When Gordon Hayward’s season ended in the first five minutes of his Celtics debut, many fans worried it would be a lost year for Boston.
The Celtics had completely revamped their backcourt. They traded Isaiah Thomas for Kyrie Irving, who made it clear he wanted to be a star and get out of LeBron James’s shadow in Cleveland. They also signed Hayward, coming off his best season with Utah in a contract year, reuniting him with his college coach at Butler, Brad Stevens.
Hayward never got to see the court after that injury. Irving, who led the team in scoring through 60 games, also had his season cut short due to injury late in the year.
Without the two guys who were supposed to carry this team, the Celtics faced a possible upset against the seventh-seeded Bucks in the first round. They escaped that possibility in seven games though, winning the deciding game seven at home.
After the 76ers made quick work of the Heat in the first round, many thought the Celtics would be done, but here we are.
With a win tonight, Stevens’s Celtics can take on James’s Cavaliers with a chance to go to the NBA Finals.
Without Irving and Hayward, Boston has managed this incredible run thanks to a rookie, some small guards with huge hearts and a seasoned big man.
That rookie, Jayson Tatum, has led the team with over 18 points per game throughout the playoffs. While his counterpart tonight, Ben Simmons, is the likely pick for the Rookie of the Year award, Tatum will likely have the last laugh.
Terry Rozier and Jaylen Brown have been phenomenal as well, combining for well over 30 points a night on average, and Marcus Smart’s defense has left the 76ers baffled this series.
Big man Al Horford has also outmatched his younger counterpart, Joel Embiid, late in the game numerous times this series, propelling the Celtics to victory.
They still have several hurdles in front of them, and I see a series win over Cleveland as unlikely, but with game five in Boston tonight I will say this…
Philadelphia’s going home, and not for game six.