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For some Boston Celtics players, the sting remains. The loss to the Golden State Warriors in the 2022 NBA Finals hasn’t gone away. Now, it’s time to start playing again and erase that memory. Or is it?

A bad taste in the mouths heading into the 2022-23 NBA season is actually a good thing for the Celtics and their fans. After an incredible in-season turnaround last year, the Celtics now know what it takes to get to the NBA Finals. Losing in six games to the Warriors is the motivation they need as they head into Tuesday’s season opener against the Philadelphia 76ers.

The Boston Celtics still have a lot to prove

Head coach Joe Mazzulla of the Boston Celtics reacts during the second quarter of the game against the Charlotte Hornets at Greensboro Coliseum Complex on October 7, 2022, in Greensboro, North Carolina. | Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images.

The Celtics finally got over one hump last year. After losing in the Eastern Conference Finals three of the last five years, the Celtics reached the championship round. In the process, they answered the question of whether or not Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown were the right guys to lead the charge.

The question was valid. The previous season, Boston finished with a 36-36 record, and the Brooklyn Nets made quick work of them in the first round of the playoffs. Things seemed to be the same for the better part of last year as the Celtics were 25-25 through the first 50 games.

Marcus Smart called out Tatum and Brown for being selfish. First-year head coach Ime Udoka questioned the effort of his team on several occasions. It appeared the Celtics were a bunch of underachievers.

Then mid-January came, and the Celtics found themselves. They put together a run that saw them win 26 of their final 32 regular-season games. Boston secured the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference.

Despite playing the most grueling playoff schedule of any team, the Celtics swept the Nets and then outlasted the Milwaukee Bucks and Miami Heat in seven games.

The Celtics proved they could get over the hump with Tatum and Brown leading the way, but there’s still more work to be done. They have to prove they can get off to a quick start under a new head coach while the rest of the NBA is gunning for them. The Celtics enter the season as the favorite to win the NBA championship.

Last year’s Finals loss will help the Celtics


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Tatum said he didn’t leave his house for days after losing to the Warriors. Brown said he still hasn’t gotten over the loss. It’s a feeling that has lingered through the summer. Last year can be used as a measuring stick for the Celtics, and if you ask Tatum, he’ll say a 51-win season and a berth in the Finals wasn’t a success.

“It’s hard to call it a good year,” Tatum said, per Sports Illustrated, “when you f***ing lose a championship.”

Even veteran Al Horford stopped short of calling last year a success, saying it’s “a step in the right direction.”

The Celtics are hungrier than they’ve ever been because of last year. They know what they’re capable of. They expect to pick up where they left off last year, and they know they have to stay hungry through the season.

“We had an edge to us last year,” Horford said. “We need to keep it.”

Depth was last year’s biggest issue, and that’s been fixed. The Celtics brought in veterans Malcolm Brogdon and Blake Griffin to expand on last year’s eight-man rotation. The pieces are there. The motivation is there. And it’s all because of how last year ended.

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