Boston for the ring: Celtic pride dominates the champion

Brad Stevens' team display against the Raptors with no answers. Huge Theis in the area and a lesson from some Celtics who present their candidacy.


The Celtics are here. In case someone had forgotten about them or had the vague belief that this was not their year, Brad Stevens' team has once again proven that it is a candidate for the ring. It is in the year in which there are more candidates, with many teams that can win or, rather, that have enough defects not to do so. And in that scenario where no one is a favorite (or everyone is) the Celtics move like a fish in water. In conditions not entirely favorable for them or for anyone, but with an already consolidated group that has gotten rid of the uncomfortable shadow of a Kyrie that never squared with the idiosyncrasy of the franchise and has taken a step forward in terms of gameplay, with Tatum as the definitive protagonist and Walker, apparently, as the ideal piece that the project was missing.

Without the egos that Brad Stevens has never wanted and with a shy regular season in terms of great covers but excellent in terms of game, fulfilling the objective of having a now non-existent field advantage in the first round and without exhausting too much in the face of the playoffs, the Celtics know the time is now. They ended up on the fast track against a decomposing Sixers and waited for a Raptors who did the same against the Nets. Interestingly, among all the doubts generated by almost all of the franchises in the bubble, Celtics and Raptors have been the ones that have transmitted the most confidence. Without pause, they have done the right thing without getting tired and practicing a game that has not been resented by the break, motivated by two geniuses on the benches such as Nurse and Stevens himself. And, curiously, being two of the teams that would suffer the most without the warmth of their audience, they are generating tremendous reliability at Disney.

To say that the coin came out heads in the first clash of the Eastern semifinals would be an injustice for the Celtics who showed themselves against the reigning champions. They were the whole game ahead, and his emboldened start translated into 39 points in just 12 minutes, an embarrassment for the Raptors who are the best defense in the NBA but who today have been unable to stop the Celtics. They have not been able in defense, but neither in attack, with an embarrassing success from the triple: 5 of 23 in the middle of the second period and 10 of 40 at the end, with many free shots and unopposed with pitchers intelligently chosen by Stevens, beyond from a deranged VanVleet who finished with 3 of 16 from the field and 2 of 11 from the line of three. A Kemba Walker triple on the horn increased the lead to 17 points at halftime, an insurmountable slab given the feelings of both teams.

So it was. The Raptors improved slightly in the second half, but the Celtics were strong in the back and right up front when they needed to be. Daniel Theis (13 + 15) became strong in the zone and was a life insurance for a team that did not notice the loss of Gordon Hayward. The Canadians seemed to be in the game with 12 minutes to go (73-88), but at no time did they drop below the ten and the great start to the last quarter of Stevens' men sentenced. Tatum went to 21 points, the same as a Smart for whom there are no excuses and who is the soul of the team in defense and an increasingly reliable player in attack, especially in shooting (5 of 9 in triples). 17 points from Jaylen Brown, 18 with 10 assists for Walker, minutes of great quality for Robert Williams III as center (10 points with 5 of 5 in shooting from the field) .

In short, the Celtics are scary. Especially the Raptures, who raised little or nothing (Lowry, 17 points with 1 of 5 in triples, was the best) and who had a shy Marc (7 + 6), a good Ibaka (15 + 9) and inoperative Siakam (13) who cannot find solutions in static and gets stuck if they don't let him run. The tactical battle will drag on and the series is presumed long, but Toronto will have to improve to overcome an adversary that has just presented its candidacy displaying that green pride inherent in a historic franchise. The Canadians are 15-2 since March, and their two losses have been against the same opponent. Guess which one? Well that.

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