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Celtics fans bleed green

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Posted: May 16, 2018 8:48 AM
Updated: May 16, 2018 8:48 AM

On the surface, the Boston Celtics' success story is a surprise. After a roster overhaul and two devastating injuries, Boston wasn't expected back in the Eastern Conference Finals for the second year in a row.

But perhaps more should have seen this coming.

Heading into the postseason, a CNN story last month pronounced the Celtics as all but finished, saying "what looked like a promising playoff run has all but faded" because of injuries to Gordon Hayward at the beginning of the season and Kyrie Irving just before the playoffs.

"With Irving unavailable, the Celtics are no longer seen as a contender," our story said.

Ouch. The hazards of the predicting business.

Clearly, that's not the case. It's quite the opposite, really. No matter what happens the rest of this postseason, the outlook for the Celtics has never appeared better.

Smart draft picks, key acquisitions

The team's rise started with general manager Danny Ainge, who has drafted two top-3 picks in Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, as well as first-rounders Terry Rozier and Marcus Smart. He also was responsible for acquiring key players Marcus Morris and Al Horford.

With that young talent, most would have agreed the C's were in a position to contend for a title starting next season. What's so surprising is they're doing it now without Irving, out for the postseason because of surgery on his left knee, and Hayward, whom the Celtics lost in the opening minutes of the season with a fracture dislocation of his left ankle.

Those injuries became an opportunity for growth for the 20-year-old Tatum, the 21-year-old Brown and Rozier, who is all of 24. It's something not lost on veterans like Morris, an elder statesman of the team at 28.

"It gave other guys opportunity to step up," Morris said. "It's very unfortunate that we had those injuries, but no one is going to feel sorry for us at the end of the day, so we have to take our approach of next guy up. That's what we've been doing all season.

"Our confidence level is very high. The younger guys to the older guys, we think we can compete and play with anybody. At the end of the day all the talking is done off the court. Once we step between them lines, we have to compete no matter who we have out there, and that's what we've been doing."

A savvy coach

Another key to the team's success: Ainge hired Brad Stevens, who has shown in just a few seasons that he's one of the best head coaches in the NBA.

Not that Stevens wants to hear that.

"The praise is uncomfortable ... these guys should be getting it all," Stevens said. "We all have a role to play, and we all need to play that role as well as we can."

The Celtics' Aron Baynes, who played under esteemed Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, says there are similarities between the two coaches.

"They're both great with the X's and O's," Baynes said. "They've all figured out more than I've ever learned, so every chance I get and can see some things from them, I'm trying to learn as much as I can.

"Their composure throughout the game is pretty much second to none," he added. "No matter what's going on on the floor, they're so composed in how they are with the team and the message that ... keeps everyone calm."

The byproduct of all this: The Celtics fought past the Milwaukee Bucks and dismantled the Philadelphia 76ers in the first two rounds of the playoffs.

What once seemed improbable -- a trip to the NBA Finals -- is now within reach.

"I think that through the regular season there was so much changes with our group -- guys in and out of the lineup, different injuries, a lot of things like that," Horford said. "Once we've been able to settle down and kind of find what fits this group, I feel like that's what prompted us being better offensively.

"But you've just got to give credit to Coach (Stevens), because he ends up making adjustments ... whichever the matchup is, and giving us those options to go out there and execute on offense."

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 590211

Reported Deaths: 9310
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion815581297
Lake44306666
Allen31919541
Hamilton28371304
St. Joseph26766371
Elkhart24098341
Vanderburgh18643213
Tippecanoe17422121
Johnson14496284
Porter14399160
Hendricks13870241
Madison10561212
Vigo10483171
Clark10240130
Monroe9076108
Delaware8836132
LaPorte8771155
Howard7897138
Kosciusko787277
Warrick643890
Hancock638797
Bartholomew626694
Floyd6150105
Wayne5933157
Grant5818110
Dubois544372
Boone534367
Morgan516291
Marshall494184
Henry493664
Cass471760
Noble460557
Dearborn458444
Jackson414745
Shelby402179
Lawrence380575
Clinton364539
Gibson356556
DeKalb337363
Montgomery334851
Harrison328542
Knox327839
Miami309843
Steuben306340
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Clay217932
Scott216937
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Jennings192535
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Spencer181917
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Washington177118
Starke171341
Jay162821
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Fulton159229
Carroll152115
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Rush149918
Perry147227
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Parke12908
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Pike113625
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Newton89421
Brown85530
Benton84310
Crawford7579
Martin70013
Warren6587
Switzerland6205
Union6113
Ohio4677
Unassigned0374

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 826754

Reported Deaths: 10200
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin97493705
Cuyahoga821781012
Hamilton61350439
Montgomery41700399
Summit33399726
Lucas30111597
Butler29721228
Stark24811400
Warren18917139
Lorain18086212
Mahoning16758335
Lake15365135
Clermont15160104
Delaware1382177
Licking12679132
Trumbull12401302
Fairfield1218480
Greene11631133
Medina11128165
Clark10608264
Wood9964154
Allen9511126
Portage8867105
Miami886573
Richland8790116
Marion7319113
Tuscarawas7142174
Columbiana7085124
Pickaway702850
Wayne6781164
Muskingum671242
Erie5886118
Hancock537890
Ross530287
Scioto519662
Geauga483555
Darke457589
Ashtabula439068
Lawrence432651
Union430628
Mercer424287
Sandusky421862
Seneca413555
Auglaize412759
Huron410338
Shelby410221
Jefferson403366
Belmont395640
Washington372040
Putnam364672
Athens36369
Madison339329
Knox336522
Ashland331738
Fulton325943
Defiance319278
Crawford313268
Preble311534
Brown296619
Logan292729
Ottawa282134
Clinton279043
Williams270166
Highland262418
Jackson256943
Guernsey241725
Champaign240927
Fayette225529
Morrow22294
Perry221318
Holmes218662
Henry210247
Hardin204133
Coshocton197420
Van Wert196644
Gallia190926
Wyandot190549
Adams165615
Pike164116
Hocking163423
Carroll149516
Paulding139021
Noble117840
Meigs103221
Monroe95629
Harrison8568
Morgan79128
Vinton67113
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