The Boston Celtics put themselves in this position. After finishing the regular season with a 36-36 record and being labeled as one of the most disappointing teams in the NBA, the Celtics are ready to embark on their second season. Jayson Tatum has been red-hot, but the Celtics find themselves facing an uphill postseason battle that begins with the loaded Brooklyn Nets. As hot as Tatum has been, do the Celtics have any chance of advancing?
Jayson Tatum has eclipsed the 50-point mark three times since April
Tatum is in his fourth year in the NBA, yet he is still only 23. He has been thrust into the leadership role and has, at times, been criticized for his leadership skills. While he might not be the vocal leader, he’s certainly come to life in the last two months.
Since April 9, Tatum has hit the 50-point mark three times, taking charge in all three games (all victories). On April 9, the Celtics outlasted the Minnesota Timberwolves 145-136 in overtime. Tatum finished with team-highs in points (53) and rebounds (10). On April 30, he hit 60 in an overtime win over the San Antonio Spurs. Tatum then went for 50 in the play-in victory over the Washington Wizards in their last game.
Tatum knows he can be a leader. It doesn’t matter how he does it. “I know that my teammates, I’ve earned their respect,” he said, according to ESPN. ‘I’ve earned the respect of the guys I play against. I believe in myself. That’s all that matters.”
The Boston Celtics suffered a serious blow to their playoff hopes
On May 12, Jaylen Brown underwent season-ending surgery on his left wrist. Brown last played a game for the Celtics on May 2. He, along with Tatum, were the team’s two young All-Stars and were the hope of making another deep run in the playoffs.
Brown was having his best season as a pro. He averaged a career-high 24.7 points per game and shot 48.4% from the floor. His injury was just another part of a frustrating season for the Celtics, who were looking for a return to the Eastern Conference Finals and beyond.
The team hovered around the .500 mark all season and wound up finishing there at 36-36. There was tension and frustration among players, coaches, and fans all year. At one point in the season, GM Danny Ainge had to step in and take the blame, saying the roster he put together wasn’t good enough.
Even the players chimed in. Kemba Walker took a shot at the team for its lack of effort after a loss. Brown issued a “no comment” when he was asked about his team’s ball movement. It was a frustrating season all-around in Boston, but it’s time to move on.
Do Tatum and the Celtics have any chance in the postseason?
Will the short-handed Celtics have a chance against Kyrie Irving, James Harden, and Kevin Durant in the postseason? The short answer is no. The long answer is no chance at all.
The Celtics were mediocre at best throughout the season. They underachieved all season with their two All-Stars. Now it’s down to one. Expect Tatum to put up his big numbers, but who else can? The team just isn’t potent enough offensively to keep up with the Nets.
If the Celtics can snag a pair of wins in the series, call it a moral victory. The Nets are a tough first-round draw for them, but the Celtics have nobody to blame but themselves for being where they are.
All stats courtesy of Basketball Reference.