Celtics complete improbable run back to conference finals

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Jae Crowder struggled, Avery Bradley was too small, and players like Gerald Green, Jonas Jerebko, Amir Johnson and Kelly Olynyk could not keep up in the post and on the perimeter. The Celtics would be be better equipped to do so if fully healthy, but the way they are playing, it'd be foolish to count them out.

In taking the series 4-1, the Cavs won their three games at TD Garden by an average of 30 points, including a 44-point victory in Game 2 that was the Celtics' worst home loss in their illustrious playoff history. For some of them - Dario Saric, T.J. McConnell and Robert Covington are the only other players among the playoff rotation nearly certain to come back - there are athletic limitations to their development.

"You know, so many people, after Gordon got hurt and Kyrie, (Marcus) Smart went down for a while, and (Daniel) Theis, nobody expected us to be going to the Eastern Conference finals", said Celtics rookie forward Jayson Tatum. We're doing the same now. "With as much respect as we have for IN, obviously, they took us to seven, I think defensively Boston is elite". However, neither Thomas nor Irving will play in the series as the Cavs traded Thomas to the Los Angeles Lakers and Irving underwent season-ending knee surgery for the Celtics.

However, the C's and their brilliant 41-year-old head coach, Brad Stevens, had other plans.

Tatum made it 111-109 after catching a pass from Marcus Smart under the basket and Terry Rozier helped seal the win by making a pair of clutch free throws with nine seconds left as the Celtics eliminated the 76ers four games to one.

It looked unlikely both teams would make it to this point during the regular season. Because they're on TV all the time, we're watching them every night, just like everybody else is. It was clearing money on the salary cap to put them in position to sign major free agents.

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The Celtics doubters have been stubborn. In Game 2, he scored 43 points and dished 14 assists, connecting on turnaround fadeaway after turnaround fadeaway, gleefully torturing the Raptors toward their inevitable demise. He tried to miss the second which would have run the clock down but it rattled in stopping time and allowing Philadelphia to try one more play.

The disrespect has been everywhere, and the Celtics have feasted on it.

"Gotta go through the best to get to that trophy, every step of the way we're going to come across somebody". In 2012, Miami was facing elimination when James had 45 points and 15 rebounds en route to his first championship.

"Scary" Terry Rozier has lived up to his name in the second round of the playoffs.

The Celtics will enter the series a significant underdog. He, like the rest of us, will be forced to watch what James does next. He's averaging 34.3 points, 9.5 rebounds, and 6.5 assists.

The Cavaliers are now meeting the over-achieving Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals, and could be heading for yet another meeting with the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals.

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If the Sixers weren't listening fully to Brown's insistence that their games had to develop and improve, then the coaching advice given by the Boston Celtics should do the trick.

But the feel is different this time around.

Stevens has always downplayed the attention placed on coaching awards.

He hasn't collected as many National Basketball Association rings but his highlight reel is every bit as impressive. "And, again, that's not a given".

Sometimes in life, you get smacked with reality so hard that it leaves you brooding and deep in thought about what just happened.

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