• Ryan Kelley

The Celtics’ Unexpected Run at the Playoffs

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*Photo via USA Today

For a team that most people thought would be competing for the most ping pong balls in the NBA lottery this season, the Boston Celtics sure don’t act like it.

With four games left in the season, the Celtics currently hold the seventh playoff spot with a record of 36-42, tied with the eighth-place Brooklyn Nets and just a game ahead of the ninth-place Miami Heat. After defying all expectations to get to this point, and with an almost certain first-round defeat ahead of them, Celtics fans are left to wonder if making the playoffs is really what’s best for this team.

Boston head coach Brad Stevens and his players couldn’t care less about the notion that they should have tanked this year. While Celtics President of Basketball Operations Danny Ainge and his staff decided to deal Rajon Rondo and Jeff Green for very little value, the rest of the team kept playing as if they hadn’t just lost their two best players.

The Celtics got five players and three future draft picks out of the Rondo and Green trades. The only player from those trades that is still on the current roster is small forward Jae Crowder.

“What is that word, ‘tank?’” Crowder told Mark Murphy of the Boston Herald. “I know the meaning but I don’t even know how to say that.”

This mindset can be attributed to the outstanding coaching job Stevens has done. As he said in an interview for Grantland.com, his focus for this team has been to get his guys to be the best they can be at what got them into the league in the first place. Stevens has been able to figure out each of his players’ strengths and exactly the right way to utilize those strengths during games, and it has drawn him Coach of the Year consideration.

In other words, great ball handlers facilitate the offense, great rebounders stay in the paint, great shooters get spot-up looks, and great scorers get the green light to attack. It seems like a simple concept, but in the league today it isn’t easy to get guys to accept one role and stick to it. Stevens has been able to do exactly that, and he has his Celtics wanting to compete night in and night out.

They did make one move that has benefited them now and for the future when they acquired Isaiah Thomas in a trade with the Phoenix Suns. In 17 games for the Celtics, Thomas has averaged 18.9 points and 5.3 assists in 26 minutes per game. At 36.4 points per 100 possessions and a Player Efficiency Rating of 21, Thomas’ consistency has helped his team win games down the stretch.

However, Boston’s remaining schedule couldn’t be much tougher. They play the Cleveland Cavaliers in back to back games, followed by the Toronto Raptors and the Milwaukee Bucks, all of which are playoff teams.

Whether the Celtics make it to the post-season or not, Ainge and the rest of the front office shouldn’t be too disappointed. At this point, the difference between being the first team out and losing in the first round would only be a few picks lower in the draft. In what is

considered to be a pretty deep draft, they’ll still get a solid player that fits one of their needs.

In what seems like a gesture of good faith, the Celtics have already put tickets on sale for their potential playoff games. They’re calling it a pre-sale, in which fans can gain access to the tickets by simply signing up to be on an emailing list. Don’t worry, if you put your faith in the Celtics and they happen to miss the playoffs, refunds for the tickets will be processed at the point of purchase.

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