Celtics

Has it Truly Been An Easy Finals Path for the Celtics?

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With the Boston Celtics closing out their series win over the Cleveland Cavaliers, Twitter/X has been running with a popular take over the last couple of days: The Celtics have had an extremely easy path to the NBA Finals.

The Celtics have faced a Miami Heat team without Jimmy Butler and Terry Rozier, and a Cleveland team missing Jarrett Allen and two games without Donovan Mitchell. The Celtics will now look to face either the Indiana Pacers, who although are healthy, are the sixth seed in the East, or the New York Knicks, who are missing Julius Randle, OG Anunoby, Mitchell Robinson and Bojan Bogdanovic.

Matchups So Far

Round 1

It was evident that Miami was outmatched during this series.

In Game 2, however, Miami looked like the Boston Celtics, hitting 23 of their 43 attempted threes (Heat franchise record). During Game 4 of the series, Celtics center Kristaps Porzingis left the game due to injury. Celtics fans held their breath as Porzingis covered his face with his jersey as he limped towards the locker room.

The Celtics won in a blowout, but the story centered around the Celtics’ center. A later tweet from Adrian Wojnarowski, however, helped relieve Celtics fans. News began to sound better, as Porzingis’ injury was only believed to keep him shelved for a few weeks. As the Celtics went back to Boston with a 3-1 lead, they handled business in Game 5. The Celtics won by 34 points to send the Heat back to Miami. 

Round 2

After waiting nearly a week, the Celtics finally discovered their next opponent: the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Cleveland was coming off a grueling seven-game series with the Orlando Magic. In the process of this series, starting center Jarrett Allen went out with a rib injury, which plagued him throughout the second round. The loss of the former All-Star was felt throughout the Celtics series. When Joe Mazzulla’s patented three pointer would not fall at times, they still were able to get to the basket for an easy two points.

Later in the series, Cleveland lost Donovan Mitchell to a calf injury. Mitchell felt like the Cavs’ only offense at times, averaging 31 points per game. Although the Cavs appeared to be better with Mitchell out, it still did not prove to make them a better team than Boston. With wrapping up their series quickly, the Celtics now have more days to get Porzingis healthy.

Round 3

The Celtics now look to face either the banged up New York Knicks, or the inexperienced Indiana Pacers.

The Knicks have been able to hold off the Pacers’ offense so far in the series, leading 3-2. The losses of key rotation pieces may prove to be the team’s kryptonite in the long run. The Knicks would also be coming off another long and tough series, while the Celtics have strolled through their two series so far. The Pacers offense has the ability to match up with the Celtics, but their defense is one of the worst in the league.

The two potential opponents are not juggernauts, and should be handled rather quickly by the Celtics.

Was it Easy?

To put it simply, yes.

However, it’s not something that Celtics fans should be mad at. Injuries during the playoffs tend to happen, and the Celtics are only tasked with playing the team in front of them. Even with this, the Celtics have played more games without Kristaps Porzingis to this point than with him.

With Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum healthy, the Celtics should be reaching the NBA Finals. The Celtics won 64 games this season, seven more than the second-best team in the league and 14 more than the second-best in the East. Saying the Celtics earned an easier path would be an understatement, as the team worked all regular season and deserved to be rewarded for it. 

What About the Finals Then?

A popular take recently has been as to whether or not the Celtics light path so far will impact them later on.

This could hurt them against a team like Denver, who has been in “battles” already. Sometimes this is not the best thing to have. Two seasons ago, multiple grueling series cost the Celtics their legs in the NBA Finals. In 2022, the Celtics were unable to overcome the Golden State Warriors , who had played five games in the Western Conference Finals. The Celtics only played seven games in the Eastern Conference Finals.

Yes, it may impact them to not have these battles, but the battles that happened in the regular season may have prepared them well enough.

About Owen O'Connor

Boston, MA

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