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The Mass Media

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An inside look at Bobby B. Beacon’s insides. Illustrated by Bianca Oppedisano/ Mass Media Staff.
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February 26, 2024

Celtics defeat defending champions in second round

After the Boston Celtics sent the Philadelphia 76ers home in four games, Boston had a much tougher opponent waiting for them in the second round, against the defending champions, the Toronto Raptors. The Raptors obviously are not the same team they were a year ago, as their best player, Kawhi Leonard, fled for Los Angeles to play for the Clippers. Still, even without Leonard, the Raptors secured the second seed in the Eastern Conference and were a serious threat to make it back to the NBA Finals.

So how did the series go?

The Celtics started out the series by taking a commanding 2–0 series lead, as it seemed the Raptors were up against the ropes. Then right as it looked like the series was all but over, OG Anunoby went and hit a game-winning, buzzer-beating, three-pointer to make it a 2–1 series. The Raptors would then go on to tie the series at two games apiece. In game five, the Celtics seemed to make a statement with a dominant 111–89 victory to take a 3–2 series lead. However, the Raptors would end up responding with a huge double overtime victory in game six, to force a game seven which the Celtics would go on to win 92–87.

So who’s next?

The Celtics will now face the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference Final. The Heat absolutely dismantled the number one seeded Milwaukee Bucks in five games, and have been white-hot all playoffs long. For the Heat, players like Goran Dragic, Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo have all been terrific, but it seems that the Heat’s x-factor has been the play from players like Tyler Herro and Duncan Robinson. Whenever those two players get hot from behind the arc, the Heat are a very tough team to beat.

Keys to the Series

The first key to this series is the three-point shot. The Heat were the second best three point shooting team in the league behind the already-eliminated Utah Jazz. Players like Robinson and Herro could be deadly if they get quality looks. The Celtics were the fifteenth best three-point shooting team in the regular season and will have to find ways to get good looks from behind the arc if they’re going to find success in this series.

The second and probably the most important key is defense. The Heat are a very tough team to beat when their shooters get hot. So if you are the Celtics, you need to close out on shooters and give them no space, or you are going to pay for it. The Heat are going to play tough defense just as they have done all postseason, so every bucket for the Celtics is going to be difficult.

With the Celtics making the conference finals this year, that would mean they have made the conference finals in three of the past four years dating all the way back to the Isaiah Thomas-led Celtics. None of those conference finals appearances were successful for the Celtics, but they were also clearly not the better team in each of those appearances. This year is different; the Heat and Celtics are two well-matched teams, and it will be difficult to choose a favored team. So, will it be the Celtics making it back to the Finals for the first time since 2010, or will the Heat make it back for the first time since the Lebron James era?