I always tell people, before you can see a rainbow, it has to rain. We’re experiencing rain right now. We have to figure out how, we don’t know what that would be, but we have to find out. I think We will, we don’t know when, but we will, Marcus Smart said.
After swallowing a Game 6 loss in the Eastern Conference Championship, Boston Celtics’ Jayson Tatum was asked how confident he would give Game 7 on a scale of 1 to 10. Tatum replied, of course, 10. It shouldn’t be. Below this, right? That’s the final battle.
But he was not without hesitation. Losing Game 6 at home in Boston allowed Jimmy Butler of the Miami Heat to score 47 points, 9 rebounds and 8 assists. He and another star Jaylen Brown made only one shot in the last five minutes of the game. Brown missed two free throws. Tatum made a critical error, and the once-leading score was reversed.
At the time, the rhetoric that Tatum and Brown weren’t stars, that they couldn’t coexist, and that Boston should trade one of them seemed to resurface, all too familiar to the Celtics this season, though They made it all the way to the Eastern Conference Championship, but those words couldn’t be shaken off, and they would reappear if they weren’t careful.
That was hard, Tatum said later. Really. There have been some really hard times this season, not doubting yourself, but asking yourself can we do it? How hard. You start asking yourself: Are we good enough to be that person?
Celtic will return to Miami to play Game 7. Facing this year’s Eastern Conference leader, and playing on the road, Celtic is only one game away from the end of the season.
It’s the most important game of the season, maybe even my career, and I’m confident we’ll give it all on the court, no matter what happens, Tatum said.
It’s what people call a crunch time, make or break, and it’s no stranger to the Celtics this season. It feels destined to go this way. Difficult, said head coach Ime Udoka after Game 6.
The Celtics faced another such pivotal moment two weeks ago.
At their home in Boston, they led by 14 points in the fourth quarter, but they failed to grab a key defensive rebound and turned the game around. Marcus Smart’s offense was blocked in the last minute, and the dribble was intercepted and extinguished. their last chance to fight back. Now the Eastern Conference semifinals of the playoffs will return to Milwaukee. The opponent is last year’s championship Bucks and Giannis Antetokounmpo, the two-time league’s most valuable player. As long as they lose one more game, Celtic’s 2022 ball The season is coming to an end.
The night after the loss to the Milwaukee Bucks, Smart blamed himself for his poor performance, feeling like he let everyone down. Smart barely slept those two nights, he kept his head down, even assistant coach Damon Stoudamire pulled him aside and said he had never seen him like this, telling him not to lose confidence because the team needed him.
Marcus Smart is the heart and soul of the Boston Celtics, not only his teammates say so, but Smart himself. He’s the Celtics’ longest-serving player, but he hasn’t taken on the primary point guard role since donning the Celtics’ jersey in 2014, which belongs to Rajon Rondo, Isaiah Thomas , Kyrie Irving and Kemba Walker’s seats. According to statistics, Smart averaged only 27 percent of the time per game last season as a ball-handling player, which is already the most of his career. Smart, who signed a four-year, $77 million extension with Boston last summer, could have tested the waters in free agency, but decided to be conservative.
People say Smart isn’t fast enough, isn’t skilled enough on the dribble, isn’t accurate enough on the 3-point line, isn’t the point guard that people traditionally think of, but Smart was a point guard from high school to college, and he knew he could make other teammates better. That’s the point guard’s most important responsibility.
Since coach Udoka joined the Celtics, he has decided to hand over the starting point guard job to Smart. In Udoka’s coaching philosophy, he is not the kind of coach who will order every wave of offensive tactics on the sidelines. He will hand over these to the point guard’s on-the-spot judgment, so there is a controller who can stabilize the military and make correct judgments. Guard is more important.
Although it was a little rough at the beginning, Smart slowly took up this important role, not only on offense, but also on defense. He would observe the opponent’s formation on the court and then advise the coach on how to deal with it. Of course he still has the occasional amazing thing, but it seems to be Smart’s necessary evil and Coach Udoka even compared that to one of his former teammates, also a Hall of Famer.
Marcus would do some crazy passes and he would be like, ‘Scared you, Udoka said, raising his hand to mimic Smart’s apologetic gesture. It was like San Antonio’s Gregg Popovich meeting Manu Ginobili. situation.
You have to let him be himself, put up with some madness, and all you can do is trust Marcus, Udoka said.3mdWSDds
After eight years as head coach, Stevens, although he is stepping down as head coach for the Celtics, citing family reasons, is known by many, in part because he is no longer able to effectively lead the team. Teams, maybe because he’s been around too long, maybe because the bubble season has worn him physically and mentally, and Udoka is a different way of coaching.
I think every coach has a different standard for ‘rigor’. Brad’s strict coaching isn’t really strict coaching, that’s not his style of coaching, Brown said.
But despite being strict, Udoka can easily connect with players. His sincerity, his ability to be strict but warm. And his experience as a player and as an assistant coach, Stevens said.
Udoka got into the NBA by focusing on defending Kobe Bryant during practice, and then he got into the NBA because of an injury to another player (his hometown and now Boston Celtics assistant coach Aaron Miles). The Trail Blazers, maybe because of that he can build a good relationship with every player.
For the first two seasons, Udoka was an assistant coach for the Brooklyn Nets and Philadelphia 76ers, so he could see from the sidelines how the team should change, and he made it very clear, that is Pass the ball more.
As a coach, you’re always looking for where the players are doing well and where they can grow and improve. Overall, these guys are going to play more selflessly. Brad lets these players have the flow and the Run. Udoka said, Like I’ve said before, that’s basketball where you play one ball and I play one ball. Celtic’s assists per 100 possessions ratio last season was the highest in the league Ranked 23rd, it’s even where Udoka jokes about Stevens.
But no matter how well Udoka does his job as a coach, anyone knows that the Celtics’ success hinges on where two stars, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, can take the team, and Udoka certainly knows that too. He praised the two players as the backbone of the team on day one, but his challenge was also to make them better.
From the perspective of people outside this team, they’re All-Stars, MVPs. After knowing them for a few years, you’ve seen them grow. They’ve had a huge amount this past season. progress, and we look forward to them continuing to improve. My job is to put them in a place where they can succeed and inspire them to be better, and like I said, the sky is their limit, Udoka said. .
However, the changes brought about by the new coach and the new offensive and defensive system are not easy to achieve, and the injuries of the players and the impact of the new crown pneumonia epidemic make everything more difficult to grasp.
The first two games of the new season seemed to bode well for the Celtics, who lost to the New York Knicks after two playoffs in their season opener, and then ended the season with an opener at home. 83 to 115 points were tragically electrocuted by the Toronto Raptors. After the game, coach Udoka bluntly said that the opponent was more serious than them.
In a Nov. 1 loss to the Chicago Bulls, they shattered a 14-point lead, allowing the Bulls to turn the game with a 39-11 fourth quarter, a quarter where the Bulls made 16 shots and 13 goals. The Celtics didn’t grab a single defensive rebound the entire quarter, and when the game ended, Boston’s home crowd couldn’t help booing.
Overall, I think we were too relaxed and lazy, it felt like the game was over, said head coach Udoka.
Smart, who has always been outspoken, also fired after the game: Every team knows we’re going to pass to Jayson and Jaylen. Every team will watch the video and learn to block Jayson and Jaylen. I think everyone’s scouting report It’s all written to let these two guys pass the ball. They don’t want to pass the ball.
It was only the seventh game of the season, and Boston was 2-5.
Two days later, the Celtics held an internal player-only meeting to figure out what Smart called a way to win, and move on, but it wasn’t easy.
We’re so relaxed, center Robert Williams said this time. We’re still learning from each other every day, but these missed opportunities, this kind of shit can’t happen again. We’re fighting for something bigger than a game. We It has to stop letting this happen.
Jaylen and Jayson can’t make other people better. I put the blame on them, said an anonymous Western Conference scout.
They don’t seem to be enjoying each other’s success, and it’s been a couple of years, said an unnamed Eastern Conference manager.
Jayson Tatum is Jayson Tatum. I don’t think he cares about winning now, if there is, it’s in his own way. He doesn’t want to win by 15 points, he wants to win by 39 points, an anonymous The Eastern Division assistant coach said so.
Let me put it simply: Jayson and Jaylen’s ability to make other players better is key. If they can’t get a third star player, they have to make other players better, and so far they haven’t shown that they can do that. ability to point, said an anonymous Western Conference scout.
Tatum scoffed at the articles after seeing them, I laughed because I knew it wasn’t true. I know my teammates, my coaches, and anyone who’s ever dealt with me knows that I’m definitely not selfish. People. Smart later joked that if he knew which Eastern Conference team it was, Tatum would definitely prove himself against them.
But at the time, neither Tatum nor Celtic were powerless to fight back. On November 26, against coach Udoka’s old club, the San Antonio Spurs, Boston lost 88 to 96 points, with a record of 10 wins and 10 losses, which is exactly 50%.
They trailed by 24 points in the second quarter, prompting coach Udoka to criticize again. Players want to find their own rhythm, not with their teammates. That’s what I see in the first quarter. Everyone is just worried about their performance, not what’s best for the team and how the team works, he said. .
There’s no flow of the ball, no cuts for teammates, Udoka said. Get teammates involved.
We learn from those experiences. I know some people are tired of hearing it, but there is still a lot to learn and grow. My game is still improving and Jayson is getting better, trying to put his teammates in better positions. That’s harder than it looks. So we have to keep improving, play the right basketball, trust each other, trust your teammates, trust the coaching staff. Brown said.
Some may have lost faith in this team, but that’s not Coach Udoka, who, despite having previously criticized Brown for his ups and downs from game to game, coach Udoka believes in him, gives him the ball, devises tactics for him, and Brown also appreciates Coach Udoka’s support. When the team was plagued by the absence of injured players, coach Udoka texted Tatum, thanking him for his professionalism and setting a good example for his teammates.
Coach Udoka has also criticized center Robert Williams’ defensive discipline, but when the latter turned up his big three, Udoka said he was better than many thought.
He was full of confidence, Williams said. I guess he saw something in me that I didn’t see myself. I’m grateful that he motivated me every day and wanted to do better. He said yes. An honour. But obviously if my coach feels that way, then I have to do more.
This is Williams’ fourth season, and he’s now firmly established as a starter. When he first joined Boston, Williams missed the press conferences and flights that introduced him to the media because he overslept (not because of his amazing bounce). ability and air time), which earned him the nickname Time Lord, but he’s now an integral part of the team.
He learned the ethos of pro sports from Al Horford and Aron Baynes in his rookie season, and now Horford has made a detour and is back in Boston just in time to be Williams’ side in the paint.
However, there is not much time for this group of partners to work together smoothly in the season. Williams had injury concerns when he joined the league. At the beginning of this season, Celtic also planned to limit his playing time to ensure that he can play stably in the future, but his knee Soreness still keeps him sidelined from time to time.
On the other hand, the 35-year-old Horford got the chance to return to Boston, but missed some games because of two Covid-19 infections (and a third in the playoffs).
Horford is a constant force when he can play or stay with his teammates. He left Boston for the Philadelphia 76ers in the 2020 season, but his role on the court was unclear. He only played 28 games with the Oklahoma City Thunder this season, but after no playing opportunities, Horford still worked hard to maintain his physical condition, allowing him to get another opportunity to put on the green jersey.
Horford is no stranger to the Celtics’ main starter. When he arrived in Boston in 2017, Smart was a junior and Brown was a rookie. Tatum joined the Celtics the following year, and Robert Williams the following year. .
He’s unselfish. Al doesn’t care about numbers, he just cares about wins and this team, Smart said. When he came back, Na gave us a sense of security. We had Al on the court and he was on offense and defense. Both sides make the right choices. He can calm us down. He can show us what’s missing and he can help us learn more from the game.
However, due to injuries, Celtic could not find a stable starting lineup. Of course, the offense and defense could not be sustained, and the record fluctuated, always hovering around the 50% winning rate.
As a result, the Celtics took what seemed to be the most difficult path in the playoffs, but it could also be said to be a path of revenge. Their first-round opponent was the Brooklyn Nets, they were eliminated by the Nets in the first round of the playoffs in the 2021 season, the Eastern Conference semifinals were against the Milwaukee Bucks, and the Bucks in the 2019 season Eliminate them in the Eastern Conference semifinals. The opponent in the Eastern Conference Championship is the Miami Heat, and in the 2020 playoffs, they lost to the Heat in the Eastern Conference Championship.
The Nets, led by Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, are the seventh seed that no one dares to underestimate. Despite this season’s injuries, Durant is still one of the league’s strongest scoring weapons. Although Irving is in trouble because of off-court issues. Less turmoil, but there are still very few people who can restrain him on the court.
These Celtics have experienced it first-hand. The Nets easily cleared the Celtics in five games in the playoffs last year. Except for a victory that Tatum scored 50 points and grabbed hard, the Nets averaged points per game. At 15 points, Durant and Irving are averaging 32.6 and 24.8 points per game (though Boston is also missing Brown, and starting point guard Kemba Walker has only played in three games.)
People may remember Irving questioning his teammates when he was still in Boston in 2019: Young players don’t know what it takes to be a championship-level team, what you give every day. If they think it’s hard now, when we How would they feel trying to make it to the championship game? he said at the time.
But three years later, these young teammates are finally becoming more mature. They nearly blocked Durant and Irving’s offense, and Tatum and Brown averaged 29.5 and 22.5 points per game. It took them just four games to swept the Nets astonishingly.
But Irving, now wearing a Nets jersey, isn’t surprised: I know now is the time. For the young guys on this team, they’re more mature, now is the opportunity. They’ve been through the playoffs together, They’ve had a tough fight together over several seasons, and I’ve had the opportunity to be part of that. Now against a healthy Celtic, you can see their spirit is different, despite not having Robert Williams, The way they face the game is different.
When you’ve been eliminated in a series before, of course it’s painful and tough, but you never forget. I think we’ve all been like that, we’ve all been through tough times and remember what it’s like. We don’t want to It was that feeling again tonight when we left. We gave everything on the court. Obviously we did it, Tatum said.
At the start of the season, Smart once said Tatum and Brown didn’t pass the ball. The next day, Tatum and Smart met on the court for a good chat. Smart apologized and said he shouldn’t have said those things to the media, his remarks caused misinterpretation, but Tatum wasn’t angry, screwed up the game everyone would be more emotional, but he makes mistakes himself, he has a lot more The place has to improve, and the point is that they’re all together, all on the same team, and they’ll figure it out together.
We’ve been through a lot, Smart said. It’s really blood and tears. Every year we get knocked out. We have to sit there and look at ourselves. It really hurts.
Finally, this time the ending was different.
This core group of guys, the guys on the bench, the coaching staff, the whole team, they believed in us. They let us figure it out for ourselves, and we grew out of that, and that really helped us in the long run. Smart said.
When you do something like this, when you sweat and cry together, you grow, Smart said.
Looking back at those remarks afterwards, Smart, in addition to naming his teammates, said the same: I always tell people, before you see a rainbow, it has to rain. We’re experiencing rain right now, so we have to find Way out. It’s not easy, it’s not going to look good. We’ve got to figure out the way, we don’t know what that’s going to be, but we’ve got to find out. I think we will, we don’t know when, but we meeting.
Although there have been twists and turns and heavy rain, but the rain will eventually clear, and the rainbow after the rain is more beautiful than anything else, but the journey of the Celtics is not over. Their opponent in the championship game is sixth in eight years. The Golden State Warriors, who made it to the championship game, easily defeated the Denver Gold Nuggets, Memphis Grizzlies and Dallas Mavericks in the first three rounds. Stephen Curry is still the top scorer in the league. His Splash Brothers partner Klay Thompson has returned from injury, and Jordan Poole, who has come up this year, is all too familiar with the championship stage.
But the Celtics won’t worry, they’ve been through challenges, doubts and adversity this season, but they’ve all come through.
No matter how much adversity, how many obstacles, how many bumps we have ahead of us, we’ve got to get over it, we’ve got to get over it. That’s how we survive on the field. We really, really believe that. Celtic’s Heart and soul, said Marcus Smart.
I know we’re going to face a great Warriors team with great players. They’ve proven themselves. They know what it takes, they’ve done it. They’re veterans. We know there’s a long way ahead. Road, but we are up to the challenge. Smart said.
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