The Boston Celtics are running out of time.
The Celtics are now in a 0-3 hole in the Eastern Conference Finals, and unless they stage a dramatic comeback, they’ll be kissing goodbye to a promising year.
They’re in an unfortunate situation especially because fans always feel that the Celtics are contenders every year. When you look at their roster, it makes sense to think that way. They have a potent core who are still very young. They have a dynamic duo in Jayson Tatum (25) and Jaylen Brown (26), plus good role players such as Grant Williams (24), Robert Williams III (25), and Marcus Smart (29). To add veteran smarts, they plugged in Al Horford (36), Malcolm Brogdon (30), and Derrick White (28).
Building off their impressive run to the Finals last year, they finished second in the East this season. They put themselves in a good position to make another run at the title, especially with the Milwaukee Bucks and Philadelphia 76ers already eliminated. The luck of the Irish was on their side at least for the first two rounds of the playoffs.
That being said, they really have to win this year. The biggest reason is that the team has to make roster decisions soon. Before anyone attacks me with the fact that teams obviously do have to make decisions every year, it’s different for the Celtics because the clock is ticking.
With Tatum and Brown making all-NBA teams this year, both players are now eligible for the super-max extension (Brown in 2024 and Tatum in 2025) which combined will cost the C’s around $600 million. An upside is that the Celtics roster is mostly intact with only Grant Williams being a restricted free agent at the end of this season. Still, this means that the Celtics' title window with this core is closing. If the Celtics plan to pay Brown and Tatum, they might have to let almost everyone else go. Smart, Horford, Williams III, or someone will have to go and it even might be one of their superstars.
Another reason why the Celtics have to win this year is because the other contenders are older and are just about to make moves. Take a look at the Sixers, Bucks, and Raptors.
Philadelphia just fired Doc Rivers and is still deciding if they wanna bring back James Harden. Milwaukee just let go of Mike Budenholzer, who just won a ring in 2021 and was a two-time Coach of the Year. There are also questions if Khris Middleton is the right No. 2 guy for Giannis Antetokounmpo. Toronto, which lacks ball handlers, parted ways with Nick Nurse, who won a ring in 2019.
In comparison, the Celtics are pretty intact. They have their young core together. They have a good coach. There aren’t many questions about them other than what’s gonna happen two years down the line. There is a lot of movement in the East and among all the contenders, the Celtics have remained relatively steady and must take advantage of it before they either get caught up in the storm or another contender starts to steady their ship.
Lastly, wouldn’t it be nice for the Celtics to get Horford, a 15-year veteran, and Blake Griffin, a multi-time All-Star, get their first rings? Fans always talk about NBA stars that never got one: Allen Iverson, Vince Carter, and Tracy McGrady to name a few. Winning a championship would be a feel-good moment that will help cement their already great careers - they aren’t getting any younger.
There is always that feeling that teams have to win, but for the Celtics, they just have a little bit more at stake compared to other teams. For those reasons, the Celtics must do everything in their power to beat the Miami Heat and enter the NBA Finals.