It’s do-or-die time. No more second chances. No more room for error. If the Boston Celtics slip to another defeat against the Philadelphia 76ers, then the season is over. Let that sink in for a moment. We’ve spent all year being fed the narrative that this year, for the first time since 2008, a championship banner would be hung in the TD Garden.
Yet, for whatever reason, Banner 18 feels a million miles away. The truth is, this Celtics team is deeper, more talented, and more diverse than the 76ers one that has taken charge of the series.
Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown can get whatever they want on offense; they just need to want it bad enough. Al Horford put Joel Embiid in his pocket during the fourth quarter of Game 4, and we all know that he can do that again if required. Boston’s perimeter defense boasts the 2022 Defensive Player of the Year and a 2023 All-Defensive Second Team guard in Derrick White.
Sixth Man of the Year Malcolm Brogdon was acquired to provide the bench scoring, facilitating, and ball-handling that the Celtics so sorely needed against the Golden State Warriors last season. We can go down the list of Boston’s roster and make arguments about the contributions they can offer, but again, we already know that.
Most importantly, we know this is supposed to be the Celtics' time. We know this is the Celtics' time. The question is, do they know it? Does the locker room know what they’re capable of? Do they believe in the talent that is around them? Do they believe in the voices that are leading them?
All season, the answer to those questions has been a resounding yes. Well, now it’s time to start playing like the team we’ve been led to believe they are. This is the Boston Celtics we’re talking about. A franchise so steeped in heritage they had to build a museum inside of the TD Garden. A franchise so used to winning that without even realizing it, they built a symbolic gesture into the arena — I mean, the T stops right under the Garden, which is proof that the NBA runs through Boston.
The term Celtics’ Pride was coined before most of us were born or simply too young to remember, when legends of the parquet dominated year after year. Every time the Celtics step out onto the floor, history hangs above them. Success surrounds them. Furthermore, Boston is a city that is dedicated to sporting excellence. The players knew that when they signed on or were drafted.
And if there was ever a time to tap into that heritage, to tap into the rabid fandom of the city, Thursday night would be the night. Going away from home, with the series on the line, the Celtics need to stand up and be counted.
Sure, the Sixers have Joel Embiid, the reigning MVP and James Harden, a former MVP. But we’ve seen this Celtics team handle Embiid before. We’ve seen them make Harden look his age on multiple occasions throughout the series. Most of all, we’ve seen the Celtics at full flow and understand how difficult they can be to stop.
So, this is a RALLY CRY!
The time for ‘trying to be better’ is over. The time for putting your words into action is now. I get it. Winning inside a packed Wells Fargo isn’t going to be easy. But neither was making the NBA. Each and every player on the floor had to defy the odds to get where they are. And for Boston’s roster, they’ve been defying the odds ever since. From that 2018 run to the Eastern Conference Finals to the 2022 run to the NBA Finals led by a rookie head coach.
This Celtics team has always found the best version of themselves when their backs have been against the wall. When expectations have hit their lowest points. The fact is, just when you expect the Celtics to crumble, they explode back to life and show you things you didn’t know they had within them.
So, do that again. Remind us why we were all so bullish on your chances during the opening months of the season. Remind us why so many of us from all over the world have rocked with you this season, believed in you, even when the media, local, national, and international, have lost their faith.
But most of all, remind us that you’re proud to wear that jersey and the fans that it represents. The same fans that pile into arenas the league over, the ones who wake up at all hours of the day to watch you from afar, and the fans who have been going to bat for you as your performances have sunk to new lows in recent weeks.
Have that same Celtics Pride for us that we have for you. If that means you go down swinging, then do it to the best of your ability. But something tells me that if you bring your A game, the only thing that we’ll be cheering is the fact you flipped this series on its head.
I have faith. And will be here regardless of the outcome, both on Thursday night and Sunday night if needed. However, it would be nice to see the same pride we hold for our beloved basketball team gets reciprocated, and I, for one, am sure it will be.
I’ll end this with a paraphrased quote from President Thomas J. Whitmore from Independence Day;
“We will not go quietly into the night! We will not vanish without a fight! We’re going to play on! We’re going to lift Banner 18!”