BOSTON (CBS) — The Celtics enter the final night of the regular season 52-29 and just one win (or Cleveland loss) away from clinching the top seed in the Eastern Conference.
Their success this season will ultimately come down to how they play in the playoffs, but being the No. 1 team in the East is still quite the accomplishment. It’s another step in the right direction for the franchise, and continues the trend of improvement every year since Brad Stevens took over on the bench.
Boston Celtics President Rich Gotham joined 98.5 The Sports Hub’s The Adam Jones Show on Tuesday night to discuss his thoughts on the team’s progression this season.
“We thought we could be a 50-win team, and winning 50 games in the NBA is a hard thing to do. Of any of the accomplishments this year, I think winning 50 games is a big step,” said Gotham. “It puts you in a little bit of a different category as a team. We were optimistic at the beginning of the year, but you have to have a little luck to get there. While we had some nagging injuries, we were mostly healthy; nothing catastrophic happened. We put ourselves in a good position heading into the postseason.”
The Celtics have lost in the first round of the playoffs in each of the last two seasons, with last year’s loss to the Atlanta Hawks a disappointing end to a promising campaign. Isaiah Thomas went off for 42 points in Boston’s Game 3 victory, but with Avery Bradley going down in Game 1 he didn’t have a running mate on offense. That made things much easier for the Hawks to limit his scoring for the majority of the six-game series.
Gotham said the Celtics are much better equipped to take some of that scoring pressure off of Thomas this postseason.
“Inevitably, when teams have four games-plus to load up for you and game plan for you, they’re going to take away your first option. Last year, with Avery Bradley going down, that didn’t help us in regard having a second option taking some pressure off Isaiah. This year, with Al Horford and Bradley having a big step-up year, Jae [Crowder] shooting the ball well, he has more around him and we’ll be less dependent,” said Gotham. “That being said, it gets harder to score in the playoffs, so he’s going to have to earn it. Hopefully this year we’ve put enough around him so if the other team decides to take him out, someone else will be open and we’ll make them pay.”
Gotham also touched on Thomas’ place in the NBA MVP race, if Boston’s play in the postseason will change their approach to the offseason, and swapping picks with the Brooklyn Nets: