Boston Celtics: 2018-19 Is a Season of Disappointment

With the Eastern Conference Finals starting this week, neither the Boston Celtics nor Philadelphia 76ers will be a part of them. Both teams lost in the semi-finals round with the Celtics losing to the Bucks and Sixers losing to the Raptors. Coming into this season both teams had lofty expectations. However, Boston’s lack of postseason success this season is as a much bigger disappointment. And with an uncertain offseason approaching, the disappointment seems to loom a lot larger.

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Boston came into this season with championship aspirations. Last season they came within a game of making it to the NBA Finals. The team had almost a Cinderella feel to it entering the postseason. Gordon Hayward, the team’s prized free agent acquisition suffered a gruesome season-ending injury at the beginning of the year. Kyrie Irving ended up having surgery and missed the final few games of the regular season. That left a very young team to contend with some of the East’s best. Young guys such as Terry Rozier and Jayson Tatum; and savvy vets such as Al Horford and Marcus Morris really stepped up and were the catalysts for Boston’s improbable run. The young team came within a game of the Finals without their two best players which would lead one to assume just how good the team could be with them there.

On-Court Issues

Throughout this season, however, the Boston Celtics were in the headlines a lot for all the wrong reasons. For starters, Gordon Hayward was a shell of himself for the 1st half of the season. He was only averaging about 10 points per game and seemed to just be laboring on the court. This had an adverse effect on the performance on the team.

Many thought Brad Stevens, a basketball savant, put him in the starting rotation too early. That he didn’t ease him back into the lineup which had done pretty well without him the year before. Even though Hayward seemed to be turning the corner around January and February he still appeared to be a step slower. He wasn’t getting past defenders as he used to in Utah. And when playoff time came he reverted back to how he was playing at the start of the year. Small glimpses but never consistent strong showings.

On the court, the chemistry seemed to be off with the return of both Hayward and Kyrie. Players such as Terry Rozier and Jaylen Brown had to take a step back as they saw their minutes decrease. Rozier especially saw his numbers go down at an inopportune time as he was in a contract year. He became a sort of household name throughout the playoffs last year with his battles with Bucks’ guard Eric Bledsoe. During the playoffs last season as a starter he averaged 16.5ppg, 5.7apg, 5.3rbpg and 1.7 steals. He also shot 48% from the field and 35% from 3-point range.

This season as a backup his numbers were down across the board in almost every statistical category. In fact, the Celtics as a whole played pretty well with Irving out of the lineup. They were 12-3 this season when Irving did not play and many saw a change in the style of play when he wasn’t on the floor. A glimpse back to the gritty, hard-nosed play of a team devoid of a ball dominant superstar just a year ago.

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Kyrie

The biggest cloud over Bean Town this season was the distraction that came with Kyrie Irving. When the Boston Celtics traded for Kyrie he finally got what he wanted. To get out from under the shadow of LeBron and to finally be “the man” on a contending team. This season proved to be tougher than he probably expected. Especially early on the Celtics were sputtering. In fact, Irving came out and said he called LeBron and basically apologized to him and understood what it meant to be a leader. There were multiple times throughout the season where Kyrie threw shade at some of the “young guys” on the team. Saying they didn’t know what it takes to play at a championship level. Odd words, especially since those same young guys, were literally a few baskets away from being in the championship.

All of this pales in comparison to the elephant that had been in the room all season which was Irving’s pending free agency. At 27 years old Irving is in the middle of his prime and is poised to be the 2nd biggest free agent on the market behind Kevin Durant. At the beginning of the year, Kyrie seemed committed to re-signing. He even told an arena full of Celtics fans “If you guys will have me back, I plan on re-signing here”.

However as the season progressed and the road became bumpier, that decision to resign became a little less certain. When asked about his pending free agency Kyrie would just brush it aside which started raising questions. The fact that he and Kevin Durant’s names have been linked with joining the Knicks this offseason hasn’t helped either.

Playoffs

Even with all the hiccups and bumps in the road, many saw the Boston Celtics as legitimate contenders in the basketball world. Back in January, Draymond Green even said the Celtics were the Warriors’ biggest threat. The Celtics actually went into the postseason this year with 49 wins which were 6 less than they finished with last season. They went in as the 4th seed against the 5th seeded Pacers who had gone the majority of the year without their superstar shooting guard Victor Oladipo. Boston handled the Pacers fairly easily completing the sweep.

Boston actually defeated Milwaukee in game one of the semi-finals by 22 points but would go on to get absolutely obliterated the rest of the series. After Paul Pierce’s bold claim saying the series was over, Milwaukee beat the brakes off of the Celtics. Three of the four wins were by double digits including a 25 point whooping in game 5.

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Irving was exceptionally bad throughout the series. He was anything but Uncle Drew. Although he averaged 20 ppg he shot an abysmal 21% from 3-point range and 35% from the field in general. Giannis Antetokounmpo made as many 3s as Irving did that series with 7. His True Shooting Percentage and Offensive Rating were also the lowest of all Celtics starters. The old saying “shooters shoot” should probably have been applied lightly in this series as Kyrie shot the ball 104 times making only 37 of them. Irving also took some slack for leaving the court early before one of the games in the series was over. As he was walking back through the tunnel after game 5, his jersey untucked, it almost felt like he was relieved the season was finally over.

Entering the offseason, there are a ton of questions for this franchise. Does Irving re-sign with the team? If he does will Rozier want out? Are they still in play for Anthony Davis? What does the future hold for Tatum and Brown? What will they do with their assortment of draft picks? And should Brad Stevens’ seat start to feel a little warm? All things this storied franchise will have to figure out if they want to reclaim glory in the East. With teams like the Raptors, Bucks, Sixers, and Nets all on the rise, Boston’s window to remain a legitimate contender in the east is closing. The disappointment of the 2018-2019 season may result in a huge turning point for the franchise for the next few years.

How do you feel about the disappointment of the Boston Celtics? Leave a comment below.

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