The Boston Celtics are a true example of how patience can pay off in life. After a disastrous start to the season that saw them sitting under .500 as late as Jan. 21, they're now set to face the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals and need just four wins to get back to the NBA Finals for the first time since 2010.
From chemistry issues with Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, to embarrassing losses, Ime Udoka's rookie season as head coach looked like it was going down in flames as soon as it started. Overcoming all the obstacles though has made this team more prepared for adversity, and now the favorites to win the East.
The Celtics' turnaround this year was ignited by their changed mindset on defense before anything else. After looking lost on both sides of the court at times to start the season, as 2022 carried on, they did a complete 180, and their physicality and commitment on the defensive end of the court eventually led to Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving looking frustrated game after game and even helped them withstand a historic series from Giannis Antetokounmpo.
There was a time when the Tatum-Brown duo looked like it might not click. Before the trade deadline, you could find more than enough conversation around whether those two could find the chemistry the Celtics needed to be once again looked at as a title contender, even after making it to the second round four times over the last five years before this season. Whether it was Tatum's shooting slump or Smart saying that every team in the NBA knows neither "want to pass the ball," it was an ugly start.
Once things started to level out, though, it really clicked. Boston averaged 118.1 points per game over their last 32 regular-season games, while holding opponents to just 103.7.
This team's chemistry is also the best it's been since the early Brad Stevens coaching years, and the "everyone knows their role" aspect is peaking at just the right time, thanks to Udoka's and Stevens' patience.
Boston now sits at +200 consensus to win the NBA title, second only to the Golden State Warriors, not to mention the favorite against the east's top seed in Miami (-175 series).
Boston has been able to get a ton of help from more than just their stars in Tatum and Brown, which makes it a game-by-game guess as to who will be the third offensive weapon for them against the Heat.
It started with Al Horford, who had 52 combined points in Games 2 and 3, with Marcus Smart putting up 18, 15 and 21 points in Games 4-6. Then came the Grant Williams show in Game 7, making 7-of-18 3s to throw in 27 points in the series-clinching win.
Stevens and Udoka could have listened to the outside noise and shaken up the roster when things were rocky. Instead, though, they held their ground and believed in the vision they had, and now it's paying off.
Of course, if you ask them directly, they'd tell you there's more work to be done. This is true, and it starts by getting through the Miami Heat next.
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