Thank god the 2018/2019 regular season version of the Boston Celtics is over. What a disappointment they were from start to finish. A team that was supposed to win at least 60 games instead finished with under 50. It seemed after every loss there was some new drama that everyone had to hear about. One of the more talented Celtics teams in recent memory was also one of the most exhausting.
With all that being said, there is hope for the Boston Celtics. The Celtics are at the very least healthier than they were going into the playoffs last year. Tomorrow will mark the first playoff game in a Celtics uniform for both Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward. While the Oblique injury to Marcus Smart is worrisome, the Celtics still have plenty of talent and depth to navigate the Eastern Conference until he returns. They should get out of their first-round matchup with the Indiana Pacers, a team they went 3-1 against in the regular season. Their lone loss against the Pacers came all the way back on November 3rd, a 102-101 road loss for Boston. The Pacers were also still with Star Guard Victor Oladipo in that game, who dropped 24 to help Indy triumph. Obviously, Indiana is without Oladipo and has been without him since he ruptured his Quad Tendon in his right knee on January 23rd. The Celtics should handle the Pacers pretty easily in what I expect will be a five-game series, with Indy taking game three at home.
Where the Marcus Smart loss hurts the Celtics most is the defensive end, especially for when they inevitably have to play the Milwaukee Bucks in the second round. Giannis Anetokounmpo is a legitimate MVP candidate this year and led Milwaukee to the best record in the NBA at 60-22. Marcus Smart’s knack to be in the right place defensively and come up with game-changing plays will be absolutely needed past the first round. His injury timetable has him returning most likely late second round or early in the Conference Finals. The Celtics will need to play their best basketball of the season and will need Kyrie Irving to morph into the monster he becomes in the postseason. Al Horford is probably the most important player on the Celtics for this run. A matchup nightmare, Horford is a modern day stretch big built in a lab. He’s got a ridiculous repertoire of post moves, can bully opposing bigs into submission, and bang threes from beyond the arc. Not to mention Horford’s a talented passer, and an important defensive anchor in Boston’s frontcourt. With Aron Baynes healthy and contributing well again as well, the Celtics will need key defensive plays from their frontcourt to make up for Smart’s absence.