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Welcome To The Eastern Conference Finals Where The Last 7 Months Of Celtics Basketball Have All Come Down To This Moment

Megan Briggs. Getty Images.

Welcome to the Eastern Conference Finals everybody. 

I hope you had a nice few days to enjoy the brilliance we saw over the weekend in the Celtics thrilling Game 7 victory over the Sixers, but the time has come to turn the page. That was fun certainly an experience, but as we know, while for some franchises winning a second round series is the goal, that is not the case for the Boston Celtics. In fact, not even making the ECF is the goal. To me, that has always been the floor for the Tatum/Brown era. 

I'm not sure what other expectations you should have for a team that has made 4 of the last 6 ECFs since Jayson Tatum entered the league. And to be honest, with Jaylen being hurt in 2021 I'm not even sure that should count against the duo's record. They also had to deal with Kyrie Irving tanking the 2019 playoff run, so basically as long as they are healthy and don't employ Kyrie Irving, the Tatum/Brown duo has carried the Celts to the ECF every single season. That is why I consider this the floor of expectations. 

If things also feel pretty familiar in terms of their opponent, well that's because it is

The Heat and/or Celtics have made 10 of the last 13 ECF or NBA Finals. That seems pretty good!

The 2023 version of this matchup will obviously look a little different. There's no aging Big 3 or LeBron. Shit, even the rosters are fairly different from last year's meeting, and that doesn't even factor in the Heat being without Tyler Herro (for now).

What we do know is that no matter who is on either side, a MIA/BOS matchup in this era is going to be a war. It was that way in the Bubble, it was that way last year, and it is going to be that way this year. As long as Jimmy Butler is breathing, nothing is going to be easy for the Celts. While he may be inconsistent at times, you can usually expect some very impactful Bam performances/plays. Max Strus is still mad the Celts cut him from their Summer League team and has been taking it out on them ever since. Spo is Spo. 

Add in this magical run the Heat are currently on, and we're set up for another war. To quote Joe

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I keep thinking back to Media Day way back in late September. I keep thinking about the pain of losing the Finals that both Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum spoke about

Fast forward to today. Both Tatum and Brown had arguably the best seasons of their careers. The Celtics as a team had their most wins in a season since 2008-09. Once the playoffs arrived, both guys have taken their games up a level, exactly how you would hope the franchise players would. Especially given how they talked about that pain to begin the year. 

This entire season has been a collective mission, which is winning the title. They had the talent, they had the experience, they had the pain of failure on the biggest stage. Over the last 6+ months, that's exactly how the Celts have played. That doesn't mean they play perfectly or are without boneheaded mistakes. There are ups and downs over a long NBA season. But now having gotten back to the ECF in back-to-back seasons, they aren't just talking the talk, they are walking the walk. Backs up against the wall? They responded. 

But as we know, getting to the ECF isn't exactly the hard part. It's what you do once you get into the Final 4 that is the real challenge. This was the spot where the Celts repeatedly seemed to come up short in heartbreaking fashion and we're about to see if breaking through last year was the exception or the rule. Everything is right in front of them at the moment. They have earned a chance to redeem themselves for what happened last June, which is why for me, this series has way more pressure than last year's ECF. You cannot fuck this up.

Taking a step back, it's a little crazy to think that at worst, an 8-6 run from here on out wins you the NBA title. That's a 47 win pace. It's hard to explain, but 8 more wins feels so close yet so far away. Perhaps the biggest factor for the Celts in this series is remembering that they are not yet in the NBA Finals. Do not look ahead despite being so close. You have to stay focused on every single possession, every single dribble. I don't care about the talent difference vs MIA. I don't care about the record difference. None of that shit matters if you don't come locked in and ready to go, because you know who will? Jimmy Butler. 

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These teams are so familiar with each other, I can't imagine there are any new tricks. Both sides know what the other wants to do, both sides know each other's strengths and weaknesses, so this series is going to be about execution. Can the Celts stay mentally tough when things maybe don't go their way? Can they take care of the basketball and make the Heat beat them in the halfcourt? We're about to find out.

All year the talk has been about getting back to the Finals. Well here we go. There are no excuses for this team to not make it out of the East at this point. They are healthy, they have the talent, and they have homecourt. This is what we've waited the last 7 months for, so it's time to cut the shit and for once, not make things harder than they need to be. 

Win Game 1 and set the tone. Love and Trust.

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