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The Boston Celtics have plenty of work left to do. For much of Game 1 against the Atlanta Hawks, they dominated. They said they were motivated, and they showed it.

Led by Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum, the Celtics have learned a lot from last year’s postseason run. They felt the sting of losing to the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals on their home court. Tatum said he had an awfully long summer thinking about what could have been. This year, things are different with the Celtics star, according to Brown.

For Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, and the Boston Celtics, it’s championship or bust

Jaylen Brown (7) and Jayson Tatum (0) of the Boston Celtics in action against the Philadelphia 76ers at the Wells Fargo Center on February 25, 2023, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. | Mitchell Leff/Getty Images.

The hunger began moments after Game 6 of the 2022 NBA Finals. The motivation lasted throughout the summer. The Celtics couldn’t wait to get back on the court.

As the 2022-23 season began, Tatum explained how tough the summer was. He admitted he was happy to back to playing basketball.

“I’m just happy to be back playing basketball after the summer,” he told Abby Chin of NBC Sports Boston early this season. “After losing in the Finals, all I could think about was just get ready to play again and start a new chapter.

“Said it a million times that it was a long, miserable summer, so I just wanted to get back out here and compete. I just want to win — don’t care about how many points I score. I just want to get back to that point.”

For much of the season, the Celtics held the best record in the NBA. At times, it was almost as if they were bored. Boston hit a lull at the end of the season, losing on the road to the Houston Rockets and Utah Jazz, and also suffered an ugly home loss to the Washington Wizards.

Boston finished one game behind the Milwaukee Bucks for the top seed in the Eastern Conference. The Celtics opened the playoffs Saturday afternoon with a convincing 112-99 victory over the Atlanta Hawks.

Brown already sees a change in Tatum this postseason

Last year, depth was Boston’s biggest problem throughout the postseason. That issue was quickly resolved when the Celtics traded for Malcolm Brogdon in the offseason. The Celtics are now considered one of the deepest teams in the league.

Boston’s biggest problem now is complacency. They’ve often played down to the level of competition this year. Although they defeated the Hawks by 13 on Saturday, they took their foot off the gas pedal in the third quarter after leading 74-44 at halftime. Outside of that third-quarter effort, the Celtics played like champions.

Brown admits he saw a different side of Tatum this year and in Saturday’s game. Like Tatum, the loss to the Warriors still lingers for Brown, and that’s plenty of motivation.

“It kind of keeps you up at night. Sometimes, it’s like an itch, like anticipation,” said Jaylen Brown, per NBC Sports Boston. “But I definitely sense it in Jayson right now. He’s more locked in, he’s more vocal. Like, you could hear it in his voice. The tone of his voice has changed. He’s serious, and as am I.”

The Celtics know what it takes to get to the NBA Finals. They also know how much it hurts to get so close and come up short. For Tatum, Brown and the Celtics, anything but a championship this season is a bust.


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