The Celtics are for real, and they have nothing to fear in the Nets


The Celtics received three of their 4 regular-season matchups with Brooklyn.

Dodge the Nets? Fret in regards to the Nets? Worry the Nets?

No manner. Deliver on the Nets. And dismiss them, methodically and unrelentingly, into an early begin to their offseason.

Come on. Haven’t you paid consideration to what the Celtics have turn out to be? They don’t again away from a problem. They are the problem.

I do know, I get that it’s nonetheless exhausting to wrap our heads round how proper issues have gone over the previous three months, when each break over the previous couple of seasons felt like a repeated kick to the shin.

This success — 28 wins of their last 35 video games, blowout after blowout down the stretch, a last tally of 51 wins and the second seed within the Jap Convention — nonetheless feels sudden, a little bit like a daydream.

Nevertheless it’s actual. Even after shedding human pogo stick Robert Williams III to a knee harm, they’ve maintained their dominance. That is who they’re. It’s OK to consider in them. They went out and earned it.

Oh no, change didn’t come simply. A torpid 2020-21 season led to a seismic shakeup within the group — Danny Ainge to “retirement” after which Utah, Brad Stevens from the bench to the entrance workplace, and Ime Udoka in from the skin because the blunt new coach, conscience, and voice.

The Celtics have been exasperating within the first half. Awful previous habits lingered. Each fourth-quarter lead proved tenuous. Ball motion was sporadic. Even with a brand new coach, it seemed acquainted in all of the unsuitable methods. They misplaced 21 of their first 39 video games.

However Udoka, an image of stoicism to us however clearly somebody who should reveal extra behind the scenes given how gamers respect him but in addition really feel comfy needling him, by no means wavered in his message. Share the ball. Play protection with such ferocity that the opponent’s spirit breaks. By no means let up.

Simply after we questioned whether or not he was getting by to them, the reality was revealed: The gamers weren’t simply listening, they have been implementing.

Jayson Tatum unlocked one thing in himself, discovering a option to make his teammates higher whereas elevating his offensive sport to All-NBA ranges. Marcus Good proved he’s certainly some extent guard. Stevens, who has pulled off some Auerbachian offers in his first 12 months within the entrance workplace (we don’t discuss sufficient in regards to the absolute heist of getting Al Horford again for Kemba Walker’s brutal contract), streamlined the roster and located an ideal intangible slot in guard Derrick White.

The Celtics lastly turned the enjoyable, relentless, clever-passing group that we had hoped to see however have been by no means fairly certain we might. It’s extremely satisfying, and the gamers’ resilience and dedication in getting this case proper warrants religion proper now.

Certain, Udoka might have rested his starters within the regular-season finale in opposition to the Grizzlies, maybe permitting his group to complete with a decrease seed and again right into a presumably simpler first-round matchup than Brooklyn. However that may have gone in opposition to this group’s newfound identification. The Celtics don’t again down on the courtroom. Why ought to they concede something off of it?

Apart from, taking part in the Nets permits for the symmetry of a possible revenge tour; the Celtics might face the groups that ended their seasons in 2019 (Bucks), 2020 (Warmth), and 2021 (Nets).

Don’t get me unsuitable: The Nets are worthy of some respect. If Kevin Durant had shorter ft, they could have received the NBA title final 12 months. Kyrie Irving stays as electrifying on the courtroom as he’s annoying away from it. (The Celtics do want their very own Incense Man to counteract Irving when he lights his little lavender delights on the Backyard. I nominate Malik Fitts. Or possibly Luke Kornet might simply stroll round spraying a can of Off!)

However respect and worry are usually not synonyms. The Nets have some useful position gamers (Bruce Brown could be a beloved Celtic), however they’re atrocious defensively (twentieth within the league), and if the Celtics play with poise, they won’t battle to attain.

It additionally ought to be famous that as a lot as we determine Udoka with Gregg Popovich and the Spurs, he was alongside Steve Nash on the Nets bench final 12 months; he has deep institutional data of what they need to do and what makes them tick.

Oh, and the notion that Ben Simmons — who allegedly has a foul again and hasn’t performed since his “Here, you take it, Thybulle” meltdown in final season’s playoffs — goes to come back again and be a Tatum Stopper is absurd. Simmons is the final participant within the league that ought to be thrown right into a circumstance like this.

The Celtics have been the most effective group in basketball since getting it proper in February. Brown was right Tuesday night time in noting that the Celtics protection isn’t the identical with out Williams, but it surely’s nonetheless excellent, and there’s unending buzz that Williams will likely be again sooner somewhat than later. The diploma of problem is increased whereas he’s out, but it surely nonetheless shouldn’t be that troublesome.

The Nets have a wonderful tandem.

The Celtics have a wonderful group.

Belief them. They’ve earned that a lot. And so they’re about to earn a lot extra.

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