2 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game while shooting 48.4% from the field and a career-high 44.4% from three.

Brogdon deserves the NBA Sixth Man of the Year crown over New York Knicks guard Immanuel Quickley. Not to downplay Quickley, but he has started in 21 games this year for the Knicks compared to Brogdon’s zero. Comparing stats side by side, Brogdon’s efficiency blows Quickley’s out of the water. 

Consistent Guard Play

Aside from Brogdon, Derrick White and Marcus Smart have been just as important to this team as anybody else.

White — also known as Iron Man — appeared in every single game this year. The last time a Celtics player had achieved that was Isaiah Thomas during the 2015-16 season.

“Last year I didn’t really know anybody at first,” said White in his media-day interview with NBC Sports Boston. “Coming back this year, I feel much more settled in and comfortable.”

White was acquired via trade from the San Antonio Spurs before the trade deadline last year and his contributions to the team during their NBA Finals run was underwhelming. With a whole offseason to train and get comfortable with his teammates, however, he shined, finishing the season averaging 12.4 points (46% FG, 38% 3PT, 88% FT), 3.6 rebounds and 3.9 assists per night.

There have been some doubt on Smart’s play throughout the season, but when you add a talented player like Brogdon, output is going to take a little bit of a decline.

Smart is still the heart and soul of this team. When it gets to playoff time, you will not find a hungrier player on the court.

Whether he is diving for loose balls to give his team a second-chance opportunity to throwing free-throw shots off the rim to set his team up for a go-ahead/tying bucket, he will do whatever it takes for his team.

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The Young Guys

It wouldn’t be a true recap without mentioning the likes of Sam Hauser and Payton Pritchard down the stretch of the season. Hauser dropped back-to-back 26-point games in the Celtics’ last two regular-season contests. In the last game, Pritchard dropped his first career triple-double. He finished the game with 30/14/11, joining Jayson Tatum as the only Celtics to record such a feat this season.

It is unlikely that both of these guys will get considerable minutes in the playoffs. Regardless, having such an impact before the playoffs boosts their confidence and could play a massive part if Mazzulla has to call on them.

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Title Town and The City of Champions are just some of the names used to describe Boston and their professional sports teams. Bostonians only tend to care about their teams bringing back a championship and want to see their favorite athletes parading on duck boats through the narrow streets of a Boston.

If they maintain the level of play witnessed all year round, they are going to bring that to fruition.

The Celtics’ road to taking care of unfinished business starts with the Atlanta Hawks in Game 1 of Round 1 this Saturday.

About Eric Tartaglia

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