After a dominant Game 5 victory where the Boston Celtics showed their potential, it’s time to ask if the Celtics are legitimate title contenders.
Through the ultimate test of resilience, the Boston Celtics showed their remarkable maturity despite being one of the youngest teams in the NBA.
At least in the regular season, most fans would have agreed that this is the most entertaining Celtics team in over a decade. However, with new and young stars, the team was relatively unproven, and people had doubts about their resilience and leadership.
In the playoffs, the Celtics began with a resounding sweep of the Philadephia 76ers, and then a quick 2-0 lead over the Toronto Raptors. All of a sudden, the Boston Celtics had an aura of irrepressible success, with the word lose crossed out of Brad Steven’s dictionary.
Ahead 10 at halftime, six after the third, and two with half a second left, the Celtics were supposed to win Game 3. Beat writers were racing to publish pieces praising Kemba Walker’s 31 point performance and game-winning assist. But in half a second, the momentum flipped.
Up 103-101 with half a second remaining, all the Celtics had to do was stop the Raptors, and they would be up in the series 3-0–no one has come back down 3-0. After Kyle Lowry made a perfect pass to a wide OG Anunoby behind the arc, his 3-pointer went in, and the Raptors made the series a series again.
Game 4 was to decide if the Celtics would win back the momentum or if the Raptors were going to push back. After playing the final three quarters of the game before, the 34-year-old Lowry played the entire second half, making sure the Raptors would.
Lowry has been the epitome of the player Boston fans love most. Playing scrappy basketball, getting calls when offenses are not paying attention, sometimes flopping, and leading the offense with his mental approach. Lowry is hard to stop with or without the ball. He does everything to win. And on that night did everything in his ability to control the series, leading the Raptors to a seven-point victory.
The Raptors now had the momentum, and they had the veteran leader, the coach, the experience, to pull ahead. For the first time, the Walker led Celtics got tested.
Even though Walker is the leader, Walker, as well as everyone else, emphasizes the team, not Walker. When one player is struggling, another one steps up, regardless of whether he is on a cold or hot streak, if he is getting minutes or not, every time someone seems to step up. No one relies on any one player; they all do their job on that night to win.
Game 5 a momentum changer for the Boston Celtics
Game 5 encompassed every part of this Celtics team that is so special. Following a made three by Jaylen Brown–who made 2-of-11 from deep in Game 4–the Celtics were in control. There were no lead changes or breath-holding moments. It was all Boston from the tip.
The first quarter ended 25-11, at half time it was 62-35. The Celtics were playing the most dominant game of the playoffs so far. They were not just making their shots; they did not allow the Raptors to get a sliver of hope. The Raptors yelled at each other, at times the referees, and it seemed to worsen as the game went on. By the time it ended, the Raptors were spent, exhausted, and appeared defeated.
Brown, who struggled in the previous matchup, and took the blame for the painful game three loss, had 27 points to lead the Celtics. Jayson Tatum had an 18 point double-double, Walker had 21 points, both Daniel Theis and Brad Wanamaker poured in 15, and Marcus Smart played exceptional defense.
The Celtics showed why they are such a well-balanced team, and with Gordan Hayward hopefully coming back soon, the Celtics have a good shot at making the finals.
In the bubble, the world is watching Tatum and Brown develop into stars, and Walker is letting them. The Celtics are accelerating at pace likely faster than even Danny Ainge’s timeline, and this game has shown they are scary.
As it stands, the series is not just in the Celtics favor; it is in their hands, and if they continue to play how they have, there is no doubt that they will move on to the next round, and possibly even further.