The Boston Celtics are the most successful franchise in basketball history. That is a non-debatable fact. And it may not look like it right now, but this group is a legitimate championship contender, much like its predecessors.
The Celtics may be in a funk while staring at a 2-0 series deficit entering Friday’s match, but this team is the No. 1 seed for a reason. I’m not promising a Boston series victory; I wouldn’t be that foolish. I am just going to warn anyone who’s counting them out and already booking their tickets to Chicago for round two. It’s not going to be that easy.
Sure, the Bulls are poised for an upset. They have a convincing lead in the series, plus their roster is playoff-tested. They’ve got a former champion with plenty left in the tank in Dwyane Wade, as well as one of the best two-way players in the league in Jimmy Butler. It’s just hard to believe they’re potent enough to upend this deep and dangerous Celtics team, which spent the last couple months successfully sending an important message to LeBron: His road to another NBA Finals won’t be a cakewalk like previous seasons.
Brad Stevens’ crew lost three consecutive games on three separate occasions during the regular season, so to say Game 3 is an easy win would also be foolish. There’s reason to believe their fortunes are changing, as Rajon Rondo is now out indefinitely with a broken thumb. That’ll help. But there’s one reason, in particular, why the Celtics shouldn’t be panicking: Isaiah Thomas.
He’s the heart and soul of this bunch and the engine that gets them going. Without Thomas, who finished third in the league in scoring (28.9), there is no playoff berth for Boston this year. Having said that, he’s also playing with a heavy heart. By now you’ve probably heard the horrible news about Isaiah’s sister, who unfortunately passed away in a car accident just one day prior to Game 1. With something so unthinkable weighing on him, you wonder how he’s actually able to compete.
Cathartic or not, I wouldn’t bet against a guy with that much emotion coursing through his veins right now. That is not someone I’d ever want to put my money against. Furthermore, his teammates are probably more motivated than ever to win this for him. Ask any athlete — they can find an extra gear when they so desperately want to win for a teammate. The best teams play for one another. And this is a culture Stevens has formed.
Basketball is a lot more emotional that you might think. Sure, athleticism plays a huge part in who can run faster or jump higher. Furthermore, it’s an extremely mental game that requires a ton of thinking and processing. Still, there’s a more abstract aspect to the game that often gets overlooked. Look at Michael Jordan. In 1991, his father was tragically killed. Rather than crumble in sorrow, Michael was able to use that grief and pain to reach heights he never could before. We’ve all seen his emotional moment clutching the championship trophy, tears falling down his face after winning, but few realize just how much that moment meant and why.
Will Isaiah Thomas extract the same sort of motivation from such a tragedy? I wouldn’t bet against it.
Photo Cred: Fansided