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For The First Time In Five Years The Celtics Are Back In The Eastern Conference Finals

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After five long years, the Celtics have finally returned to the Eastern Conference Finals, and they arrive in dramatic fashion. At the beginning of the year on paper we all agreed that this should be an ECF team, and here we are, not only in the final four, but with home court advantage as well. Hard to not be excited about that to say the least.

And unlike the UTA/LAC Game 7 that was essentially a blowout from the start, this Game 7 was everything you could want in a series deciding game. I would say it was a fitting end to what was one of the most entertaining series this entire playoffs thus far. It’s absolutely WILD that in 11 meetings this year the home team won each game, and when you looked at all the metrics from this series between these two teams, they were virtually identical. That’s how you knew this was going to be an epic Game 7, these two teams were so evenly matched, and had enough bad blood between them that it was only right we got a great game and boy did we.

I mentioned after the CHI series that it was big for me personally because it was the first time since my time here at Barstool started that I finally got to write a series clinching blog. Well, this is that feeling times a billion. All the Kool Aid, all the glass half full way of thinking we all did, well now we get to celebrate. It’s a validation of sorts and I’m not going to lie, it feels fucking fantastic. But I’m not alone here either. This is for all of you as well who have followed along after every game for the last 2+ years. We started this rebuild together, and we will now celebrate together.

Let’s. Go.

The Good

– Much like the rest of you, I had to find numerous ways to kill time between Games 6 and 7. Well, what better way to do that than fall down a classic Celtics YouTube rabbit hole. I obviously came across the epic 2008 Game 7 and while the main attraction was Pierce/Lebron, after watching PJ Brown hit all those jumpers and basically save the season, I couldn’t help but have this thought

I just felt like in a Game 7 where weird performances can happen, Olynyk was going to be our PJ Brown last night. Well, enjoy.

Now to be fair, PJ Brown went like 4-4 and had 10 points and 6 rebounds. Kelly Olynyk’s 26/5/4 on 10-14 shooting (2-6 from deep) in 28 minutes is much, much better than even I could have ever imagined. Remember how bad the bench was in Game 6? Me neither.

So how on earth was Olynyk able to have the game of his life in the biggest game of his career? It’s pretty simple, he was aggressive. Time and time again we see this from Olynyk, when he’s aggressive, he’s a completely different player on both ends. Early in the first quarter we saw him put the ball on the floor and attack the basket which opened up plays for others which he found for easy baskets. Remember Olynyk used to be a point guard before his growth spurt. The first adjustment we saw from Game 6 was when Olynyk and Smart ran a pick & pop, instead of Olynyk jacking the three, he did a great job in recognizing that Ian Mahinmi switched on to him and immediately he put the ball on the floor and got to the rim. Shit like that is how you get Olynyk off to a good start, and then the threes start falling.

Then once the game got to the late third/fourth quarter everything got a bit out of hand. Kelly’s touch around the rim stands out mostly because this team refuses to make layups, but some of the shit he was able to make gives me the thought that Red was involved. Sort of like that Pierce FT in 2008.

The Celtics have a tough decision on Olynyk this summer who they can extend a $4.2M qualifying offer to which makes him a restricted FA. Do the Celtics match any potential offer for Olynyk? Did he just earn him $12M a year price tag? It’s hard to say, but since the Kool Aid is still flowing, I say why the hell not.

– Game 7s are where you need your best players to be great. In what has been a dream season for #TeamIsaiah, this Game 7 was a major test for Isaiah Thomas. You knew John Wall was going to be ready, and after his awful careless play cost them Game 6, all eyes were on Isaiah to see how he responds. You heard the quote, he prepares too hard to feel pressure, and ladies and gentlemen, you saw last night why I will defend this man until the end of time. In a rare blog moment, we’re enjoying his performance uninterrupted as well. Enjoy.

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The final line: 29 points 12 assists 2 rebounds 1 steal 2 TOs on 9-21 shooting (3-5 from deep) in 39 minutes. For the series he averaged 27 a game with 44/46% splits. Remember, there were people who said Isaiah only had success against CHI because Rondo got hurt, and once he faced an actual good PG who can play defense he would be exposed. The only thing exposed here is how bad of a take that was. The Wizards as expected showed HARD on Isaiah with every P&R, and what stood out was how quick Isaiah was to make the correct pass to the open man. There were times in this series where he hesitated for a split second and things didn’t work out so hot, but last night his passing was on time, it was quick, and it was with a purpose. Through the first half I thought Isaiah did a much better job of not forcing his offense, and instead focused on getting his teammates off to good starts. In the back of your mind though, you knew the offense was coming.

Coming out of halftime things were without a doubt tense. The Celts never could pull away in the first two quarters, and the way the third started it looked like things were going to get away from the Celtics. Before you knew it, Isaiah had 12 points in the quarter on 4-7 shooting including two GIGANTIC threes that provided the spark that turned this game around. That’s all well and good, but for me that’s not the best part of Isaiah’s game. In that second half Isaiah played 20:48 second half minutes. He had 0 turnovers. THAT is the biggest thing for me. We needed our best player to not only provide offense, but more importantly take care of the basketball, and like he has SO MANY times this season, Isaiah came through for us.

– In a game of this magnitude, you want a player in your foxhole who is going to do absolutely whatever is needed in order to pull out a win. You need someone who is going to enforce his will and play with a passion that will rub off on everyone else. Well, that player is Marcus Smart. We saw in this game why Smart is so valuable. He is the very definition of the type of player that came be the difference maker in a game like this. While it wasn’t his highest scoring game or anything like that, I would argue that it was definitely one of his most impactful as a member of this team. In every game the Celtics have lost this series, he’s ended with a negative +/-. In all their wins? It was positive. It’s safe to say Smart is a good barometer of this team. Well, in the biggest game of the season, he went 4-7 from the field and threw in 13/6/4 while finishing tied for the team lead at +14. The way Smart was rebounding the basketball was ridiculous, but as impressive as that was, it was his transition defense that truly made the difference.

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there was also the play late in the third quarter where he blocked Wall’s fastbreak drive when it was 76-74 that eventually led to a missed WSH three. Huge momentum swing right there considering WSH was on the run off a tough Horford turnover. And then there was this shot.

If Isaiah was the one who got the momentum started in the last two minutes of the third, it was THIS make from Marcus that took it to another level.

It might not seem like it on a night where Bradley Beal dropped 38 points, but Marcus actually did a much better job on him than Avery did. That’s the appeal of Marcus, when he is engaged and active defensively, he can be a devastating player. This defensive sequence stands out most

Smart might never be a consistent shooter, and frankly I don’t think I care. He is an impact player, and someone who is clearly not afraid of the moment. That matters more to me.

– What has Brad always told us when it comes to young rookies. Before you can see the floor, you have to be able to defend. All series long a lot of us couldn’t understand why Jaylen Brown wasn’t seeing the floor. In Game 7, a game in which Brad only played 8 guys, he trusted Jaylen to come through for him, and boy did he ever. His corner three set the tone for him, he was aggressive and attacked the basket, and more importantly, he defended at a high level which gave us a preview into the next 10+ years of our lives

As impressive as this was, it wasn’t my favorite Jaylen moment from this game. That came here

That rotation on Beal to prevent an open three was the type of defense I think Brad is talking about, and then the effort to get that rebound while on your back was unreal. Remember, this is the worst Jaylen is going to be in his career. At 21 he made highly impactful plays in a Game 7. The sky is the fucking limit for Jaylen and I could not be more excited.

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– We can’t talk about the bench without mentioning this steal from Summer League Terry. He only played four minutes but like everyone else, he was focused and made a positive impact.

– With all that went on you almost forget Horford had yet another solid performance in this series. Again, you need your best players to show up in a Game 7, especially one who you gave that money to, and there was Horford proving why he was worth it. I’ll take 15/6/5 with 60/100% splits any day of the week in an elimination game. He wasn’t afraid of the moment, he didn’t disappear, and instead attacked Gortat on a consistent basis. Look at his damn shot chart from this series!

Absolute insanity.

– I cannot stress enough how big it was that the Celtics did not turn the ball over for the last 15 minutes of this game. They finished with just 8 in the game, and had just one from their bench players. When this team takes care of the ball and doesn’t give the opposition easy transition baskets, they are extremely tough to beat.

– We all know this team loves to shoot it from three. They love shooting threes more than you love your family. In Game 7, I was pleased to see them make such a conscious effort to attack and convert in the paint. The Celtics won the battle in the paint 58-40, which is exactly what you want. What happens when you do that? You get confident. What happens when you get confident? A 3-12 start from deep in the first half turns into a 11-26 finish. Beautiful stuff.

– There is something to be said about having to win this style of Game 7. We saw the Celtics be as resilient as they have all year. I definitely put stock into that. The Wizards never went away and each and every time the Celtics rose to the occasion and punched back. They EANRED this win. I said from the start of the series that it was all going to come down to mental toughness. Once WSH pulled the lead to 6 in the third quarter, the Celtics could have mentally caved. Instead, they closed out the quarter on a huge run and completely changed the dynamic of the game. That same mental toughness is going to be crucial when Lebron comes to town believe that.

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– Adam Silver you dog you. Can’t lie, seeing this before the game did give me a little bump in confidence

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The Bad

You win a Game 7, I forgive you for all your mistakes. Those are the rules.

The Ugly

Nope. Not today. Not doing it. Sure there were things that fit this category like that Avery foul on Beal shooting a three, or the refs not calling Isaiah getting body checked but you know what? I’m in too good a mood. Love that Game 7 high.

Now I’m sure this blog will be filled with “so what Lebron is going to sweep you” comments. That’s fine. Think that if you want. I know if the Celtics play like they did in this game, and in Game 5, this will not be a sweep. I’ll preview that series in the coming days, but for now we celebrate while also freaking out about tonight’s lottery. The Celtics did what they had to do for this season to be a success in my opinion. You could say they are playing with house money, but now I’m greedy. I want more.

This team wasn’t supposed to get the 1 seed, they weren’t supposed to come back from down 0-2, they weren’t supposed to get past WSH who many said was a better team. They did all of that and are showing no signs of slowing down. Just like some of us thought they would from Day 1.

So today, I have just one thing to say. Suck it h8ers.