How the Celtics grew into the NBA’s most resilient team, going from “lowest moment” in January to the Finals in June

How the Celtics grew into the NBA's most resilient team, going from


On January 6, the Boston Celtics edged out the New York Knicks by 25 points, losing in a heartbreaking fashion when RJ Barrett put a three-pointer on the bell. It was the Celtics’ fifth loss in seven games, and it reduced them to 11th in the Eastern Conference at 18-21.

Frustrated and frustrated Im Odoka sat on the podium and let his team get it after that loss. The Celtics’ first-year coach called them “a lack of mental toughness to fight through those tough times”.

“I feel like he’s 100 percent right, to be honest,” Robert Williams III said at the time. “We feel very upset, especially when we face adversity. We have to find in ourselves the struggle to come together.”

Five months later, the team not only got together, but advanced to the NBA Finals for the first time since 2010. On Sunday night, the Celtics were suspended by a thread to defeat the Miami Heat in Game Seven of the game. Eastern Conference Finals, 100-96.

The post-game message this time around was a little different:

“Two Game 7s in the last two series,” Odoka said. “It shows what I said about our group. We have fought through a lot of adversity this year. A resilient group. Tonight seems to be our season.”

The Celtics still have their drawbacks. They are prone to spinning, can be taken out of games at times by worrying too much about officials, and have scoring issues in times of crisis. They blew up a 14-point lead to the Milwaukee Bucks in Game Five of the second round, losing Game Six of the series on home soil despite coming in late and seeing their lead by 13 points in the last few minutes of Game 7. They were down to two in the closing seconds.

But even if they don’t always make it easy on themselves, they always have an answer.

“That’s what we do, we did it all on purpose to make it fun,” said Jaylene Brown. “No, I’m just kidding. But that’s who we are. We’ve been responding to adversity all year, all season. Today was the biggest test, not just of the year but of our career, to mentally get into the 7 game away after losing at home, which was tough, And we’ve done it.”

There have been mini examples throughout this game. When their 17-point lead was trimmed to six at the end of the first half (in part due to some questionable management), they quickly went 7-1 from the second half to push the score into the double digits. When the Heat made another charge early in the fourth quarter to make it a three-point game, they shook the Celtics 8-0. Finally, when The Heat fell back down to a two-second drop in the final seconds, Marcus Smart hit two free throws to help seal the deal.

That was the mental toughness and resilience we saw from this group throughout qualifying. They’ve gone 3-0 in elimination matches, including two wins on the road, won two 7s games and are still perfect 6-0 after losing. In fact, they have not lost consecutive games since late March.

Sometimes, it’s hard to believe that this is the same team that sat there on that fateful January night in New York wondering where it all went wrong. This defeat is still lingering in Tatum’s mind. He referred to it again on Sunday, calling it his “lowest moment” of the season.

In another world, this could have been the beginning of the end for this group. Whether Tatum and Brown could play together has been a constant topic of debate, not just in Boston’s local media, but nationally. Marcus Smart’s ability to manage the team has always been in question, and he has been subject to commercial rumors once again. There were also doubts about whether Odoka was the right man for the job.

Even internally, doubts began to creep in.

“It was tough,” Tatum said. “I really liked it. There have definitely been some tough moments throughout the season where – you don’t doubt yourself but you probably ask, right, a question, can we do this? You start to realize how hard it is to win. You start questioning yourself; you are good enough to be that. the man?

“But I think you just trust yourself, you trust the work you’re doing to get to that point and keep going. It can’t rain forever. The good days were coming. I felt like we were–whatever it was, one step away from clicking all season, And obviously once we did, we didn’t look back.”

Not when they blew up that game for the Knicks and were sitting outside the center of play in the tournament. Not when they choked a game 5 to the Bucks in the second round and had to win two consecutive games by elimination. Not when they collapsed in the Game 6 of the East Finals and had to go back to Miami for Match 7 on the road.

No matter the situation, the Celtics have always been confident in their abilities and eager for a chance to strike back. For the past four months, they’ve focused on the next match and the next opportunity. Now, they have their biggest one yet.

“I think it’s okay to enjoy tonight and be happy because it’s tough,” Tatum said. “It’s not easy – obviously this is my first time in the tournament. It’s not easy. We know we have a tough job ahead. They have been there many times, they have won many times. I’m looking forward to it.”

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