Growing up I had the opportunity of watching Paul Pierce clock in to work, and that’s been my squad since.
Gearing up to kick off the NBA 17-18 season, with new additions in the offseason, optimistic about the future, the Boston Celtics faced their rivals, and Eastern Conference powerhouse, Cleveland Cavaliers.
A completely new look Celtics, only 4 players returning from last year’s roster, had a buzz surrounding them coming into the season. Signing Gordon Hayward in free agency and trading for Kyrie Irving, they started to look really dangerous within the last week as their chemistry began to gel.
Kyrie Irving, a surprise landing in Boston, crashed into Boston with the desire to create his own legacy. He began his journey back in Cleveland, welcomed this time with boos, he took the jabs and countered by scoring the first bucket of the night, a one handed shove from the free throw line.
Shortly after, he assisted a wide open Al Horford jumper from top of the key.
The next bucket came on a Horford assist to Hayward slashing across the middle and hitting the smooth fadeaway.
Then, Kyrie hit the deck to gather a loose ball, found Jaylen Brown who pushed it up to Jayson Tatum before receiving it back for a ferocious one handed slam.
This is what Celtic fans envisioned. This is what we were waiting for and why we were all excited. We were no longer a clear underdog. We were dangerous enough to be considered contenders, elite. The new look Celtics were athletic, electric, dynamic, versatile and just flat out better. Making the transition from being guard heavy to wing heavy, Brad Stevens’ switch everything defense now becomes more reliable. Out with the old and in with the new, the offense wasn’t as stagnant as it once was. The table was set. No disrespect to any of the players on last year’s roster, they were great and played their asses off, but we were no longer a team of glorified role players. We had actual star power.
5 minutes into the game, after these sequence of plays and fresh out of a timeout, a Horford backdoor screen for Hayward on the right wing led to him cutting towards the basket. Surrounded by 2 defenders, Kyrie let it fly. He went for the homerun play, the pass wasn’t there. It was a bad basketball read that led to a freak injury. Some contact, a few went on to say Jae Crowder undercut Hayward, but it was simply a freak accident.
But the show goes on, the Cavaliers began to steamroll and the new look Celtics looked rattled.
With Hayward out the picture, you had Kyrie and Horford as your clear 1-2 combo, similar to the IT-Horford combo of last year. This time around though, they were surrounded by young guys instead of vets. Avery Bradley and Jae Crowder were traded, and Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum now filled those roles. And after that shocking injury, this group looked dead going into the half trailing by 16.
They needed to get to halftime though. They needed the halftime speech, or whatever, to shake it off and refocus. What’s done is done.
They came into the second half with new life. Behind Jaylen Brown, the Celtics fought and clawed their way back. Their core of Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, Marcus Smart and Terry Rozier are all under 24 years of age, but that youth didn’t show, only the potential. They played with poise, determination, and that grit the Celtics are known for. Brown with 25pts, 6reb, 3stl, Tatum with 14pts, 10reb, 3ast, Smart with 12pts, 9reb, 3ast and Rozier with 9pts, 3reb, 2ast all helped to scrap when the game slowed down and became more physical. Not all is lost.
All of this fight gave the Celtics the edge towards the end of the 3rd quarter. They fought back to take the lead.
After sinking a corner 3 and midrange 2, with 1:30 remaining in the 4th, Brown had a wide open 3 that was a little off to the left. Lebron then got the ball, drove, hopstepped, pump faked, Jaylen went flying and scored the bunny to give the Cavs the 1pt lead. The following Cavalier possession found Kevin Love in the corner for a good look he nailed to give the Cavs a 4pt lead. Still the Celtics had a chance.
Down 4, Kyrie stepped to the line to shoot a free throw. It was a defensive 3 second? Not exactly sure though. But with the ball back, down 3, they gave Kyrie the iso top of key. He drove left but couldn’t finish over Derrick Rose.
30 seconds remain, 20 on the shot clock. No foul necessary, but a stop was. They forced Lebron into shooting a 3 over Horford, Tatum grabbed the board, passed to Kyrie who threw the outlet to Brown. Smart was streaking on the opposite side of the court but Brown pulled up for 3, a good look that didn’t fall (maybe that Smart look would’ve been better). The Celtics managed to tip it out where Kyrie had a shot at 3 with Lebron running towards him to contest. He pump faked, Lebron didn’t bite, took one dribble to the right for a contested fall away that fell just short. He should’ve took the first one. This is the beginning of Kyrie’s legacy.
Without Hayward to ease his transition, Kyrie is on the island alone and has to lead these young Celtics to the promise land. He has to hold it down, guide and help shape this team until Hayward can return fully healthy. An emotional roller coaster of a game, the Celtics will be alright, and even better when Hayward returns next year. All the reports I have read on Hayward diagnose him with a dislocated ankle and fractured tibia. To me this sounds terrible but according to professionals, it could’ve been worse. He could even return this season.
That’s good sign in a dark time. Now getting healthy is key. Hayward doesn’t need to return this year. The beauty of the current Celtic roster is that this window is open for years to come. When Hayward returns next year, with another year of experience under everyone’s belt? That will make his return to the court a lot easier because it won’t be instant and smooth. I expect him not to be back to full form until the 2019 season. What sucks is he was coming off a breakout year, and he was only going to rise under Brad Stevens. Hopefully he can make the same comeback Paul George did.
“Kyrie got what he wanted. He can fill the stat sheet with MVP-esque numbers like Russell Westbrook.” Kyrie didn’t leave a championship team because he wanted to pad his stats or any of that nonsense these non-hooping ESPN reporters are trying to push. Mainstream media across the board is dense. This is why wemajorwemajor.com exists. Kyrie left because he didn’t want to live in Lebron’s shadow. He left because he wanted to lead and become the best player he could possibly be. To maximize his potential. Here in Boston he has that opportunity, maybe now more than ever.
The media will continue to blow this out of proportion saying all types of things like Kyrie is not as great as he thinks he is, look at how they’re struggling he’s not a winner, this is how he was with the Cavs pre-Lebron, but those rumbles must be muted because that’s not the goal right now. The goal is to compete and progress. All the buzz surrounding Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum’s potential, they now have ample opportunity to grow, and they will. Brown is showing flashes, and Tatum looks ready. If you thought the Celtics were going to be dangerous this year wait until next year. With more experience under the belt, just wait.
For now, life moves on, just like the Celtics bounced back in the 2nd half, they will have to bounce back and show the league what they’re made of. We’re witnessing the start of a lot of legacies. This season will still be something to watch despite everything.
I would love to figure out how to get full games so I can cut up highlights to prove my points in the post. If anyone knows a way, let me know. I’m not a writer.