The Boston Celtics did what they had to do in taking Game 1 on the road against the Milwaukee Bucks Sunday afternoon, in the process they showed what they are really capable of.
How can an NBA basketball team be too talented to make it to the NBA Finals? Well, the 2018-19 Boston Celtics taught us a 101 course on exactly who that is done.
With Sunday’s 112-90 victory over the No. 1 seed Milwaukee Bucks, the No. 4 seed Celtics are now 5-0 in the playoffs with three of those wins coming on the road. While many discredited their four-game sweep over the Indiana Pacers minus Victor Oladipo, there was no discrediting what they did to Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks.
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In fact, the team everyone expected the Boston Celtics to be showed up at the Fiserve Forum. There was still no Marcus Smart, but they played solid offense and solid defense led by their big three of Kyrie Irving, Al Horford and Gordon Hayward.
Behind the coaching of Brad Stevens, they played as a team. They trusted one another, they believed in their capability and they took advantage of their depth to create effective matchups on the defensive end that had the Bucks and their fans moaning most of the second half of the game.
It was perfect basketball from a team that told us all they can flip a switch. Most importantly, the player who put the NBA on notice back in the regular season, the player who told us all to wait till the playoffs, was all smiles following the game.
That’s right, Kyrie Irving who scored 26 points with 11 assists was a happy man. He was also a man with a “I told you so” look on his face.
"“We were dealing with some ups and downs,” Irving said, as transcribed by NBA.com. “But I think we have an appreciation for the group that we have. We’ve spent at least two years together now. Everyone’s healthy other than Smarty [Marcus Smart]. So I think we have a good rhythm of the expectations for each other.”"
The regular season actually means a lot
The regular season has not much meaning for a team as talented as the Boston Celtics as far as wins and losses.
Sure, many of those 33 losses had fans and the players themselves scratching their heads. But the real lesson was finding a way to play with one another and trust one another.
Kyrie Irving had to learn how to become a leader. Gordon Hayward had to rediscover his All-Star form after missing the entire 2017-18 season with a lower leg injury. Young players like Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Terry Rozier had to learn how to play with both Irving and Hayward getting minutes while taking a step back in secondary roles.
The team also had to battle injuries as Al Horford, Aron Baynes and now Marcus Smart have had to battle their way back to the court. Through it all, even the coaching of Brad Stevens was challenged, but a team with such high expectations heading into the season needed this test. They needed to face adversity to prove their toughness. They needed to face locker room issues to find chemistry on the court.
Now the playoffs are here, and they are playing the way everyone expected. It doesn’t mean they will roll over the Greek Freak and the top seeded Milwaukee Bucks, but it does mean they will not be an easy out for anyone left in the playoffs.
If they continue to trust one another, play hard and believe in Brad Stevens, the city of Boston may just add an NBA Finals battle to its resume of championship opportunities during the 2018-19 campaign.
In all, the Boston Celtics may not hold the Milwaukee Bucks to 34.8 percent shooting the entire series, but as long as Kyrie Irving, Al Horford, Gordon Hayward, Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Terry Rozier, Marcus Morris and Aron Baynes are all locked in as a collective unit, watch out NBA.