The Boston Celtics are going to the 2022 NBA Finals to play for an NBA-record 18th championship.
Let that sink in. Maybe read it again. Put your chest into it.
THE BOSTON CELTICS ARE GOING TO THE 2022 NBA FINALS!
Be honest, even through your greenest of glasses, you didn’t think we’d be here at Christmas. It’s ok. No one did.
But the true believers, the ones people like to call Green Teamer as if it’s an insult vs a prideful nickname for the most diehard of fans, knew it could be better. It was there. The team wasn’t as bad as their record. They just couldn’t put it all together.
On December 29, the Celtics lost a home game to the LA Clippers 91-82. Boston shot 4-of-42 from three in that game. They fell to 16-19 on the season.
That was the low point of the season. Even for the greenest Green Teamer, it was hard to believe.
Two days later, in a game without Jayson Tatum, the Celtics beat the Phoenix Suns 123-108 to close out 2021 on New Year’s Eve.
That win over Phoenix didn’t fix Boston, but it got them started. They beat the best team in the league at the time and did so convincingly. Al Horford has said, “That win over the Suns was when we started to believe.”
Even still, a month later, at the end of January, the Celtics lost at the Atlanta Hawks to fall back to 25-25.
That was the last time this team even sniffed a .500 record. Boston won their next nine games in a row. They finished out the last 32 games with a 26-6 record.
Now it was time for the playoffs and it was time to face some demons.
The Brooklyn Nets dominated an injured and undermanned Celtics team in the 2021 playoffs. This time around, spurred on by this incredible play, Boston swept the Nets:
Next it was time to face the champs. In 2019, the Milwaukee Bucks bounced the Celtics from the playoffs and ended the short “Kyrie Irving Era” in Boston.
When the Bucks won Game 5 in Boston to take a 3-2 series lead, it felt like the Celtics were trouble. But this is Team Resiliency. They went into Milwaukee and beat the champs on their home floor. And then the Celtics and Grant Williams had a Boston Three Party and blew out the Bucks in Game 7.
As Ric Flair has told us for four decades “If you wanna be the man, you gotta beat the man!”. And the Celtics beat the champs.
Now, it was time for the Miami Heat. The Heat ended the championship hopes for Boston way back in 2012 and again in the bubble in 2020.
Boston won in Miami to go up 3-2. Everyone was ready for a Garden Party in Game 6. Jimmy Butler had other ideas and forced a Game 7.
Nothing easy for Celtics. As Derrick White said “If it was easy, it wouldn’t be us.”
In Game 7, Boston controlled it the whole way. It got tight. REALLY tight. But the Celtics never trailed in Game 7. It wasn’t easy, but it doesn’t have to be. Not for these Celtics.
But this isn’t just about the 2022 Boston Celtics.
This one was for the 2012 Celtics. That group of proud vets were a couple of years past their expiration date, but they pushed the Big 3 Miami Heat to the brink in a similar series as this one in 2022. This 2022 team took down the Heat for the 2012 team. For Paul, KG, Ray and the guys.
This one was for the 2017 Celtics. That team was never supposed to be anything. Too small, not enough talent, an easy out in the playoffs. That group made the 2017 Eastern Conference Finals as a battered, bloody finalist without their leader, after Isaiah Thomas went down after two games. This 2022 team won the Eastern Conference Finals for the 2017 team. For IT, AB, Kelly and Amir.
This one was for the 2018 Celtics. That was the year Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum announced to the NBA: “We’re here and we’re not going anywhere.” When Jayson Tatum did this to LeBron James in Game 7, followed by a step-back three on the next trip, we all believed the Celtics were headed to play the Golden State Warriors:
Alas, James and the Cavs took it from a team that wasn’t quite ready for primetime yet. This 2022 team won the Eastern Conference Finals for the 2018 team. For Aron, Terry, Semi and the Dancing Bear.
This one was for the 2020 Celtics. In the bubble Kemba Walker wasn’t right. Just when it looked like Boston could maybe grab Banner 18, Gordon Hayward got hurt again. That team battled, but limped into that Eastern Conference Finals before falling to the Heat again. This 2022 team won the East for those guys just a couple of years removed. For Kemba, Gordon and Tacko.
But mostly, this one is for the 2022 Boston Celtics.
For Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. May words about splitting them up never be uttered again.
For Marcus Smart. He’s loved and trusted. He’s also bruised and busted. That’s why this is for him. For the guy who has always given Boston everything he has.
For Al Horford. He’s the OG. The conscience. After 15 years, he’s a Finalist.
For Rob Williams. He’s hurting, but he battled. For his teammates and for the Celtics.
For Derrick White. He’s the new guy, but it’s like he’s been here all along. He just fits in.
For Grant Williams. He’s just goofy enough to complement how good he’s become.
For Payton Pritchard. He’s shown over and over what he can do, no matter how many minutes he gets.
For Daniel Theis. He’s back and he’s the same battler he’s always been. A perfect fourth big.
For the best bench vibes in the NBA. They stay locked in and they make every game feel like a party.
For Brad Stevens. He helped the kids grow up before handing them off for their final lessons. But he’s still here guiding them and getting them the help they need.
For Danny Ainge. He’s gone, but never forgotten. He built the core of this team. For that, we’re forever grateful.
For Ime Udoka. The team was mostly molded, but Udoka’s tough love chiseled away and broke the Celtics of most of their bad habits and refined them into a team. He coached them hard, just like they asked for. Through that tough love, the vision never changed. The eye on what’s next, and only what’s next, never faltered. It’s only his first year, but it’s already hard to ever imagine anyone else prowling the sidelines in TD Garden.
Last, but not least, it’s for the fans. The Green Teamers and the doubters. Neither are wrong in the way they love this team. Because that’s where it all comes from: love.
Things get said in the heat of passion, but it’s whether said in joy or out of frustration, it’s always from a place of love. (Let’s just skip the wildly personal insults moving forward, deal?)
And the job isn’t done yet.
As Ime Udoka said after winning Game 7 in Miami, “Now we gotta go get four more.”
We didn’t get the Golden State Warriors in 2018. But that’s ok. Those Celtics weren’t ready for those Warriors.
The Celtics are. It’s on you if you want to doubt them. But for the rest of us, we choose to Believe in Boston.