27. May, 2018, Boston, MA, USA, Cleveland Cavaliers guard George Hill (3) puts the ball in the basket over Boston Celtics striker Al Horford (42) during the second half in game seven of the Eastern Conference finals of the 2018 NBA playoffs at TD Garden Obligatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports
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May 27, 2018, Boston, MA, USA, Cleveland Cavaliers guard George Hill (3) puts the ball into the basket Boston Celtics striker Al Horford (42) during the second half in game seven of the Eastern Conference finals of the 2018 NBA playoffs at TD Garden Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sport
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That's nothing against the otherwise incredible season, but the Boston Celtics stifled.
The Celtics braved and exceeded expectations despite injuring their two best players – Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward. Nobody expected that they would reach the seventh game of the Eastern Conference of all this, an idea that was supported by Vegas.
But convincing gains in games 1 and 2 should have matched those expectations. The same applies to a win in Game 5, in which the last two games had to be shared. And when Boston was 12 points ahead of home in Game 7 in the middle of the second quarter, it could have been expected that this team was headed for the NBA Finals.
And then they suffocated.
A historically sad shooting performance in the Celtics. If the Celtics had fired 10-for-39 from 3-point land, that would still have been horrible … and it would still have been enough to win. Had the Celtics kept the accelerator in the second quarter, the Cavs would almost certainly have withered. Had Jayson Tatum challenged the ball in the second half, that would probably have been enough.
None of that happened.
Saying the Celtics suffocated in Game 7 takes nothing from their other accomplishments. If anything, it reinforces it. They did enough to make everyone believe that they should have won the Eastern Conference. That's impressive, but it should have been more. You can not say how great you are every four or five weeks, and then get miserable in the biggest game of the season.
The future is still bright and bigger things are on the horizon. All these things can be true.
Here are a few other things we learned from the loss of Game 7.
– Kyrie Irving (obviously) would have made a world of difference
Yes, the Celtics are Kyrie Irving's team. No, they should not trade it out of season. That should be painfully obvious after the Celtics gag and otherwise suggest embarrassing limits. But there were several cases in Game 7 alone, as the Celtics liked to have Irving on the court.
Maybe he would not be in the way of the mysteriously awful and seemingly contagious gunman who beat up Boston in Game 7. Would you be willing to bet against him? Irving's track record speaks for itself, and there have been many times in this game where it would have been helpful to get someone to make a big hit.
Irving's ability to get out of the dribble and marginalize would have been a win. The Boston offensive stagnated at times, which was only shot by the sheer inability to jump. Irving could have called the ball, tilted his head down and came to the edge, which could almost certainly have stopped the flood in the second half.
(You should still have won.)
– No, that was not LeBron James' biggest achievement
LeBron James & # 39; s historically good stoppage was extended by at least four games, not least for its brilliance, but it would probably be real Real estate in Philly, LA or Houston had Boston, you know, hit a few shots in the second half. He was by far the best player on the field, and in retrospect, this feat will do wonders. But it's okay if more than one thing is true: LeBron was a cold-blooded killer, but he was also supported by the inability of the Celtics as much as by his supporting role.
– The Celtics are and should be favored to win the East next season
As long as everyone is healthy, the Celtics should be in the NBA Finals in a year. It does not matter where LeBron goes, even if he lands in Philly. Players like Terry Rozier, Marcus Smart (when he returns) and Marcus Morris are very, very good roleplayers. But put them in places where they have to wear games, and there's obviously a blanket. With Irving and Gordon Hayward back in the mix with Al Horford and another year under the belts of Tatum and Jaylen Brown, the pieces should be very well placed for the Celtics. Once everyone finds their role and settles in – Brad Stevens presses the buttons – heaven is the limit for the Celtics, who will not only be favorites in the East, but should also be on a very short list of capable teams win everything next year.