If you had told me, before the season, how this season would end. That the Celtics would lose Hayward and Kyrie for the season and still make the Eastern Conference Finals, and lose in 7 games, I would’ve been really happy with that outcome. After Hayward went down, and especially after Kyrie went down, this was thought to be a lost year. In fact, when the NHL and NBA playoffs started almost everyone in Boston(including me) thought the Bruins would go much further than the Celtics. So why does the loss last night leave such a sour taste in my mouth? Why does it feel like the Celtics choked away a chance to play in The Finals?
I think it’s because, after all we have seen this season, and this postseason, we expected the Celtics to rise to the occasion and play their best last night. That didn’t happen, and because of that, we lost to the most hated man in Boston. Losing to LeBron again, especially without Kevin Love, is a pain that is almost unbearable. He has knocked out of the playoffs more times than we’d like to count, and this year we really thought we had a chance to beat him. All the guys that we’ve come to love let us down last night. From Rozier to Marcus Morris, even Brad Stevens seemed to be out coached. Losing this series the way we did, after being up 2-0 and 3-2, is going to take a long time to recover from. And LeBron has a lot to do with that. Jeff Van Gundy called this his greatest achievement. Making The Finals with the team he has around him. Never mind that the Celtics are young and will learn from this, allowing him to make the championship when we had a chance to stop it is devastating. It’s just another feather in his cap, another thing that the LeBron lovers(formerly known as ESPN) can marvel over. We had a chance to tarnish his legacy and take this trip away from him, and instead, we laid down and let him take it.
The silver lining is that, as I said, it seemed to be a lost year. When Hayward went down 5 minutes into the season, and then Kyrie went down in March, and everyone figured the Celtics would go nowhere. Then their young guys made a leap forward and surprised everyone. Jayson Tatum looked like the best player on the team, and he’s a rookie, Terry Rozier had some great games early in the playoffs, and Jaylen Brown showed some real development as a player. The experience they gained this year as the focal points of the offense should pay dividends when they are playing with Kyrie and Hayward in the playoffs next year. Yes, they’re young, and that showed in these playoffs. They were unable to win away from the Garden, and they were unable to close out LeBron, but there is serious hope for the future. The hope is that not only will they compete for a chance to make The Finals, but that they will have a real shot to win them, maybe as early as next year.
Pat is the host of the Weekend Warrior Podcast
Interact with him on Twitter @wtplane