The Boston Celtics are Exorcising Demons

The final whistle blew in a great Game 7 at TD Garden on Sunday as the Celtics defeated the Bucks with a 109-81 blowout. In a streak that has seen Boston slip through several games, Celtics fans can breathe a sigh of relief as they take on the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals.

Both teams have changed over the past two seasons, and now that a rematch is imminent, the two opponents can test their skills and see who pots a ticket to the NBA Finals. While the Heat are a familiar opponent and bring back painful memories of the 2020 bubble, this matchup doesn’t quite feel like déjà vu. Boston’s overall identity as a team has evolved into something entirely different since Ime Udoka took over as head coach and Brad Stevens as basketball ops president. Unfortunately, the path to the conference final was not without detours and setbacks.

After a year of meteoric highs and catastrophic lows, the Celtics are on the cusp of something very special. The last three seasons have been trying for Boston, and they’ve had several playoff runs that ended in disappointment. But with this season, the Celtics have a chance to clean the house, get some skeletons out of the closet, and exorcise the demons of past playoffs.

Whether it was injuries, half-hearted efforts by key players (see Irving, Kyrie) or unexplained late-game collapses, heartbreak hit Boston after the season. This playoff run that Boston has put together has corrected all the mistakes of the past. They defeated Kyrie Irving and the Brooklyn Nets in a hard-fought series without full-strength Robert Williams, the same Kyrie Irving who gave up the Celtics to Milwaukee in 2018 when the Bucks handled them in five games. Now, with a showdown with the Heat, the Celtics have a chance to cross another name off their rachel list.

In terms of this team’s growth and development, a matchup with the Heat is the ultimate benchmark for Boston. Much of that Celtics core was present at the 2020 NBA Playoffs, and you can bet Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum and Marcus Smart will have the loss to Miami fresh in their minds. It’s time to put the spirits to rest and let the past die; It’s a different year and it’s time to trust this team and their improvements.

Jayson Tatum has made another giant leap and is on track to make Celtic playoff history with his performance in the first two rounds of the playoffs. Jaylen Brown has continued to improve and develop as Boston’s second-best scorer, and as an efficient one at that. An understated development was Marcus Smart’s rise to become the top point guard on the roster, earning DPOY honors and proving his skills in a larger playmaking role for Boston. To top it off, Robert Williams has emerged as a defensive lynchpin for the Celtics and will give it his all for Game 1.

This series represents so much more than just who will come from the East. It’s a chance for the Celtics to get over the hump and earn their first trip to the NBA Finals since 2010 (and no, I still don’t want to talk about it the Series). The whole series boils down to two things: 1) How much have the Celtics grown? and 2) how much do they want it?

The Celtics have endured so much trouble and adversity this season, but as the saying goes, “steel sharpens steel”. I believe the Celtics will rise to the occasion, especially after having two of the toughest matchups in the first two rounds. Boston hasn’t shied away from difficult matchups this postseason; Backing out just isn’t her style. Whatever the outcome, don’t expect either team to strike in this grudge match.

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