Celtics Advance to East Finals With Seismic Win Over Wizards in Game 7 (To Hell With Championship-or-Bust Attitudes)

These Celtics have been thoroughly exciting, endearing, and worthy of praise since Game 1, back in late October. Some fans will stumble their way into them now, hopping on the Isaiah bandwagon now that they’ve advanced two rounds in the NBA’s annual spring gala.

For years I didn’t use Facebook much. Then I started using it more often. One of my friends from years ago must have introduced me to this guy. I had a vague hint, like I may have watched one basketball game at a house with this guy seven years ago. Then he was on Facebook, somehow we had become friends. For years, his posts were kind of annoying, but nothing horrible. The kind of entitled, smug attitudes that certain circles of SF contains all too many of. Anyway, I had barely interacted with him.

After two playoff games, with the Celtics down 2–0 to Chicago, and the Bulls destroying Boston on the boards, I made a rare Celtics-related comment about how frustrating it was that GM Danny Ainge hadn’t added a reserve-rebounding big man at the trade deadline, failing to address the team’s biggest weakness. This guy comments,

“Moot point. It’s a two-team league.”

By that logic, the other fourteen playoff teams and their fan-bases should silently accept the fact that these playoffs hold zero hope for their teams, and that no games other than the Finals matter. What a clueless and myopic comment.

It was late April, and NBA playoff basketball was/still is a big deal in those fourteen other cities, and the concerns of those fan-bases are genuine and valid.

  • If you watched the first round, you know that fans in Milwaukee actually showed their young Bucks some love. Milwaukee is not a city with the strongest track record of basketball mania. But be sure Giannis, Middleton and the rest of the Bucks noticed the support.
  • If you watched the first round, you saw fans in Utah going bonkers for their Jazz.
  • If you watched the end of the regular season, you might have seen the Miami Heat, who bonded so evidently over the last month or two of the season and nearly made the least-probable playoff berth in NBA history, after starting 11–30. If you’re a Celtics fan, you have to be thankful the Celtics avoided those Heat in a 1 vs 8 match-up.

I tried to address this fool as diplomatically as I could, rather than just unfriend him and ignore it. I wrote to him and told him I was trying to find a way to interpret what he wrote as anything other than a dick move.

He wasn’t sure who I was, which was mutual. He also didn’t bother apologizing for his myopia.

This is the problem with people who become so enamored with themselves and their teams, that the only way they can operate is to shit on everyone else. We see exhibit A in DC today. Grandiose delusion takes over. The bullshit sports cliches of championship or bust. That nothing can be considered a success unless it ends in a title.

Not only is it myopic, self-defeating, and misery-inducing, it also takes all joy and satisfaction away from the fan experience. It’s more indicative of a person’s soullessness than anything else.

If that’s your attitude, I’m not sure why you’re still reading this.

***

We’re obsessed with judging our athletes and our teams. We’ve allowed sports fandom to become a minefield of hot-takes and juicy quotes, one guy ripping another. It’s mostly barbaric. A sizable portion of NBA fans are obsessed with roster construction and cap space, as if each will eventually work anywhere near an NBA front office.


I’ll offer a few snippets of what I experienced as I watched Game 7 from my feverish seat (I’m recovering from pneumonia):

The Boston Celtics are a team.

Marcus Smart’s defensive instincts never fail to make me shake my head.

Isaiah Thomas heats up more quickly than an electric kettle.

Kelly Olynyk had an out-of-body 4th Quarter that just kept going, spinning and whirling in circles.

Jaylen Brown played with great energy in short minutes.

Terry Rozier’s inbounds steal and dish was a delight.

Al Horford does almost everything right.

The Boston Celtics are a team.

Full of flawed human athletes. Full of quirks. Full of courage and tenacity.

It doesn’t matter whether they win another game. In many ways, it didn’t matter if they won Game 7, though that would have been a painful loss considering how tough this series was. What mattered is that they further established something positive this year, building on last. That they’ve pushed each other farther than they might otherwise have gone. They survived a slew of injuries over the first 30 games of the season, and still won 53. They resisted the urge to trade away any of the young core before they got a chance to see how they responded in the biggest moments. Cohesion is rare in the NBA. Chemistry is complex and hard to sustain. It says something really important about Isaiah and about how much the team cares about each other that Isaiah chose not to miss a single game following the death of his sister, before Round 1. Nobody with any compassion would have judged him for going back to Washington earlier, but he knew he was around his family as he sat in that locker room, and let it out with old friend Avery Bradley. And then, two weeks later, he poured in 53 points in an epic Game 2 performance vs Washington.

Really loving a team means attaching yourself to the development of that team, which gets harder to do in the era of mass free-agent movement. This Celtics team has clearly bonded. Now we’re reaping the rewards.

Who knows what this summer brings. Number one pick? The next trade?

If you stay in the head-space, you’ll never fully appreciate this team for where it is right now.

Go Celtics. There are 30-teams in this Association.