BOSTON – Despite fan and media expectations for the Boston Celtics projecting an Eastern Conference Finals or Bust attitude, there was perhaps no better fitting beginning to the season than seeing their four games being decided by seven points or less. The Celtics found themselves in 49 games decided by ten points or less in last year’s regular season (and four more in the playoffs). It’s only appropriate that one of those wins came against the Brooklyn Nets — whose pick the Celtics own — and that another win came on Wednesday against Chicago whose point guard, Rajon Rondo, won a title in Boston.
Symbolic or not, what the Celtics are trying to accomplish is a lot more far reaching. Sure they’re trying to succeed in the most basic notion of winning games and trying to get the playoffs. But beneath that, the Celtics are attempting to defy the now conventional wisdom that says a team with no fewer than three superstars can win a championship in 2016-17.
“We want to be great,” said Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas. “We want to be one of the top teams in the league.”
To call the fifth game of the season an important game would be foolish, but an early meeting between two teams aiming for the conference crown comes Thursday night in Cleveland on the reigning champ’s home court in the first of four regular season meetings this season.
The NBA is a player’s league, which makes the Celtics’ rapid rebuilding more compelling. They’re a front office construction, the foundation of which is Head Coach Brad Stevens. Without a marquee star — this is certainly not to marginalize All-Star caliber players Thomas and newly acquired Al Horford — the Celtics have managed to become more than just interesting, but one of the league’s best. Rather than a roster with an inverted pyramid of talent, the Celtics brass put together a collective of players that fit a specific role within a system rather than a system tailored to the talent.