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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

2-26-24 PDF
February 26, 2024
An inside look at Bobby B. Beacon’s insides. Illustrated by Bianca Oppedisano/ Mass Media Staff.
Bobby's Inside Story
February 26, 2024

Can the Celtics Challenge in the East Once They’re Healthy?

Jaylen+Brown+of+the+Boston+Celtics.

Jaylen Brown of the Boston Celtics.

At this point, it isn’t exactly a state secret that the Boston Celtics are riddled with injuries. After getting walloped by the injury to Gordon Hayward to open the season, the Celtics still found a way to compete, willing their way to the second seed in the Eastern Conference. Just when the Celtics finally had hit their stride, the injury bug returned yet again, throwing Boston for a loop. The playoff seedings are all but set at the top. It is nearly certain that Toronto will take the top spot with the Celtics right behind them. However, the question still remains of whether the Celtics even have a chance when they get healthy.
Of course, Boston only has a chance if all their contributors are there. No Jaylen Brown, no Marcus Smart, and certainly no Kyrie Irving means that the Celtics will be cleaning out their lockers much earlier than anticipated. However, if they are healthy we must evaluate if they really have a chance to win the Eastern Conference anyway. This team certainly can’t win an NBA title this year—that possibility was thrown out the night Hayward broke his leg, if there ever really was a chance. Boston still faces tough challenges in the East before they can even begin to think about the Warriors.
The team that has everyone talking is the Toronto Raptors. Bring up Toronto and you will instantly hear about their tremendous depth, the brilliance of head coach Dwayne Casey, and of course the emergence of DeMar DeRozan. While these things are all certainly true, the Raptors have still never proven themselves as a real threat in the playoffs. If that changes, and Toronto really has taken a giant leap forward, then the Raptors very well could be the team representing the Eastern Conference in June.
The dragon that the Celtics always had to slay was the Cleveland Cavaliers. While Cleveland has struggled through most of this season, they still have the best basketball player in the world with LeBron James. However, this is not the same Cleveland Cavaliers team we have been used to the last four years. It appears the Cavs never recovered from the Irving trade. They expected Isaiah Thomas to replace him, even waiting until January for him to return, but even that did not work out. So, at the deadline, the Cavaliers rebuilt their entire roster to inject youth into the lineup, so that James could run the style he prefers. Even that seems to have no effect on this Cavs roster. While they are further away from Golden State, they remain in the mix for the Eastern Conference, purely based on how far James can take them.
It is fair to say that, if healthy, the Celtics have a chance to come out of the East. They have shown flashes of both brilliance and mediocrity, even with the starters they have had all year, but so is the trend with all the contenders in the East. Toronto and Cleveland are both tough customers. While Toronto has the better team, the Cavaliers can allow James to take over any game at will. Both come with question marks however, as Toronto is unproven in the playoffs and James is trying to carry a depleted roster to the finals. It is hard to picture a scenario that doesn’t have James going to the finals for an eighth straight year, but this just may be the year that it happens. At the end of the day, the Celtics are still playing with house money. Many felt that their season ended on opening night, and this year is just practice. While it may be true that we don’t really see the Celtics big picture until Hayward suits up, it sure would be great to have a finals appearance under the belt of the young team the Celtics are hitching their wagon to.