Celtics’ Legendary 2nd Half Caps Off Great Season

Legends from the 1966, 1976, and 1986 Celtics championship teams were in attendance last night to be honored at half-time for their contributions to the legacy and dynasty that spanned four decades from 1957 to 1986. How will the 2016 Celtics team be remembered? That will be determined in the upcoming weeks throughout the playoffs, but the final game in the regular season was a night to remember, and maybe even awakened the ghosts from the old Boston Garden. The Celtics found themselves going back to what got them into playoff contention all season; tenacious defense.

Embarrassed at halftime, giving up 62 points to the Miami Heat and being down by 24, Boston found a way to revive the Celtics mystique and display to fans that a return to greatness might not be too far away. Going on a 20-0 run in the 3rd quarter, highlighted by only giving up 5 points on defense, the Celtics turned the table on the Miami Heat who looked completely in shock heading into the 4th quarter. Boston’s stifling defense that had been absent of late and notably in the first half, shut down Miami’s offense, with Joe Johnson being the only Heat player to score in the quarter.

Everyone stepped up for the Celtics. Jae Crowder, Kelly Olynyk, Evan Turner, Jonas Jerebko, Avery Bradley, and Marcus Smart to name a few, came out at half on a mission. No way was this team going to be an embarrassment in front of Kevin McHale, Bill Russell, JoJo White, John Havlicek, and Sam Jones who all won multiple championships in Celtics uniforms. While there was no formal passing of the torch, the 2016 Celtics at least showed fans a glimpse of what they’re capable of.

More inspiring to watch was the return of intensity and excitement in this team. After the loss to the Atlanta Hawks, Boston had looked as if the wind was knocked out of their sails. There was no energy, no display of confidence, or any heart. Seeing Evan Turner getting fired up after an altercation with Goran Dragic was amazing, as Evan usually has an even keel demeanor. His fire led the second unit late in the 3rd quarter and into the 4th. Isaiah Thomas capped the comeback off with a clutch three point shot to extend the lead to 10 with less than a minute remaining in the game.

Unfortunately, despite the 26 point comeback. Boston was unable to lock up home court advantage in the first round. Atlanta losing to Washington was the worst scenario for the Celtics as now they’ll have to fight in a 7 game series against the Hawks, who are no stranger to deep playoff runs. This will be a very difficult matchup for the men in green, especially since Atlanta’s roster has a similar build to Boston.

The first game of the first round is Saturday at 7 pm. If Boston can build off last night’s win and carry that momentum into Atlanta, there is no doubt that they can steal one of the first two games on the road. It will require great defense and execution on offense to defeat the Hawks, but now we’ll really see what this Celtics team is made of.

Boston has talked about not being respected all season. So now let’s see if they’re willing to fight for that respect. Finishing 5th in the East was a disappointment, but not a death sentence for this young team by any stretch. Play with passion, energy, and determination, and no one will stop you. Isaiah Thomas and company with have to dig deep to find those qualities, and look to themselves for the greatness that’s within.

Evan Turner Makes The Players Around Him Better

Last night, we saw just how important Evan Turner is to this basketball team. Despite having only 4 points, his 9 assists and ability to push the tempo, helped Boston blowout the Milwaukee Bucks. Players such as Tyler Zeller, Kelly Olynyk, Jonas Jerebko, and Marcus Smart benefited from Turner’s presence on the floor, as the second unit changed the complexion of the ball game, as they dictated the style and pace both teams were going to run. With the Celtics finally healthy, Turner’s return as being the sixth man now gives Brad Stevens more depth, while also having a reliable bench who can extend leads while the starters aren’t playing.

During Jae Crowder’s absence, Evan Turner had to start, which had a negative impact on Marcus Smart and the bench as a whole. While Turner was making his presence felt as a starter, Boston’s depth was very thin, forcing players to play out of position in most cases. Last night, for the first time in months, Jerebko and Zeller looked comfortable and confident in their roles off the bench, and their energy and production proved that. Zeller’s 26 points snapped Isaiah Thomas’ 17 game streak of leading the Celtics in scoring. Those 26 points wouldn’t have been possible without Turner’s connection with Zeller, as Tyler is the beneficiary of Turner’s court vision.

Marcus Smart was also more effective last night, and Turner’s return to the bench could be why. Also finishing with 4 points and 9 assists, Smart didn’t force the issue, and instead looked for open teammates in transition. Marcus plays better with Evan on the floor, as he plays with more control, not forcing shots, or trying to make a difficult play. It’s almost fair to say that without Turner, Smart plays as if he has to score, and as a result, he takes bad shots and focuses less on his defensive prowess, and more on being the hero of the second unit.

Turner’s versatility spreads the floor, which creates lanes to the basket for Zeller, gives Kelly Olynyk wide open shots on the perimeter, and gives Smart room to operate in the half-court. The bench as a unit plays freely when healthy, and provides the energy and points needed to create distance on the scoreboard between them and their opponents. Evan’s impact goes beyond the stat sheet, and last night was a prime example of that.

For the Celtics, they’ll need the bench to produce to have a chance of closing the season out with victories against Atlanta, Charlotte, and Miami. With Turner as the sixth man, Celtics fans should have more confidence heading into all three games and in the first round of the playoffs. Boston is finally starting to get a rhythm after struggling in March, and what better way to get on a roll before the postseason than to beat the Hawks, Hornets, and Heat who could all be first round opponents next week.